There have been many helpful articles written about what to do after a car accident, but it never hurts to review. What you do after a car accident can make the difference between full and fair compensation from the insurance company or being denied the just coverage you paid for.
Another car or truck has just collided with your car. What happens next is in large part up to you. You need to take some simple steps to make sure that the incident causes the least amount of disruption possible.
1. Assess the Situation
First, try to stay calm. Don't panic. Keep your head and take a deep breath. Look around and identify whether there are any immediate dangers you need to be aware of. Has a fire started inside or outside your vehicle due to leaking gasoline? If the collision was severe try to calmly get out of and away from the car if you are physically able.
2. Call For Help if You're Hurt
Determine if you, the other driver, or anyone has been injured and, if so, call for help immediately. Don't leave the scene. Even if you're blocking traffic, in many instances it's best to wait for police even before moving your car over to the side of the road. In some instances motorists are advised that if the event is a minor collision to move the vehicles off to the side. This is a personal decision, but if you move your car, a responding officer may not be able to determine who was at fault, as he might have otherwise been able to from the position of the vehicles, the location of broken glass and skid marks. Leaving the scene of the accident could subject you to hit and run charges and in Oregon will almost certainly result in losing your driving privileges.
Turn on your hazard lights to reduce the chance of being hit by other motorists. If you have emergency flares, cones or traffic triangles, place those around the collision to warn other drivers. If you don't have traffic triangles or flares you may want to consider purchasing some for your trunk.
3. Call the Police
Call the police and make sure you ask the responding police officer to complete an accident report if he or she doesn't begin to. Make sure to get the name of the responding officer. A police accident report could be very important if you have to pursue a legal claim. In Oregon and many other states, sometimes a responding police officer, in his or her own discretion, will not fill out an accident report. If the drivers have moved the vehicles, or if the damage is considered minor, or there are no injuries, an officer may simply instruct the drivers to report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles and to exchange insurance information.
4. Don't Take the Blame for the Accident
Be very careful what you say about the accident to the other driver. Don't admit the accident was your fault. Even if at the time you think it was, you could be wrong, you may not understand how the collision occurred. An admission at the scene of the accident will be impossible to undo. Just don't express an opinion; give the officer only concise facts about the collision that you can remember.
Keep a written account of your conversation with the other driver and the police officer as soon after the car accident as possible. Make a record of any comments you remember the other driver or the officer making at the crash scene.
5. Gather Important Information at The Scene
Make sure you get all the information you need before leaving the site of the accident. Many states, including Oregon, expressly require you to exchange certain information with the other driver of a vehicle collision including your name, address, drivers license number, license plate number and your insurance information. Remember to also get the names of any other occupants of any other vehicles involved even if they were only passengers.
Be sure to also make note of the make or model of the other car, and a description including the color and other identifying features. If you have a camera or camera phone try to get pictures of the damage to all vehicles involved while still at the crash scene. For that matter make sure to get pictures of your injuries as well within the next day or two. It's not uncommon for an insurance company to deny payment of medical bills by claiming you could not have been injured in the collision.
One thing that many drivers fail to do which could dramatically increase the value of a future legal claim is to get the names and phone numbers of witnesses who happened to have seen the collision, whether they be other drivers who stopped, or pedestrians who were walking nearby. Often an auto collision becomes a matter of he-said-she-said. If a witness saw the collision your way, that witness report can be a huge benefit to you if litigation becomes necessary.
6. File an Accident Report
Promptly report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles and to your insurance company. It is very important that you fulfill the requirement to report your accident to DMV within 72 hours even if the police have filled out a report.
Know the reporting time limits set out in your own insurance policy and don't let them run out. Some insurance companies may deny a claim if it's not submitted within the time limit prescribed in the policy.
7. Seek Medical Treatment
Go to the doctor. It is very common for drivers to delay going to the doctor, or not go at all, because they think the pain in their neck or back will be better in the morning, or in a day or two. If you experience any pain as a result of the collision, get a medical professional to check it out either at the closest emergency room or the next day at your primary care physician's clinic. The reality is that often times a driver feels worst three days after a collision. Sometimes serious pain symptoms take 48 to 72 hours to develop. If you struck any part of your body with any part of your car's interior or if you lost consciousness even for a few seconds at the moment of the collision you need to make sure you let your doctor know.
8. Consult an Attorney
If you've been in an accident and it wasn't your fault, contact a Portland car accident lawyer at Angel Law, P.C. to discuss how we can help you get fair and full compensation for all of your losses. We can discuss with you how to recover for the diminished value of your vehicle, how to ensure your car gets repaired properly, and how to make sure you get compensated for any lost wages you may be entitled to.
If you can take some simple but important steps after an accident you can help minimize the damaging impact the event can have on your life. By following the above advice you will be in a better position to protect your interests and maximize any potential recovery to which you may be entitled.