SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT – QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE
Someone has failed to follow the rules of the road. They are distracted, or driving in a way which is simply not fit for the circumstances. Then, without warning, with very little time to react, someone is injured as a result of the collision. What should a person do at the scene of the accident?
The immediate priority is your health. If you or anyone else is injured, seek medical attention and dial 9-1-1 for ambulance assistance, if needed.
Even if an ambulance is not needed, it is a good idea to contact the police and have an officer make a report of the accident. Oftentimes, all involved are polite and agreeable at the scene. Unfortunately, sometimes witnesses change their stories at a later date. If police are involved, they assist greatly in documenting events at or near the time of the accident, and will also assist in obtaining medical attention if necessary, issuing citations to a responsible party, assisting with the towing of vehicles, and assist with the exchange of insurance information.
If you are able to do so, have someone take photographs of the accident scene, including the damage to vehicles prior to moving them off of the road. Also include pictures of any debris in the road and skid marks or their markings on the roadway. Often, people move vehicles to the side of the road immediately after an accident so as not to impede the flow of traffic. However, if there is any question as to who is at fault or what occurred, pictures of the accident scene – before the vehicles are moved – may assist in answering these questions. After the position of the vehicles and vehicle damages have been documented with photographs, then the vehicles may be appropriately moved off of the roadway if possible. Remember to also take photographs of the debris in the road and any marks (skid marks or otherwise) in the roadway.
After the vehicles are removed from the road and persons involved are in a safe place, they should exchange information as to their insurance company, including the name of the insurance company, policy number, and the full name, address, and telephone number of each person involved in the accident. Of course, the police will normally obtain this information, but it is helpful to have this information readily available.
After everything has been taken care of at the scene and everyone is free to leave, it is prudent to get checked out by a healthcare professional. An appointment can be made to be checked out by your primary care provider or an urgent care facility. People understand that not all injuries manifest themselves immediately after an accident. The adrenaline sometimes masks an injury and some soft tissue injuries progress with increased symptoms weeks following the accident.
Contact with the insurance company. In order to get a claim opened and “the ball rolling” towards compensation for property damage and injuries, a formal claim must be established with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Most of the time, the insurance company will desire to obtain a statement as to what occurred so that an assessment may be made as to their insured’s liability. While it is sometimes necessary to provide a statement to move the claim forward, you should understand that the adverse insurance company does not have your best interests in mind. It is their job to settle the matter as quickly as possible for as little money as possible. Sometimes in a telephone interview, an insurance adjustor may move to the next question before the prior question was fully answered. They are used to taking many statements by telephone and have been accustomed to doing so. On the other hand, most persons are not familiar with this process and do not realize how important it is to provide a true and accurate description of the events to the insurance company. An experienced attorney has the ability to assist you in this regard because they, too, are accustomed to taking statements and making sure that the record is clear and accurate. This is why you often hear that it is not a good idea to speak to the insurance company on your own. It is at this point you should contact our office to schedule a free consultation. We can assist you throughout the process to assure that you obtain the best possible end result. Importantly, if your case does not settle through the more informal insurance claims process, we are equipped to proceed with formal litigation. When an insurance company knows you are represented by counsel with a proven track record, they are more likely to make an effort to resolve the case early in the process. Sometimes, however, it becomes apparent that the only way to achieve a reasonable result is through a formal lawsuit. We are happy to handle your claim from start to finish – whatever it takes.