Many client's have remarked during initial consultations that they wished they'd known what to do immediately following an auto accident. Whether it's a little supermarket fender bender or a highway speed crash, my advice is always the same.
1. Do not leave the scene of an accident
Depending on the severity of the accident, you could face from 90 days in jail to 15 years in prison.
2. Stay calm, make sure you are OK, then make sure your passengers are OK.
If you are rendering aid to either passengers in your vehicle or occupants, try not to move anyone as you could cause further injury. Wait for the emergency medical treaters to arrive. Only move an injured person if their safety is threatened by staying put in the vehicle – vehicle fire, oncoming traffic and icy conditions, etc.
3. If there are injuries, call for an ambulance.
Make a list of all injuries you and your passengers have sustained, even if it just seems like a bump or a bruise. Often times, serious injuries can and do develop later once the shock and surprise of the accident has passed.
4. Contact the police.
Even in minor collisions, you'll need a police report to handle property/collision damage claims.
5. Try to record as much information as possible at the scene.
Take note of the location where the accident occurred including the street you're on, the nearest cross street, weather conditions, road conditions, the speed and direction of all vehicles involved prior to impact, and the final resting place of all vehicles involved. Take note of information regarding all vehicles involved including license plates, registration and proof of insurance, as well as the specific damage that occurred to each vehicle. Do not make any statements about fault or how the accident occurred unless asked by a police officer, but take note if any other driver makes statements to this effect. Make sure you get names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses who claimed to have seen the accident. Also, take note of the name and badge number of any officer who arrives at the scene. They will usually give you a business card with this information as well as the number of the report that they will draft documenting the scene. This is called a UD-10 report and are usually available within 3-5 days.
6. Photograph the scene.
With todays smart phones, most everyone has a camera on their phone, Make sure to take photos of the scene, any damage to any of the vehicles and any injuries to any parties involved.
This is a short and simple list of do's and don'ts' that will guide you through any auto accident. Some of my client's have printed off this checklist and kept it with their registration and proof of insurance as a reminder.
If the reader has further questions, feel free to contact this office or an Injury Board attorney in your area.
Mr. Smith has practiced as a trial attorney since graduating Notre Dame Law School in 1992. He has litigated cases across the country including cases from Ventura County, California to Middlesex County, New Jersey. He practices in both State and Federal courts.