If you’ve ever witnessed an accident, you know that the people involved can tend to act abnormally. Victims jump up from seemingly destructive impacts, witnesses shrug and move on, guilty parties split the scene. In this article, I want to share some things that you should keep in mind if you’re in a car accident.
If You’re in a Car Accident, What Should You Do?
Let’s say that you’re in a car accident and you’re coherent enough to take action. These are the steps you should take:
- If you’re not in danger from traffic, you should leave your car or motorcycle right where it is. If you are in danger, and if your car or motorcycle can be moved, get yourself off the road and out of traffic.
- Call 911.
- Never, ever stand behind or near your car or motorcycle as you wait for police to arrive! Don’t even sit in your car. Your car or motorcycle is an obstacle to other drivers and it can get hit again. Stay away from it.
- Exchange insurance information with the other party. Get his or her name, telephone number, email address, mailing address, and insurance information including policy number and insurance company name. (Cell phone cameras make this easy.)
- Even if it is a minor accident and you don’t think you’re hurt, don’t let the other person leave. At a minimum, get his or her driver’s license number.
- If the other party drives away, you stay right there and wait for the cops.
- Get pictures. Use your phone’s camera and take as many pictures as possible. Take shots of the intersection, damage to your car or motorcycle, witnesses, debris on the road – anything in or around the scene of the accident.
- If you’re taken to the hospital, use your health insurance. Often, when a victim checks into a hospital after an accident, he gives the hospital the other driver’s insurance information. Hospitals take that information but they can’t do anything with it. So, essentially, you’re not covered for the medical treatment they’re providing. Also, since Colorado is a tort-based system, the at-fault driver’s insurance won’t pay for anything until all expenses are settled, which can take a very long time. In the meantime, your bills are piling up, you’re receiving calls from collections agencies, and your credit score is dropping. Therefore, use your medical insurance! (Please read my previous blog titled “Illegal Hospital Billing” to learn about some underhanded tactics that hospitals are using in how they handle insurance.)
Why Are Witnesses So Important?
Statistics have proven that people who run red lights or stop signs are likely to lie. They say, “The light was green!” or “I came to a complete stop!” They will lie to you and they will lie to their insurance companies. When it comes down to your word against theirs, you need proof. You need witnesses.
In order to illustrate this point, consider the following real-life story from The O’Sullivan Law Firm files:
Patrick was riding his motorcycle southbound on a busy, four-lane road. A northbound driver turned left in front of him and Patrick barely had time to hit the brakes. He hit the car and sustained a shattered left collarbone, broken ribs, torn ligaments in his knee, and other injuries.
The police arrived. Because Patrick had no traumatic head injury, he was able to explain the accident. However, one witness told the police that she had seen Patrick earlier riding his motorcycle erratically. She admitted, however, that she did not see the accident. Two other witnesses saw the accident and said Patrick was not at-fault and that he had the right-of-way.
The police officer gave Patrick the ticket.
Patrick asked The O’Sullivan Law Firm to represent him and we visited the scene of the accident. We were able to collect witness statements from people who worked in a nearby restaurant. These witnesses also said that Patrick was driving legally and had the right-of-way. We took those statements to the prosecutors promptly dropped the case against Patrick. And yet, the at-fault driver’s insurance company continued to deny responsibility until we filed a lawsuit and took the witnesses’ depositions. Finally, the insurance company dropped their defense and accepted full responsibility.
Clearly, in Patrick’s case, witnesses made all of the difference.
Your Behavior at the Scene of an Accident
Your behavior at the scene of an accident can impact your case’s outcome later. Here are two tips that you should follow after an accident:
- Don’t diminish the incident. We live in a society where people are expected to be tough! We also tend to be helpful and polite, genuinely wanting to help each other. But if you’ve been in an accident, don’t walk around saying, “I’m fine. I feel great!” Auto accident injuries tend to reveal themselves 24 hours after an accident. Anything you say at the scene of an accident can affect your case later.
- Settle down. Your demeanor at an accident can also be used against you later. If you walk around angrily, yelling and screaming, that can also affect your case.
A final note that bears repeating: It is crucial to call 911 when you’ve been in an accident. If you don’t call the police and you discover injuries from the incident 24 hours later, you won’t have a record of the accident. We’ve never had someone regret calling the police to the scene of an accident… but they do regret it if they don’t!
If you have any questions at all about this article, don’t hesitate to call us.
Free eBook — Auto Accidents: A Little Book About the Big Things You should Know: No one ever expects to be in an accident but being prepared for one in advance can make all the difference. Learn how to properly evaluate insurance options, what to do (and not do) after an accident, and other valuable tips to protect yourself and your loved ones if the very worst happens.
Happy New Year!
I hope that the new year brings you prosperity, good health and a clean driving record! As I was pondering the meaning behind new year’s celebrations, I found the following interesting trivia:
- The Babylonians observed the new year starting in 2000 B.C., but they celebrated it in the spring.
- Julius Caesar established January 1 as the new year when he created the Julian Calendar.
- It’s tradition to ring in the new year with family and friends because, historically, people have believed that the first people you see will either give you good luck or bad luck. So make sure to keep friends close and foes far away.
- More vehicles are stolen on New Year’s Day than any other holiday, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
- The top three places in the United States to celebrate New Year’s Eve are Las Vegas, Disney World and New York City. Internationally, one of the biggest celebrations is in Sydney, Australia where more than 80,000 fireworks are set off from Sydney Harbour Bridge.
- The Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball was first dropped in 1907 after a fireworks ban. Back then, New Yorkers dropped a 700-pound ball embellished with 25-watt light bulbs. Now it weighs 11,875 pounds, is 12 feet in diameter and is adorned with 2,668 Waterford crystals.
- It’s considered good luck to eat foods like black eyed peas, ham and cabbage because it is thought that they bring prosperity. But if you want to have a happy new year, don’t eat lobster or chicken. Lobsters can move backward and chickens can scratch in reverse, so it is thought these foods could bring a reversal of fortune.
- The top 10 resolutions are usually to lose weight, eat more healthily, exercise more, stop smoking, stick to a budget, save money, get more organized, be more patient, find a better job and to just be a better person over all.
(Thanks to the International Business Times and Celebrations.com for help compiling this list.)