Car accidents are scary and bewildering, and the steps you take afterward can impact your life. Some of the steps are obvious, like making sure that anyone who is injured gets prompt medical help. You may not be familiar with -or may not realize- you need to take other steps after an accident.
Steps to Take at the Scene of an Accident
Injuries are common even in minor car accidents. Often, people who are involved in an accident may not realize they are injured because of adrenaline or shock. It is critical that anyone who is experiencing symptoms of a head or neck injury not be moved unless absolutely necessary. Moving someone who has a neck or head injury can cause more damage. Immediately call 911. Try to move your vehicle out of lanes of traffic if you can do so safely. Not only is this a common sense thing to do, it is also your legal responsibility under Pennsylvania’s accident laws.
If you are injured and unable to move your car, but your car can be safely moved, any person with a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license may move your car. Failure to move your car after an accident when it can be safely moved can result in a fine of $50. Do not stand in the road. Numerous accidents occur at the scene of an existing accident because of drivers distracted by the scene. Drivers distracted by accident scenes are a leading cause of fatal head-on collisions at the scene of an existing accident. Make sure you and other people involved in an accident are safely out of harm’s way before exchanging information.
Pennsylvania laws on car insurance are unique. Many driver’s carry an insurance policy intended to prevent lawsuits by allowing driver’s to settle claims with their own insurance company, rather than suing the at-fault driver. Some Philadelphia residents believe that because of this law, it is not necessary to give your information to others involved in an accident. Under the laws of the the State, you are required to provide your driver’s license and proof of financial responsibility -your car insurance policy card- to any person involved or injured in an accident. If you are physically unable to provide this information, another individual can give the documents if they are not injured. Most often in serious accidents, the police that respond will provide your information to others involved through a Philadelphia crash report.
When to Report Your Accident to the Police
Philadelphia police will respond to most serious accidents that result in injuries, death, or damage to vehicles that prevents the vehicle from being driven. When officers do respond to a car accident in the city, the Philadelphia Police will file the accident reports You will not need to file a report on your own. In many minor accidents, police may not respond. When the police do not respond to an accident in Philadelphia, it is the responsibility of all involved drivers to file a crash report. Philadelphia law provides only five days after an accident to file a report. You can file a report online or in person at any Philadelphia police station. The form to file a crash report is called Form AA-600. You will need to provide specific information about the accident, including the date and location, vehicles involved, damage to persons or property, and other information as required by law.
Important Things You Need to Know About Filing Crash Reports
Pennsylvania law requires that you file a police report for a reportable car crash. Car crashes that are reportable involve injuries or serious property damage. You have five days to file a crash report. Failure to file a crash report can result in suspension of your driver’s license and a $200 fine. Sometimes, it can be tempting to embellish or alter the facts of an accident on a self-report. Some people think they will have a better chance of winning a lawsuit or getting more money from an insurance company by filing a false crash report. You can be fined $200 and seriously jeopardize any opportunity to recover losses.
How to Get a Police Report in Philadelphia
When you are involved in an accident that police respond to, the agency will file a crash report. Unlike many states, police crash reports are not public records and are only available to individuals involved in an accident, law enforcement and other government agencies, and your legal representatives. The Philadelphia Police can provide you a copy of your crash report. You can request a copy in person or by mail using the form provided by the department. Any photographs taken by police may also be requested. Fees are charged for these documents, even when you are not at fault for the accident. A copy of your crash report will cost $25, while photographs will run $27. It is important to note that police will only photograph and file a police report for accidents that involve serious damage or injury. Minor accidents, even when police do respond, likely will not be photographed. You should try to take your own photos either way if you can safely do so.
Other Important Steps You Should Take at the Scene of an Accident
In the case of most serious accidents that involve an injury, you likely will not be able to gather all the information you would in a minor collision. In these cases, you will have to rely on the reports and photographs taken by police documenting the scene of an accident for a crash report. If you are not seriously injured, and you can safely take pictures of the scene, you should do so. Always remember to stay out of the way of emergency crews, out of roadways, and be aware of the dangers of an accident scene. Photographing the scene of an accident you were involved in that was not your fault can seriously help your claim of damages later and will reinforce a personal injury lawsuit should you decide to file one. Pictures that will help your attorney:
- Damages to all vehicles. Clearly show the extent of damage. Take a picture of the license plate.
- Damage to fixed objects, like walls, guardrails, and trees that could indicate how the accident happened.
- Photos that show the weather conditions, road surface, and any relevant signs or traffic lights.
- Take pictures that show how you think the accident happened including skid marks from braking and any other evidence that can help demonstrate what went wrong.
Do I Really Need Witnesses?
Your personal injury lawyer will have a much better chance of getting the compensation you need from an at-fault driver if witnesses to the accident can confirm your story. You should politely ask anyone who witnessed an accident to give a name and contact number to you. You do not need to take detailed notes about what they saw, but jot down enough information that you can let your attorney know why you think it is important to talk to the witness.
Seek Medical Help After an Accident
It is very common for people involved in car accidents to not exhibit any signs of an injury for several hours or even days afterward. There are a few reasons this happens. Adrenaline helps to mask pain when we are injured, but sometimes you may not realize you have a serious injury. Sprains, strains, and broken bones may not cause pain or discomfort right away, or the discomfort may seem minor. Similar to adrenaline, the effects of shock can mask serious injury at the time of an accident. Among the most serious injuries, internal bleeding can happen without causing tremendous pain, particularly while a person is in a state of shock. Internal bleeding can be fatal.
After a car accident, you should make an appointment with your doctor for a check-up. Many minor injuries, such as whiplash, may not seem serious at the time, but can cause long-lasting pain and suffering. Injuries to the neck and spine that are untreated can leave you with a lifetime of crippling pain and prevent you from enjoying your life. Keep in mind that the medical costs to treat whiplash neck injuries range from $2,500 to more than $30,000.
Even a mild whiplash injury can result in a settlement of more than $10,000 due to the long-term consequences and extensive physical therapy required. Most whiplash injuries will never heal back to 100 percent. You will always have some degree of pain after suffering a whiplash injury. Pennsylvania law gives people injured in most car accidents up to two years to file a claim for injuries. Two years seems like a long time after a car accident to claim injury. Waiting until the last minute will only make your case harder to win for your personal injury lawyer.
Contact Our Lawyers as Soon as Possible
Timing is everything when it comes to winning a personal injury claim that happens because of a car accident. The sooner you reach out to the injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky for help, the better chance you have of getting a settlement that meets your needs. Our free consultation allows an opportunity for our staff to hear the facts of your claim and provide an idea of the best way to win.