Here is a question to consider: Would you know what to do if you were driving and hit another vehicle? A pedestrian? When a car accident happens, injuries may be severe and emotions may be high. However, there are important things that must be taken care of both at the scene of any accident and soon afterward. First check on all parties to make sure they are okay, if not, call an ambulance. Then, call the police to help document what happened. The following is a short list of things that should be done, if at all possible, when any automobile accident occurs.
Exchange Information with other Party(s)
Do not be shy. Talk to the drivers of any other vehicles involved in the accident. Get their names, phone numbers, addresses, drivers' license numbers, license plate numbers, and basic insurance information. If there are passengers in any of the vehicles, obtain their names, telephone numbers, and addresses as well. In talking to drivers of other vehicles, you should try to be cordial and cooperative in determining that everyone is okay and in exchanging basic information.
Yet, and this is real important, do not apologize for anything at the scene. If you jump out of your car and blurt out, "I'm so sorry I ran that red light! Is everyone okay?" you may back yourself into a corner in terms of legal liability for what happened. Sometimes people now have cell phones like the Apple I phone which have video mode, and they can or may record what you are saying at the scene of the accident, etc. Be mindful of technology today! Immediately after an accident, the scene is chaotic anyway, and it might not be evident who was at fault, or who was more at fault, in causing the accident. Therefore, try to keep your conscience in check, at least until things get sorted out with all the insurance companies involved, so that you don't admit guilt unintentionally or unnecessarily. Just be mindful of this!
Talk to Witnesses (Very Important, and it is easily forgotten!)
Ask every witness what he or she saw. Get their names, telephone numbers or addresses, if and whenever possible. Whether the witnesses are residents of the area, businesspeople that work nearby (ask for business cards), or passersby who were in the vicinity, and do your very best to try to talk to as many people as you can. This is not the time to be shy. Ask them, in particular, if they have ever witnessed other accidents in the same place. If a witness is hesitant to talk to you, don't beg or threaten them. Forcing information from someone will get you nowhere. Write down what they tell you and, if they agree, simply get their name and phone number so that you, your attorney, the insurance company, or the court can contact them again.
Inform Your Insurance Company (as soon as you are able)
As soon as possible, tell your insurance company that you have been involved in an accident. You have a duty to do so and this duty is usually written in the contract language between you and your insurance company. Cooperate with your insurance company and tell them the truth about what happened and the extent of your injuries. If the insurance company finds out that you have lied to them about anything, you can get into serious trouble, not the least of which may be the denial of any coverage for the accident. Build support for your case when discussing the matter with your insurance company. Be able to explain to them the facts of the case in a clear manner. Obtain and review a copy of any police report, so that you can point out to the insurance company who broke what traffic laws or who was at fault for the accident. Such information will often be provided in the report. Although the insurance company may already know the facts of your case, taking an active interest in making sure your rights are protected will force the insurance company to take you seriously.
Mark C. Blane is a San Diego Auto Accident Attorney, and the managing lawyer of the Law Offices of Mark C. Blane, a San Diego, California Personal Injury Law Firm devoted to representing families of injured persons of automobile accidents. If you or someone you love, has been injured or killed in San Diego County, or Southern California, due to the negligence of another, please order your FREE copy of Mr. Blane's book, The 10 Secrets You Need To Know About Your Injury Case, BEFORE You Call A Lawyer. It is full of helpful information, insights, and secrets that will help you protect your legal rights. It normally sells for $16.95; however, it is free to all California residents, or those injured in a California accident.