1. Maintain Your Cool
- Take a deep breath and try to remain calm. Even the most level-headed people can be shocked, stunned, and shaken. You may need to help others get the help they need.
- Never leave the scene until it’s appropriate to do so
- Be safe. Turn on hazard lights. If you can move vehicles out of the way of traffic. If you can’t move your car without causing more damage, don’t try. Arrange a tow or if 911 is called, see if the police can help arrange a tow
2. Identify If Anyone Is Hurt
- Call an ambulance when in doubt
- If a person is unconscious or has neck or back pain, don’t move them until qualified medical help arrives, unless a hazard requires moving the person
3. Call For Police
- Even if no one is hurt, it is good idea to contact police
- Sometimes bringing a neutral third party in to document the scene can avoid the “it’s your word against his” problem later
- Even when the other driver admits at the scene it is his fault, after speaking to his insurance company, that position may change, and his insurer may stand by his position to avoid paying your claim
- A police report will include all critical information about the accident
- Police can identify if the insurance is fake or expired
4. Exchange Information
- Gather the other driver’s name, address, phone, email, insurance company and policy number. If the other driver is not the owner, ask for the owner’s information and the relationship between the driver and owner.
5. Gather Evidence
- Take photos (scene, damage to vehicles, weather, light conditions, other driver’s insurance card, license plate)
- Gather names and phone numbers of witnesses. This can be critical. It is not unusual to speak to someone who says a witness approached after the accident, said they would provide a statement, but then never gave a name or phone number
6. Getting Medical Treatment
- Choose your words carefully – “I’m alright” vs. “I don’t think I need to go to ER right now.”
- If you feel something isn’t right, go to the ER or see your doctor as soon as possible. Adrenaline and other chemicals in the body can mask pain for periods of time after a high-stress incident like an accident. So pay attention to what your body is telling you in the hours and days after an accident.
- Don’t wait to get treatment or have gaps in your treatment – while you may have a high tolerance for pain, or just hoped it would get better on its own, that’s not what an insurance company sees. They see an opportunity to argue you were not hurt in the accident or that you must be a fraud.
- In PA, your own insurance company is responsible for the medical bills, at least to start. You need to set up a claim, get a claim number to give to your medical providers. You have a duty to cooperate with your insurance, perhaps sign and complete some forms.
- When you do discuss your injuries with your own insurance or your doctors- be broad with your description of injuries – be sure to tell them about all the body parts hurt.
7. What if you are contacted by the other driver’s insurance
- Be aware of the “how are you today?” question.
- Avoid discussing injuries, how you are feeling, until you have consulted with an attorney.
- Avoid signing any documents or giving any recorded statements until you have consulted with an attorney.
- If you and the other driver have the same insurance company and you are contacted, you need to identify the role of the person calling you. Are they an adjuster addressing medical claims under your policy or are they calling on behalf of the other driver’s policy.
Finally, you should contact Mooney & Associates to ensure you are protected going forward. Consultations for a car accident are free.