Each year, millions of people are injured in motor vehicle collisions. In 2004 there were 6.2 million police-reported motor vehicle crashes and more than 9,000 people died in rollover crashes according to the National Highway Transportation Board.
In order to protect yourself and your family, the attorneys at Bachus & Schanker want you and your family to be prepared before a motor vehicle collision, so you know what to do if you ever find yourself involved in such a situation. Below are some important strategies to keep in mind:
- Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Car. Many drivers have cell phones these days. While it is important not to talk on your cell phone while you are driving, you should carry a fully charged cell phone with you in case of an emergency. Also have pen and paper available in your car for taking notes. Also, it is important to have a list of contact numbers for law enforcement agencies and insurance companies. Finally, emergency kits that include warning cones, triangles and flares should be kept in the trunk of your car.
- Keep Safe if You have been Involved in an Accident. After a traffic accident, it is important to move cars out of the way of traffic if at all possible and if there are no serious injuries. Cars parked in the middle of busy highways and streets can result in additional accidents and injuries. If a car cannot be moved, do not leave your vehicle. Stay in your car with seatbelts fastened until help arrives. Make sure your hazard lights are on and if possible place your emergency cones, triangles and flares behind your vehicle.
- Exchange Information. After a collision it is important to exchange name, address, phone number, insurance company, policy number, driver license number and license plate number for the driver and the owner of each vehicle. Also make a written description of each car, including year, make, model and color – and the exact location of the collision and how it happened. Finally, be polite but don’t tell the other drivers or the police that the accident was your fault, even if you think it was.
- File An Accident Report. Many times a law enforcement officer will come to the scene of a motor vehicle collision and conduct a preliminary investigation and provide an accident report. However, even if law enforcement does not come to the scene, drivers should file a state vehicle accident report, which is available at police stations and often on the Department of Motor Vehicles Web site as a downloadable file. A police report often helps insurance companies speed up the claims process.
- Know What Your Insurance Covers. The whole insurance process will be easier following your accident if you know the details of your coverage. For example, don’t wait until after an accident to find out that your policy doesn’t automatically cover costs for towing or a replacement rental car. Generally, for only a dollar or two extra each month, you can add coverage for rental car reimbursement, which provides a rental car for little or no money while your car is in the repair shop or if it is stolen. Check your policy for specifics.
- Report the accident promptly to your insurance company. This may not seem wise or necessary to you. The accident may be minor, you may not want to risk seeing your rates rise or you may think that the other driver’s insurance company will pay for everything. But state laws generally protect you from higher rates unless an accident was your fault.
- See Appropriate Medical Care if You have Been Injured. Many times, immediately after an accident, people feel like they are probably “ok, just shaken up.” Do not hesitate to get checked out to make sure that you haven’t been seriously injured. Many injuries do not reveal themselves until a day or so later. Consulting with a medical doctor after a collision will insure an early diagnosis of any injuries and hopefully minimize the discomfort and future medical treatments. Be sure to tell the doctor the complete truth about what happened and any discomfort you are feeling, as well as providing an accurate past medical history so the doctor can prescribe the appropriate treatment. Finally, follow the doctor’s advice about treatment.
- Consult with a Qualified Personal Injury Attorney. If you are injured in an auto accident, or your loved one suffers serious injury or death in a car accident, contact the experienced injury attorneys at Bachus & Schanker for a free evaluation of your case and discussion to help you understand your rights.