The 10 initial steps that everyone needs to know
1. Stop Your Vehicle
No matter what type of vehicle you are operating – whether it is a moped or a semi tractor trailer – you are required by law to stop your vehicle after an accident or collision. No matter how minor the damage and even if you feel that no damage has been done at all, you are required by law to stop your vehicle. If you fail to do so, yo
u are can be prosecuted for a criminal offense which, depending on the type of accident that is left, can result in maximum penalties of prison and significant criminal fines. Accordingly, upon becoming involved in a collision, stop as close to the site as is safely possible while ensuring not to block traffic or put you, the occupants of your vehicle, or others in harms way. It is advisable to use your emergency flashers to ensure maximum visibility and it may also be necessary to warn oncoming traffic or use cones, reflectors, lights or any other highly visible mechanism to ensure the safety of those involved.
2. Assist People In Immediate Harm
If an automobile is on fire, leaking gasoline, at risk of being hit by oncoming traffic or otherwise at risk, if it is safe to do so, provide help to remove any occupants from any immediate danger. Once again, remember to only do so if it reasonably safe to do so and any remedial actions you take will not put yourself or others in more serious danger.
3. Check For Injuries
Check to see if anyone has been injured and if so, immediately call 911. You can also use a vehicle’s emergency response button if any of the involved vehicles or others that are stopped are so equipped. Inquire if anyone present is a medically trained professional than can render assistance or first aid. If so defer to their judgment and direction. If not, do NOT move an injured person. Doing so can aggravate or lead to additional or further injuries. Comfort any injured people to the best of your abilities and wait for emergency responders to arrive.
4. Ensure Safety
Make sure that all children or anyone requiring special assistance at the scene are tended to and protected. An accident can be traumatic enough on mature adults. For children, especially if a family member or friend may be injured, the situation can seem catastrophic even if it is not. Accordingly, make sure that an adult is available to keep children and any others requiring assistance out of harm’s way and consoled and calmed.
5. Exchange Insurance Information & Call Police
You are not required by law to contact the police if there are no injuries and both parties are in agreement that it is unnecessary. However, be forewarned that all injuries or vehicle damage are not always immediately apparent. Accordingly, if an accident is caused by another driver, it is almost always advisable to call the police unless absolutely no damage is done and you are certain about that. The responding law enforcement agency, whether it is a local police department, the Highway patrol, or other agency, is trained to investigate accident scenes. Accordingly, it is very important that you are thorough in your explanation to the officer and ensure that you provide all details and observations that you remember. You are required by law to not interfere with the officers investigation by providing false information However:
6. Do Not Implicate Yourself
If you have reason to believe that the officer may suspect you of criminal activity, other than merely causing the accident, do not implicate yourself. For example, if you are under the influence of alcohol, you are NOT required to implicate yourself for OWI as you have the Fifth Amendment right to refrain against self-incrimination.
7. Gather Information
Even though it is a responding officer’s job to fully investigate an accident scene, just like any other profession, there are great law enforcement officers and ones that are much less experienced or adept at performing certain such duties. Accordingly, get as much information as you can while at the scene. Write down all of the following information that you can obtain:
The other driver’s information including: full name, address, phone number, cell phone number, work number, place of employment, date of birth, driver’s license number, license plate number, and auto insurance information.
Witness information including: full name, address, phone number, cell phone number, work number, place of employment.
Investigating officers full name, agency, badge number.
Description of the vehicles involved, where they are in relation to the accident site, nearby landmarks for reference, approximations of speed, direction and other observations, diagrams or drawings of the scene.
Any other important information that you think of.
If you don’t know if information is important, record it. It may not seem so at the time, but it is amazing the infinitesimally minute details that law suits turn on if it eventually must come to that.
8. Seek Medical Attention
Oftentimes a person involved in an accident doesn’t even know that they have been hurt initially. You may be in shock or just merely be overwhelmed by the situation. Regardless, if you feel that you may be injured or even if you don’t know, get checked out. If that means going in the ambulance, do so even if you don’t know whether or not you need to. If it even means going to the emergency room in the hours or days following, do that. Its much better to go to the doctor and find out nothing is working that not and not know that something is.
9. Call your Insurance Company or Agent
Your Insurance policy will require that you notify your insurance agent within a reasonable amount of time after the accident takes place.
There is one caveat to this: If there is absolutely no damage or injury, do not call your insurance company.
Even if an insurance company does not pay out on an accident, they keep records of all such information. Also, while the information that they keep to determine rates is often proprietary or, in other words, a company secret, accidents can cause your rates to go up whether they are your fault or not. Accordingly, if your insurance company does not need to be notified (because they will not be compensating you, anyone else, or providing any service), then do not notify them.
On the other hand, should you fail to notify them and ultimately need to make a claim, an insurance company can deny an otherwise valid claim if there has been an unreasonable delay in reporting the same.
Accordingly, if you are not sure, it is better to speak to a qualified claimant’s attorney before reporting an accident.
10. Contact an Attorney
The general rule of thumb is: The more serious the accident, the more important it is to contact an attorney and the sooner you need to do so. God forbid that a loved one is seriously injured or killed in an accident. However, if such a catastrophic event takes place, an experienced claimant’s attorney, in certain situations, will employ experts as soon as minutes after an accident if promptly notified to undertake an independent and exhaustive investigation of the scene. This could be a firm employee, a private investigator, or even an accident re-constructionist, depending on the circumstances. However, the more serious the injuries, the more imperative it is to ensure that all details and evidence of the accident are properly recorded and preserved. Attorney Robert C. Hahn is available on call at 509.921.9500.
The Spokane, Washington Law Firm of Robert Hahn is one of the leading firms in the area of Personal Injury Law. Our personal Injury clients have the peace of mind in knowing that their case is being handled by an experienced Plaintiffs injury attorney. Our aggressive representation and extensive experience has earned the firm of Robert C. Hahn, III, a stellar reputation for excellence in the representation of injured people. Robert Hahn’s goal is to provide excellent service by a highly experienced lawyer and legal professionals at an affordable fee.
After helping hundreds of injured people ranging from complex litigation to simple settlement of claims in Spokane and surrounding areas, Spokane Attorney Robert Hahn has the background to explain your alternatives and suggest a solution to your injury difficulties.If you are considering hiring a personal injury attorney, make sure that the attorneys you are considering practice in personal injury law because you need a law firm that deals with these issues on a daily basis.