According to the Department of Transportation, in 2019 approximately 36,120 people died as a result of motor vehicle accidents. It doesn’t matter how defensively you drive, the risk of being involved in an automobile collision during your lifetime is significant.
Almost six million automobile crashes happen every year in the United States, with rear-end collisions accounting for 29% of all crashes. There are approximately 2 million drivers who sustain permanent injuries in automotive accidents every year. Fatigue is a contributing factor in almost 90% of car collisions.
Knowing what to do if you are involved in an accident is important. Even if you are not at fault, there are important steps to take.
This is the first step to get law enforcement en route to the scene. If the accident is severe, check to see if anyone is in need of emergency medical treatment and advise the 911 operator when you call.
If the accident is minor the police may not come to the scene. If this occurs, gather as much information as possible and then proceed to the nearest police department to file a report in person.
Talk to the people who are on the scene, ask if they were a witness to the accident or have spoken to the other driver. Request their name and contact information. This will be valuable to your car accident attorney.
You will also want to make note of any statements the other driver makes that may implicate them as to fault in the accident. This includes statements such as “I only looked at the radio dial for a second”, or“I’m so sorry, I don’t know what happened.” Seemingly innocent statements may be to your benefit later.
Do not assume that the police will get statements from all witnesses, that the witness will make “at fault” statements to the police, or that they will even wait until the police arrive to speak with them. Do your due diligence at the scene.
Photograph the Scene
As quickly as possible after the accident take photographs of the scene. This includes the positioning of the car, skid marks, each vehicle involved showing damage, injuries you have, traffic control devices or signs, and road conditions.
If possible, once you have shot a few still photographs, take a video using your cell phone that shows the location of vehicles, the weather, accident scene, traffic lights, etc. This serves as an overall quick-clip of the scene that backs up your still photos.
When another driver is the cause of a collision, that driver’s insurance company pays you the replacement cost of your vehicle. The determination of value is the cost of a replacement vehicle minus the depreciation amount for the vehicle you were driving.
Even if you are not at fault in the accident, you can file a claim with your own insurance company depending on your coverage. If you have collision insurance, file a claim with your own insurance for coverage of the repairs or total reimbursement. You may need to pay your deductible, but your insurance may be able to obtain reimbursement from the other driver’s insurance company.
You will also file with your own insurance company if the other driver is underinsured or uninsured, as long as you have uninsured motorist coverage.
If the accident was not your fault your insurance premiums should not go up. If you have had several recent claims it is possible your insurance carrier will drop you at the time of renewal.
The amount your insurance may increase is around 34% on average, but there are drastic variations by state:
- California—73% increase in premiums following an at-fault accident
- Colorado—39% increase in premiums following an at-fault accident
- Washington—18% increase in premiums following an at-fault accident
The reason premiums increase is because the insurance company now considers you to be a riskier driver The increase is not permanent, and you may be able to get a lower rate at a different company.
Loss of Wages
If are unable to work because of injuries sustained in an accident in which you were not at fault, the other driver’s insurance company should pay lost wage compensation. If that driver’s coverage is not sufficient to cover your medical expenses and lost wages, you may also file a claim under your own uninsured motorist coverage.
If you are not at fault and sustain serious injuries your personal injury attorney will be able to assist you in receiving all the compensation you are entitled to.
Determination of Fault
Even if the police report determines the other driver to be at fault, that driver may dispute the law enforcement officer’s findings. Your attorney will obtain a copy of the police report and review it with you for accuracy. If there are any discrepancies be sure to let your attorney know.
Even if the other vehicle did not receive a moving violation, determine whether or not they violated any traffic laws. Sometimes officers will take pity on drivers and not issue citations when they should. For instance, they will find a driver at fault for rear-ending you on their police report, but not issue a citation because they feel sorry for the person due to being of an elderly age, having a disability, etc.
These are factors the other party may use to justify their position. Your car accident attorney will know the law and how to negotiate on your behalf against such claims.
Hit and Run
Leaving the scene of an accident is a violation of the law in every state. Even if the other driver flees the scene, remain in place and call 911. If you can, get a photo or write down the make and model, color, and license plate of the vehicle. Even if you can’t get it all, anything may help.
When you call to report the accident, let them know that there is a vehicle that has fled the scene. Officers in the area may spot the vehicle, depending on how much of a description you provide.
Seek Medical Attention
Do not tell anyone on the scene that you are “okay,” “not injured” or do not need any medical attention. Even if you feel fine, you may have hidden injuries that will cause pain later. If anyone inquires on your medical status simply tell them you do not need medical treatment “at this time” or that you will seek medical treatment on your own.
Why You Need a Car Accident Attorney
With the number of car accidents in the United States, there is a good chance that at some point in your life you will be seriously injured in a collision that is not your fault. We recommend you place the name and phone number of a personal injury attorney in your wallet so you are prepared when something happens.
The Sweet Law Group has 40 years of experience and a 98% success rate for helping people recover their loss from car collisions. If you have sustained injuries in an automobile accident contact our firm using our online form or call 800-674-7854 to schedule a 100% free confidential consultation.