Every year in the United States, there are more than five million motor vehicle accidents. No matter how experienced you are, the probability of a car accident is high; in fact, 25 percent of Americans have been involved in one.
Around the world, one car accident happens every minute of the day, per the National Highway Traffic Administration. Annually, about 40,000 Americans die in vehicular collisions, while just under three million annually sustain temporary or permanent injuries or disabilities. The statistics reveal that virtually every American can anticipate being involved in two or more car accidents during their lifetime, which is why it is important to be prepared.
Why You Should Imagine Yourself in a Car Accident
Drivers should protect themselves by reviewing what should be done immediately following a motor vehicle collision. Many inexperienced drivers do not consider the probability of an accident, and it is almost unthinkable for them. However, they can make errors that may have serious legal implications, simply because they were not aware of the correct protocols that both passengers and drivers should take following a collision.
Parents who are training young drivers should help them by visualizing a car accident scenario several times, until the teen demonstrates the ability to confidently respond following a motor vehicle collision. It is a critical aspect of driver education.
5 Things to Avoid Doing After a Car Accident
Regardless of which driver(s) are at fault for the accident, there are numerous choices that each driver and passenger need to make immediately following an accident. There are bad decisions that can also jeopardize health outcomes and legal liability.
1. Moving If You Are Injured
The first instinct a driver or passenger is, after a collision, to exit the vehicle and survey the damage. In some circumstances, the occupants of the vehicle can be in shock, a state where blood pressure is lowered due to emotional and physical trauma. When in a state of shock, the body releases endorphins that make it difficult to register pain. You may feel fine, but you may be exacerbating a serious injury by moving.
2. Walking into Traffic
Depending on the severity of the motor vehicle collision, drivers and passengers can experience emotional numbness while in shock, and it can impair alertness to other serious hazards. For instance, when exiting the vehicle, be aware of other vehicles in the area and traffic. Until the authorities arrive, other drivers may attempt to drive around the accident, placing pedestrians at risk of being hit.
3. Altercation with the Other Driver
Emotions after a collision run high, particularly if you were the driver who was not at fault. Lost time, vehicle damage and costs can make everyone feel angry, and confronting the other driver or passengers can place you at risk of violence and assault. If it is safe to remain in the vehicle, do so until the authorities arrive. If the other driver approaches your vehicle, indicate that you have called the police, and offer to share insurance information through the window, but keep the door locked, just in case.
4. Refuse to File a Report
Did you know that leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident, without reporting it, is a crime? For legal documentation, civil liability, and insurance purposes, all drivers must report the accident to traffic authorities and to their private insurer promptly after a collision.
While damage to the vehicle can be paid for privately by the at-fault driver (an option that helps to prevent increased car insurance premiums), an official police report is required for any accident (big or small). Do not refuse to share your insurance information, or avoid reporting the accident; it can cost you far more in fines and legal problems.
5. Share Details
Everyone can and should be honest following a motor vehicle collision. However, sharing excessive details, particularly when you are at-fault, can complicate your insurance claim and help the other driver build a civil personal injury case. Before making a detailed statement to anyone, it is best to consult with a legal professional.
5 Things to Should Do After a Motor Vehicle Collision
No one wants to be “good” at getting into a car accident; naturally, we all want to avoid them under any circumstance. But rehearsing the positive steps (like those mentioned below) can help drivers feel more confident and prepared.
1. Evaluate Yourself (and Passengers) for Injuries
Take a moment after the collision to collect yourself before you start moving. Begin with a physical inventory to identify possible injuries. Look for cuts, strains, sprains, or broken bones, and ensure that you help other passengers in your vehicle conduct the same “quick check” of injuries before exiting the vehicle. If you or your passengers experience significant pain when moving, remain in the vehicle until emergency medical assistance arrives.
2. Call the Authorities
If you can determine your location and intersection, call the police to report your accident. Not sure where you are? Check your smartphone, as GPS and Google Maps will report your exact location, so that you can provide a street address to help the police arrive promptly. Don’t worry if the other driver has also reported the accident, you can and should call, and then contact your insurer to file a report as well.
3. Document the Collision
Smartphones are a great tool to use to help you document your accident. Take pictures and video of the damage sustained to your vehicle, and other cars involved in the collision. Also, take notes about the time of the accident, the date, the weather conditions and ask for telephone numbers of 1-2 witnesses. Send the information to yourself by email, and store it safety to assist with your liability and personal injury claim.
4. Exchange Insurance Information
The following information is required for exchanging insurance information with the other driver:
- Name of the driver
- Year, color, make, and model of the car (including vehicle identification VIN number)
- Name of insurance company
- Name on the ownership of the vehicle
Have this information organized neatly in your glove compartment to provide it to the other driver when asked. Traffic authorities will also need to see the originals of each form to verify insurance of the vehicle and ownership at the scene.
5. Seek Medical Attention
Even if you feel that your injuries were minor, it is important to see a medical evaluation within the first 24 hours of your motor vehicle collision. First, your assessment of your injuries may not be accurate, and second, it may be required for a personal injury claim or other legal purposes.
Car accident injuries can impact employment earnings, mobility, and quality of life. At fault drivers can also be civilly liable for personal injury claims. Protect yourself by knowing your legal requirements as a driver, and reduce your risk.
This post is contributed by Matt Conner. Matt Conner is an associate attorney at Brett McCandlis Brown Law Firm. Matt has undergraduate degree from from Willamette University in Salem in mathematics and economics. Matt likes playing soccer, fishing, skiing and camping.