Being in a car accident can be an especially confusing situation.
No matter who is at fault, you are likely to be experiencing an adrenaline rush with your mind racing and your heart pumping furiously. It is possible that you might even be completely disoriented or incapacitated so figuring out exactly what to do in the moment can be especially challenging.
situation before it happens then you can handle things logically without having to think about it and give your body time to settle down and get yourself back under control.
Cars are large, weighty pieces of machinery that travel at fast speeds and they are especially devastating when they come into uncontrolled contact with a squishy, fleshy human body, so even in less flashy accidents, there can be injuries sustained. You might not even notice in the moment that you have been injured.
The First Steps Following an Accident
The main priority for everyone involved should be everyone's safety, including your own and whoever you are now in conflict with. This means that you should not move any unconscious people unless their lives are immediately under threat from a new source because head, neck, and back injuries can be exacerbated greatly by movement. Instead, you should leave them where they are while emergency services are called.
Once you know that help is on the way you should do your best to prevent further accidents by moving the vehicles out of the way of traffic, if at all possible. Preventing further accidents by removing obstructions from the road is not only a matter of common courtesy, but you are also legally obligated to do so in some places, like Pennsylvania.
If you are incapacitated at the time of the accident then any people in the area with a valid driver’s license are legally obligated to move your vehicle for you and if nobody steps up to do so, you will likely be charged a fine of $50.
Once you have ensured the safety of yourself and any victims and the obstructions that can be moved are out of the road, your next priority is to prevent any further injury to anyone in the area. This means you should immediately move yourself and anyone else around you out of the road so that any drivers that pass through the area won’t cause any further injuries or damages to the people involved.
Once everyone is safe and the requirements of the law have been met, you must then exchange certain information with the other people involved in the accident. This usually involves a copy of everyone's driver's licenses and insurance information where applicable. Again, if you are incapacitated at the time then someone else can provide that information in your stead and in some places, this is required by law.
Your driver’s license is often required as a means of identifying you, while the insurance information is used for settling any monetary compensation that may be required. Usually, for insurance information, you will be required to give a copy of your insurance policy card so that your insurance can be contacted on the matter and they can provide the required information on how the situation will be handled.
What Else Should I Do?
Once everyone is safe, information has been exchanged, and you are waiting for emergency services to arrive, you should take the time to gather evidence of the crime scene. If the police get involved then they will likely gather information on the crash for everyone involved, but it is always possible that they will miss something, so you should take the time to familiarize yourself with the scene and ensure that you get pictures of any damages or injuries that occurred.
You will want to ensure that you have pictures of each damaged vehicle, the license plates of any vehicles involved, anything that showcases the environment of the crash like the weather, the road, and any road signs in the area, and anything that may have contributed to the accident happening in the first place.
Having any or all of this information ahead of time when you contact a personal injury lawyer or auto accident attorneys will significantly aid your chances of getting monetary compensation for any damages or injuries incurred in the accident as well as lend a lot of credibility to your case which will put you in a favorable light.
Another step you can take is to gather contact information from anyone that was nearby when the crash happened. Being able to get in touch with anyone that may have seen the situation will assist you in moving the discussion of the accident away from a “He said, she said” situation where there is no way to tell who is telling the truth. Not everyone practices honesty and integrity in a situation like this so you should think about what actually happened and then be prepared to defend your story until the situation is resolved.
Make sure that you are thorough in your evidence gathering, but also be sure to maintain your safety. There isn’t much point in gathering evidence to assist you if you end up losing your life while gathering evidence because you didn’t see an oncoming vehicle and you will certainly be in the wrong if someone that has been injured loses their life or is denied assistance because you delayed or distracted the emergency services while gathering evidence. Be courteous and exercise common sense whenever possible in the situation.
What to Do After Leaving the Accident Scene?
The first thing you should do after you have been involved in a car crash is to seek out a medical professional and ensure that you don't have any injuries you are unaware of. When you have adrenaline coursing through your veins and so much on your mind, it can be especially easy to not notice an injury and in some cases, you won't notice the effects of the event until much later because the symptoms of injuries you might receive in a car crash are not always readily visible or easily felt until they progress.
If you are bleeding internally you might not even notice until it is too late. With that in mind, it should be readily apparent that seeking out professional help is a must. A medical professional will be trained to notice these problems and will know how to assist you so that you don’t end up living with the consequences of this event for the rest of your life.
If the accident has resulted in significant damages to personal property or there are personal injuries involved then it is likely that the local police will respond to the situation and guide everyone through the process of handling the crash. In this case, it is the police that will file a crash report and none of the involved individuals will have to do so themselves.
What to do if the police aren’t involved?
However, if the accident is minor enough then it is likely that you will not receive police attention. In this case, it will be up to all of the people involved in the accident to file a crash report themselves.
This can be done at any police station and will require a lot of information on what happened, which kinds of vehicles were involved, what people where involved, and what kind of damage or injuries were sustained, and possibly more information depending on what the laws are in your area.
It is important that when you are filing a crash report that you pay attention to details and describe the situation as accurately as possible. If any of your information is found to be inaccurate you may face serious consequences and lose credibility if and when it becomes necessary to attempt to acquire monetary compensation for any damages or injuries sustained in the accident.
How do I access a police-filed crash report?
If the police respond to the crash and file their own crash report then you can acquire a copy of the report upon request. It is important to note that crash reports are not a matter of public record and are only available to the individuals involved in the accident, their legal counsel, and certain government agencies.
That said, if you are the one involved in the accident then you not only have access to the crash report, but you are also allowed to request copies of any photographs that might have been taken of the scene as well. These will cost you some fees due to the cost of making copies, so keep that in mind before requesting them.
You may be better off taking your own photographs of any damage that is incurred to not only save yourself time but also some hard-earned cash. This also means you can ensure that there are pictures of the exact things you want to showcase.
Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer with Experience in Auto Accident Claims
Once your health and safety have been taken care of and you have met the requirements of the law and gathered your evidence, it is time to contact car accident lawyers and provide them with your evidence so that you can be compensated for any damages or injuries you have sustained.