No one leaves home expecting to have a car accident, but accidents do happen all the time. A car accident is reported in the state of Alabama every 4 minutes and 15 seconds, and a person is injured in a collision approximately every 14 minutes, according to the latest Alabama crash facts statistics. The fact is that all of us face the real risk of being involved in a car accident every time we roll out of the driveway so we should drive defensively and be prepared.
Car accidents are frightening and highly stressful events that at a minimum disrupt our plans. A violent collision can be traumatic if someone is seriously injured. In the first frazzled moments after a crash, it can be very difficult to focus and know what to do. Yet it is important to make smart decisions during this stressful time to protect your health and your legal interests. It makes sense to be prepared for the unexpected and know the proper steps to take in case you are involved in a serious car accident.
The auto accident attorneys at Belt & Bruner, P.C. believe in being well prepared— whether it involves preparation to make the right choices after a car accident or careful preparation to present the strongest case on behalf of a client. We represent people injured in car accidents caused by other drivers in Birmingham and throughout Alabama. To help Alabama drivers prepare for the unexpected, we have put together a guide for what to do after a car accident. We hope this post-accident checklist will help you take the right steps after an accident.
A CAR ACCIDENT CHECKLIST TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS
Be Prepared for the Unexpected
Keep in the glove compartment of your car a copy of your insurance card, driver registration, emergency contact numbers including roadside assistance and a list of critical medical information such as drug allergies and medical conditions for you and your family members, in case you cannot communicate with emergency responders. Also keep handy a small notepad and a couple of pens or pencils to jot down names and phone numbers of witnesses. Pencils are more reliable than ink pens when stored for many months in a car in all temperatures. Having a cellphone car charger in your glove compartment can ensure that you have a way to summon help and communicate until help arrives
Assemble a Car Kit
Put together a car emergency kit including a flashlight or headlamps, extra batteries, light sticks, roadside hazard markers, travel wipes and hand sanitizers, water, non-perishable snacks, a small first aid kit, jumper cables, an umbrella and gloves to keep your hands from freezing if you are having to change a flat tire or wait for police in cold weather.
Check Whether Anyone is Injured in the Accident
As a driver in Alabama, you have a legal obligation to stop at the scene if you are involved in an accident causing damage to a vehicle or resulting in injury or death to anyone. You have an obligation to render reasonable assistance to anyone injured in the accident, including calling for an ambulance or making arrangements for the transportation of the injured person to a hospital, if it is apparent that emergency treatment is necessary or if the injured person asks to be transported. Be cautious about moving an injured person from a vehicle unless the vehicle is on fire or the person is in imminent danger.
The driver of a car or other motor vehicle involved in a traffic accident causing injury or death is required to notify by the quickest means possible the local police if the accident occurs in a town or otherwise contact the county sheriff or state highway patrol and provide the location of the accident and the number of people involved. You will want to report the accident to police, even if you do not believe that you have been seriously injured. Vehicle damage and injuries can turn out to be worse than you thought.
You should contact the police even if the other driver admits fault and says he or she will pay for everything. Don’t let another motorist talk you out of calling the police. It could jeopardize your ability to recover compensation to pay your medical bills and repair your vehicle. The police will interview those involved and make an accident report. In some instances, the police may issue a citation to one of the drivers involved if the officer believes the driver violated the law. The accident report will be very useful when you make an insurance claim, particularly if the drivers have conflicting versions of how the accident occurred.
Secure the Accident Scene
You should try to do everything possible to prevent anyone else from getting hurt. If your car is creating a hazard and it is drivable, pull it to the side of the road, according to Allstate
. If it is safe to leave your cars where they are, you should do so to allow the police to get a clear picture of what occurred. Set up hazard markers or flares if you have them to alert other motorists of the accident. Stay in your car if it is safe, or get yourself to a safe location off the road while you wait for law enforcement to arrive.
Exchange Insurance and Registration Info with Other Drivers
Alabama law requires that a driver involved in an accident causing property damage, injury or death shall provide his or her name, address, driver’s license and registration number of the car being driven to the other drivers involved. If the name on the insurance card and on the driver’s license are different, try to clarify the relationship.
You want to exchange the required information with the other motorist, but avoid discussing the details of the accident or discussing who was at fault. Avoid the temptation to reassure the other driver that you are okay, even if you do not feel injured. You may wake up the next day very stiff and sore. Sometimes, injuries take a day or two to appear. Do not admit fault even if you think you caused the accident.
If the other driver is uncooperative or confrontational, you can exchange information through the police who will also need this information. If the other driver tries to leave before the police arrive, get the license plate number and the make, model and color of the other vehicle.
Obtain Contact Information from Witnesses to Accidents
The other driver may have a different view of what happened or try to shift the blame. Your ability to collect compensation after a collision could come down to your word against that of the other driver. Having witnesses to support your description of what happened and back up your version of events will help you build a stronger case for compensation. Get the contact information of witnesses who saw the accident before they leave the scene.
Document the Accident Scene
If you have a phone with a camera, snap some photos showing the position of the vehicles, damage to the vehicles, the license plates on the cars, any debris or skid marks on the pavement and the injuries sustained by you and other occupants of your vehicle. These photos may be useful as a record of the accident. Draw a simple diagram of the accident scene and position of the cars. If you file a car accident claim and the case goes to court, the more supporting evidence you have the stronger your case will be.
Notify Your Insurance Company
You should contact your auto insurance provider within 24 hours and inform them of the accident. The phone number of the insurance company should be on your insurance card. You need to notify your insurer of the accident, even if it was not your fault, because you may need to make an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim. Your insurer will instruct you where to take your car and what to do next.
If the insurance company of the other driver contacts you, you are under no obligation to talk to them. You should avoid giving any recorded statements or signing anything presented by the insurance company of the other driver. Your well-intended statements could be used against you later to deny your claim.
Visit a Doctor for an Assessment
You should always have a doctor examine you after a car accident, even if you do not feel hurt or have an obvious injury. You may have sustained an injury that does not present immediate symptoms. A doctor can diagnose injuries like internal bleeding or a brain injury that may not be apparent yet. A medical record from a doctor describing your injuries will provide important documentation of the effects of the crash if you wish to recover compensation from the at-fault driver.
Obtain a Copy of the Accident Report
Ask the police officer who investigates the accident how to get a copy of the accident report and when it will be available. Get the name and badge number of the officer or officers who handled the accident. Having the officer’s name can be useful in case you need to get the officer to be a witness.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer to Understand Legal Options
It is important to have a knowledgeable car accident attorney
review the specifics of your accident if you were injured by another driver. An experienced attorney who has handled many similar cases should have some general sense of the value of your claim. An attorney at Belt & Bruner will analyze your accident free of charge and explain your legal options. Then you can make a well informed decision.