What to Do If You’re In a Car AccidentMichael Hoffer
A car accident can be terrifying and disorienting, even if no one is injured.
But you have to keep your wits about you. The actions you take immediately after an accident are crucial to staying safe, making sure your costs are covered and winning your case, if you wind up in court.
9 Steps You Should Take
Don’t Drive Off
Even if the accident was minor, never drive away from the scene. This is considered a hit-and-run and the consequences for this can actually be worse than they are for DUIs.
Penalties for a hit-and-run vary depending on the severity of the incident. If no one was seriously injured, it’s considered a misdemeanor. If someone was seriously injured or killed in the accident, leaving the scene is considered a felony.
Secure the Scene
Stop your car in a safe place and make sure the scene is protected, if you can. If it’s night, you may want to set up flares or turn on your flashers to keep other cars from colliding with the accident scene.
Don’t move injured people out of a car unless there’s an immediate danger, such as fire. There may be cervical injuries that could result in paralysis if the person is moved.
If the vehicles can be driven, move them out of traffic.
Call 911, the Police, or Both
According to Georgia law, if you’re involved in a collision, you have a duty to call 911 and then alert the police if there’s been injury, death, or damage of more than $500.
It’s often impossible to know how much damage was caused or even whether anyone was injured until emergency personnel have arrived, so basically, you always should call 911.
Plus, if the police aren’t notified, you could face hit-and-run charges even if you did stop.
In some communities, calling 911 also means calling the police, as the dispatcher will send a police car to the scene automatically. In others, you have to call the police separately using a ten-digit, non-emergency number.
However, some police departments won’t send a cruiser to the scene of an accident where there was no serious damage or injury.
But you almost certainly will need a police report to file an insurance claim or win your case in court.
When police aren’t sent, you’ll have to file the report yourself – online, over the phone, or at the local police station.
You never know what you’ll need to prove an insurance claim or win a case in court. Some things you should take pictures of, provided it’s safe to do so, include:
- Damage to your car and the other person’s car
- Your injuries or those of others in your car
- Skid marks on the road
- Missing or obscured street signs (if relevant)
- The other driver’s license plate
- The other driver’s insurance card
- Anything else in the environment that may have affected the accident
Some information to collect from the other driver includes:
- Their name
- Their address
- Their vehicle registration number
- Their plate number
- Their insurance information
By law, the driver has to give you the first three, as well as show you their driver’s license if you ask to see it.
It’s also crucial to get the name, address, and phone number of passengers involved in the accident, as well as any witnesses. This will be invaluable to your lawyer if you wind up in court.
Ideally, the police officer who responds to your call will gather this info, but witnesses may wander off before the police arrive.
Talk to the Police
When a police officer arrives, give them the facts as best you can. Avoid speculating or guessing on things you don’t know.
Don’t Admit Fault, and Don’t Assign Blame
Before the officer leaves, ask them how to get a copy of the accident report. If your car was towed, find out how to get it back. Write down the officer’s badge number.
Call your Insurance Company
You may be tempted not to file a claim to avoid higher premiums. But if a lawsuit happens, you have less chance of winning if you didn’t file a claim.
Notify your insurance as soon as possible after the accident. Don’t admit to blame; the company will send an adjuster to review your case, interview the parties involved, and determine who was at fault.
Talk to an Attorney
One of the most crucial things you can do after an accident is talk to a lawyer.
An experienced accident lawyer can protect your rights, defend you in court, and make sure you’re fully compensated.
Have you been in a car accident and would like to speak to a lawyer? Call the law offices of Hoffer & Webb at (404) 260-6330 to schedule your free consultation.