5 Things Drivers Need to Do at the Scene of an Accident
Emotions can run high after a car accident, even a minor one with no injuries. Since it may be hard to keep a level head and remember everything you should do, reviewing and printing out the information below will help should you ever need it.
1. The Cardinal Rule of Car Accidents: Remain at the Scene
No matter how upset you are, don’t leave the scene of an accident until the police direct you to do so. If you leave without exchanging information with the other driver and he or she sustains injuries, you could be criminally charged with a hit and run accident. If the accident takes place in a deserted area, you may want to drive to the nearest police station to report it if your car isn’t damaged too badly. It’s always best to exercise caution when exiting your vehicle with no other witnesses except you and the other driver.
2. Check Your Passengers and Yourself for Injuries
After the impact, check to see if everyone in the vehicle is okay. If anyone complains of neck or back pain or is unconscious, don’t move him or her until qualified medical help arrives. However, this piece of advice also comes with an exception if the person is lying in gas or the car has started on fire. In that case, move the injured person as little as possible and support his or her neck and back while doing so. Call 9-1-1 from your cell phone for an ambulance right away for any serious injury.
3. Notify the Police and Exchange Information with the Other Driver
Even if no one appears seriously injured, you need to contact the police so they can take an accident report. The responding officer will ask for the following information from you and the other driver:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Physical address
- Name of insurance company and policy number
- A description of how the accident happened
West Virginia state law requires you to carry proof of insurance in your vehicle, so you can hand that to the officer as well. Be sure to get his or her name, badge number, and contact information to obtain a copy of the police report later.
In addition to basic contact and insurance information, get the license plate number of the other vehicle involved. You may also want to obtain the contact information for passengers in the other car. Don’t take responsibility for the crash at the scene, even if you think it was your fault. This could come back to haunt you later if the other driver states that you admitted liability right after the accident happened. It’s not always clear in the chaotic aftermath of an accident who is at fault and the exact series of events that caused it to happen.
4. Speak to Witnesses and Take Pictures
Passengers in the other vehicle may understandably have loyalty to the driver and not give an accurate account of the accident. That is why speaking with other witnesses is so important. People driving behind your vehicles probably saw what took place as well as anyone walking by at that time. You can ask for the name and telephone number of any witnesses as well as their description of the accident. However, don’t pressure a witness to talk to you since the police will ask him or her the same information.
If you have a camera available, take photos of your vehicle damage right at the scene. This will come in handy when making a claim to your insurance company, particularly if you have a photo of your car before the accident. You can still take photos when you get the car home or it goes to a body shop for repairs if you didn’t have a camera with you at the time of the accident.
5. Going Home After the Accident
You need to call someone for a ride home if your car isn’t drivable after the accident. Be sure to wait with your vehicle in a safe place until the tow truck arrives. You’re free to leave once you have exchanged information, contacted police, answered their questions, and summoned medical help if necessary. When you get home, report the accident to your insurance company.
While it’s probably not on your mind immediately, you may choose to file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver at some point. You have two years to do so under West Virginia state law. If you decide to pursue financial compensation from the other party, contact us Angotti & Straface for a free and confidential review of your case.