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YOU HAVE BEEN IN A CAR ACCIDENT, NOW WHAT? 

If you have been in a car accident, the very first thing to be aware of is your safety and the safety of any passengers traveling in your vehicle. There are many things that should be done to ensure your safety after an accident and before getting out of your vehicle. You should engage your emergency flashing lights immediately to signal to other drivers that something is wrong. You should conduct a self-assessment for injuries and ask if any of your passengers are hurt. If you or any of your passengers are hurt, you should immediately dial 9-1-1 and request an ambulance be sent to your location. You should always contact the police after a car accident and request an officer be dispatched to the scene to prepare a police accident report (TRAPS blog). A police report is a valuable piece of evidence in a motor vehicle accident case and its importance will be explained in a later segment of this series.

Once you have taken steps to ensure your safety and the safety of your passengers, you may wish to exit your car to assess the damage caused by the accident. Before getting out, you should check your mirrors and look around and behind you to ensure that it is safe to exit the vehicle. While you are looking at the damage to your vehicle, be sure to take a few photos with your smart phone. Ideally, you should take photos that show the location of your vehicle on or off the road, the location of the other vehicle, and a photo which shows both vehicles in the same frame. You should also be sure to take photographs of any physical damage that is readily observable to both vehicles, not just your own. This series of photographs should be taken before either of the vehicles are moved to ensure that the photos truly and accurately reflect the location and condition of the vehicles immediately after the accident. This photographic evidence will be useful in settlement discussion or a lawsuit if the case does not settle.

After you have taken the photos, you should find a safe location to wait for the police to arrive. You should not move your vehicle until directed by a police officer unless it would be unsafe for you and others to leave the vehicle in its current location. When the police officer arrives, be sure to take the time to give a clear and accurate statement of how the accident occurred. If you had passengers in the vehicle or if any other motorists stopped to assist, you should also ask those individuals to give a statement to the police officer about what happened and what they observed. After giving your statement, ask the officer when an official copy of the police accident report will become available to you and how best to obtain your copy (see TRAPS blog). You will need this police report for your insurance carrier, and it will be an important piece of evidence in any personal injury case.

The police officer may ask if you are injured or whether you would like to be evaluated by medical personnel. Allowing an EMT or Medic to evaluate you before leaving the accident scene is important for two reasons. First, the officer will note that medical attention was requested because of the accident. Second, you have just been in a car accident and your adrenalin may still be pumping. You may not feel or even be aware of some injuries until several hours after the accident. However, it is important to have any injuries documented as close in time to the accident as possible. One of the many defenses used in personal injury accidents is a “gap in time” between the accident and the first time any injuries are documented (see TRAPS blog). You can avoid this “gap in time” defense by having your injuries evaluated at the accident scene and at a local urgent care or emergency department on the day of the accident. You should also seek appropriate medical attention for your injuries as soon as possible and avoid the “wait and see” approach to the pain you experience.

Finally, you should contact an attorney after you have had your initial medical appointments. An experienced personal injury attorney will help you to understand your rights and will know how to best assist you in obtaining all the necessary information required for a successful personal injury case (see TRAPS blog).

If you have any questions or would like more information about this topic, please email me and I will address it during the webinar at the end of this series. Please come back next week for the second Part of this crash course on motor vehicle accident cases which will discuss the investigation stage of a car wreck case.  

This is not intended to be legal advise.  You should contact your attorney to discuss your specific situation.

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Andrew Boughrum, Esq., is an Associate at the firm and practicing general litigation and personal injury.
He can be reached at 845-764-9656 and by email.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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