What Should I Do At the Scene of a Car Accident?

Experiencing or witnessing a car crash can be deeply unsettling. The alarming screech of tires, the haunting sound of shattering glass, the smell of burning rubber and the sight of mangled metal are unmistakable reminders of the destructive power at play. In an instant, your life can change forever by such a traumatic event.

The number of accidents, injuries and fatalities in New York continues to peak. If you experience an accident, you can help to minimize the trauma and aftermath by taking the correct steps afterward. Consider the following suggestions for what to do at the scene of an accident.

Remain Calm and Compose Yourself

Staying calm after an accident is incredibly helpful, whether you are a driver, passenger or witness. Remaining composed in dire situations helps prevent escalating chaos on the scene. With a level head, you can take the necessary steps toward supporting and assisting the affected parties.

Additionally, you will likely have more clarity when gathering details or communicating with others. Mental clarity can help ensure that you collect all critical information surrounding the accident and can present a much more reliable version of events than if doing so in an emotionally charged atmosphere.

Move the Vehicles to a Safe Location if Possible

Do what you can to move any vehicles out of harm’s way. The assistance of passersby or witnesses to direct traffic may be necessary. Of course, automobiles may have to remain in place after a severe crash with a badly injured person or an inoperable vehicle.

If you cannot move your vehicles, turn on hazard lights to signal passing travelers to proceed cautiously. Reflective equipment or flares can also serve as a warning. Make whatever decision minimizes the odds of further injury.

Find Out if Anyone Sustained Injuries and Call for Medical Help

Remaining at the scene of an accident is essential for safety and possibly legal reasons. Absconding from such incidents can put others in significant jeopardy and is considered a criminal act. Regardless of injuries, leaving the scene of an accident is a traffic violation in New York.

If you need to exit the vehicle, remember to exercise care. Emotions may run high, but jumping out in a huff or a hurry could put you in additional danger from other vehicles passing.

A vital consideration is to verify the condition of anyone in the accident. The state of the individuals will likely affect what steps you should take next regarding moving the vehicles and who to call. For example, a person with a head, neck or back injury may not be able to transfer safely without the help of medical professionals.

Be wary of quickly assuming no injury occurred since physical effects can appear days later. No matter the apparent condition of those who went through the crash, prompt medical attention can verify the actual level of harm. Call emergency services promptly and ask for advice if a person seems to be in life-threatening danger from injuries.

Contact Law Enforcement

Report the accident to local or state police if a person or domestic animal sustains an injury or dies. If a vehicle needs towing or the accident caused property damage and you cannot locate the owner, report the incident to 911.

Recently, New York adjusted requirements for reporting accidents that only involve property damage and no injury. Drivers need only exchange license, registration and insurance information. The motorists should file a Report of Motor Vehicle Accident with the Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days if the crash caused damage in excess of $1,000 to any one person’s property.

If no officer will come to the scene, ensure you receive a copy of the accident report later. If police come to the location, make a note of the officer’s name, badge number and contact information. Ask for a copy of the accident report to ensure accuracy, as officers might make mistakes during the commotion. An incorrect statement can complicate filing claims.

Reach Out to Your Attorney and Insurance Company

Once everyone is safe and you have contacted the authorities, call a trusted lawyer or firm. The lawyer can remind you of any steps to take and how to collect information from other parties at the scene. Since others will be recording data, you want to avoid making statements that could imply responsibility.

An experienced attorney can help you protect your rights and ensure that your story comes across accurately. Such guidance can prevent any information you provide from negatively impacting liability-related proceedings. An attorney also understands the complexities of legal claims and will be able to outline potential paths forward when navigating a case.

Alert your insurance company and give only pertinent information. Remember to avoid claiming any responsibility. Simply express the facts of the collision and relay that you can provide additional details later.

Collect Essential Details

While waiting for officers, medical personnel and towing services, get the necessary information from others while staying alert for safety. Make detailed notes of how you remember events. Having a clear record of what transpired helps you maintain a consistent story.

Acquire Contact Information

After a car accident, collect contact information from all drivers, passengers and witnesses at the scene of the incident. Make sure to get driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers and insurance details. Provide your information to the other motorists. However, avoid sharing information about your coverage limits or other specifics about your policy with anyone else at the scene.

Additionally, ensure that the other drivers’ insurance details match their driver’s licenses and vehicle registration numbers. If there is a discrepancy between these details, such as if the driver of the vehicle does not match up with either the owner or policyholder, try to determine the relationship between the two so that you can accurately document this information for future reference. Check that the insurance policy is in date and obtain the number of the person’s insurance firm.

Do not discuss responsibility during this time or try to sort things out with the other driver. Remember to remain calm throughout interactions and you will likely get more cooperation. Refrain from being apologetic or accusatory, as these reactions can complicate matters when dealing with insurance companies or other parties involved in resolving claims.

Reassure others that they are safe and that insurance will help sort out any issues related to repairing damages caused by a collision. For your safety, avoid engaging with anyone who appears belligerent or under the influence of a substance.

Document the Scene

Capture as much as possible from the scene of the incident. Voice and video recordings can be instrumental evidence.

Note the specific location of the event and the date and time. Record things like the make and model of all vehicles involved in addition to weather conditions and visibility. Even the position of the cars relative to the street can help later proceedings by painting an accurate picture of what occurred.

Discover an Attorney You Can Trust Before an Accident Happens

Unfortunately, a car crash is likely to happen to anyone. The complexity of the legal system and confronting other parties’ lawyers make pursuing fair compensation an uphill battle.

You do not have to fight on your own. The team at Cellino Law may be able to help. Keep the firm’s contact information in your phone to call for help after an accident. If you need assistance now, contact our office for a free personal injury consultation.

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