In the unfortunate event that you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, it is necessary to protect your legal rights. The ten (10) items listed below are a few guidelines to assist you after an accident:
DO NOT LEAVE THE SCENE OF THE ACCIDENT
You should leave your vehicle as close as possible to the place of impact, and of course, out of the way of traffic.
NOTIFY EMERGENCY PERSONNEL AND POLICE
You should contact the police first, and if there are injured persons, have the police call for an ambulance or emergency personnel.
MAKE THE SCENE SAFE
After an accident, there may be debris in the roadway, or there may be vehicles in the road which cannot be moved. You will need to protect other vehicles traveling in that area from these dangers. For example, put on your flashing or hazard lights, particularly if it is dark outside. If you have flares or reflectors in your vehicle, these should be placed so as to warn oncoming traffic of the dangers ahead. It is also a good idea to raise the hood of your vehicle, so long as there is not a concern that there may be engine-related damage (fire hazard).
In many accidents, there may be a question as to which party is at fault. Under these circumstances, it is very important to identify witnesses whom can later testify regarding the facts of the accident. The potential witness should be identified immediately, as they could leave the scene prior to the police arriving, and may never be found at a later date.
DO NOT ADMIT RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE ACCIDENT
Statements you make at the accident scene may later be used against you in the event that you make a claim or have your case heard before a jury. In many circumstances, an individual may feel responsible for an accident, only to later find out that the other vehicle was actually at fault, or shared some responsibility for causing the accident. It is important to be honest with the police. However, this does not require the unsolicited statements regarding liability for the accident.
MAKE NOTES OF THE ACCIDENT SCENE
You will want to make notes of the accident scene, including the time of day, weather conditions, road conditions, length of skid marks, and street lights. You may also want to make a diagram of the accident scene, including placement of crosswalks, traffic signals, stop signs and other traffic signs, etc. In addition, it is important to preserve evidence at the scene of the accident. For example, in many accidents, your vehicle’s seatbelts may not function properly. It is important to document that fact, and to have the vehicle examined by someone in seatbelt safety. If your vehicle is totaled after the accident, you will want to have such an inspection prior to salvaging the vehicle.
EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION
After the accident, it is important to obtain information from the other drivers involved in the wreck. You will want to obtain the following information, at a minimum:
a. Witness- name, address, and telephone number
b. Other vehicle drivers- name, telephone number, driver’s license number, license plate number, and the name and policy number of their insurance company.
c. Owner of vehicles- if the driver of the other vehicle(s) is not actually the owner of the car, you will want the name, address, telephone number and insurance information of the owner of the vehicle.
If you are having any type of pain or physical problems at the scene, it is important that you seek medical care as soon as possible. If there is any concern regarding your ability to drive, or whether your vehicle can be safely driven after the accident, you may consider transport by ambulance to a local hospital. In any event, you will want to consult a doctor regarding the accident, as doctors are trained to recognize and treat injuries which sometimes are not readily apparent to you.
Texas is a “fault” state, meaning that insurance companies will determine fault in an accident before they will provide coverage. This is different from “no-fault” states, in which insurers will automatically provide coverage to both parties – regardless of fault.
CONSULT AN ATTORNEY
If you have questions regarding your rights after an accident, you should contact an attorney that specializes in insurance or personal injury law. Most attorneys do not charge a fee for an initial consultation, and will be able to answer the questions you will have following an accident. Even if you were issued a ticket following an accident, that does not necessarily mean that you are guilty of the traffic offense or are responsible for the accident. You should not settle your injury claim until you have consulted a physician to understand the nature and extent of your injuries. Not all accidents result in a claim being made. However, you need to protect your legal rights in the event that it becomes necessary to pursue such a claim. Our firm has concentrated its practice on assisting those injured in automobile accidents, injured by defective products, and by the carelessness of others and obtaining fair compensation for their injuries.