If you are unfortunate enough to have an auto accident on one of New York’s many streets, highways and freeways, your first reactions undoubtedly will be surprise, shock and fear. No one ever expects to have an accident on their way to work, while running an errand, or especially while driving their kids to or from school. Nevertheless, accidents do happen and they happen all too often.
Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2015 is the last year for which full vehicle crash statistics are available, and it was a very dangerous year. Nationwide, 35,092 motorists were killed in 2015 and 2.44 million were injured. Fatalities rose by 7.2 percent from 2014, and injuries rose by 5.2 percent. Even among those vehicle occupants who wore seatbelts, the number of fatalities and injuries both increased. Fifty-two percent of those killed were wearing seatbelts and 88 percent of those injured were wearing seatbelts.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adds that over 100 people die every day in vehicle crashes, and more than 2.5 million are injured. The cost of these deaths and injuries tops $63 billion each year.
Given these alarming statistics, you stand a good chance of being involved in a car crash no matter how safely and defensively you drive. Consequently, you need to know what to do immediately after your accident. Since you may well not be thinking clearly at that point, print the following tips and keep them in your console or glove compartment to help you do all the things you need to do.
- Stay at the scene
Assuming you are not injured and taken to a hospital, stay at the scene of your accident until law enforcement officials arrive and authorize you to leave. As FindLaw cautions, you could face charges of hit-and-run and/or leaving the scene of an accident if you leave too soon.
- Check for injuries
Check to see if anyone is injured, including yourself, your passengers, and all other drivers and passengers. If so, immediately call 911 on your cellphone, give your name and the accident location, and request assistance from both first responders and law enforcement officials.
Never attempt to move an injured person unless (s)he is in immediate danger of further injury, such as from a vehicle fire, downed power line, rising flood waters, etc. Moving injured people can exacerbate their injuries, especially if they injured their head, neck or back.
Even if no one appears to be injured, call 911 anyhow and ask the operator to send the police to your location because you want to make a police report.
- Exchange information with other drivers
While waiting for the police to arrive, exchange full information with all other drivers, obtaining the following:
- Phone number
- Driver’s license number
- License plate number
- Insurance company name and contact information
- Never admit fault
Be as calm and cordial as possible when speaking with the other drivers, but under no circumstances should you make any apologies and/or say or imply in any way that you think you might have caused the accident. It is far too early to be assessing blame. Besides, that is not your job; it is the job of police officers and insurance company investigators.
- Talk with witnesses
Talk with any pedestrians who witnessed the accident and with the driver and occupants of any vehicle(s) that stopped to help. Jot down what they say and get their names and phone numbers. You, your insurance company, and/or your attorney may need to contact them later.
- Take pictures
Take cellphone pictures of your vehicle and every other vehicle involved in the accident, including its license plate and any sign(s) of damage, old or new. This is important so as to establish evidence of each vehicle’s condition immediately after the crash. In addition, having pictures of what obviously was prior vehicle damage will serve you well should one of the other drivers sue you.
Then take pictures of the road conditions, such as any snow or ice that is on it, skid marks, potholes or other hazards, any traffic signals, signs, barricades, or streetlights nearby, etc. Also take a few general pictures of the scene so as to document the time of day and the overall weather and visibility conditions.
- Call your insurance company
Call your insurance company and be cooperative and truthful in answering whatever questions they ask. Again, however, do not say that you think you might have caused the accident.
- Make an accident report
When the police arrive, give them a full account of what happened, again without admitting fault or blame. Jot down each officer’s name and badge number, the police report number, and when, where, and how you can obtain a copy of it.
The things you do immediately after an auto accident make all the difference later. Whether you file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver, (s)he files one against you, or you become embroiled in a dispute with your own insurance company, the evidence you gathered at the scene will stand you in good stead. For further information, please call DubiLaw toll-free at 833-FOR-DUBI (833-367-3824).