As difficult as it might be, it is important for you to think clearly in the first chaotic moments following a car crash. From a strictly human perspective, the actions you take before the first-responders arrive on the scene can mean the difference between life and death for someone who is seriously injured in the crash. From a legal perspective, the decisive actions you take at the scene will protect your legal rights in any future legal action.
The first steps following a car crash are:
- DON’T PANIC: If your airbags deployed, the “smoke” that you are seeing, and smelling, is most likely NOT from a gasoline fire. Airbags are packed in a lubricating powder, and they are discharged by a chemical reaction.
- WARN OTHERS: Put on your emergency flashers so that other drivers will see you, and either go around the collision, or stop.
- CHECK FOR INJURIES IN YOUR CAR: Are you, or your, passengers injured? If so, call 911 immediately.
- GETTING OUT OF YOUR CAR: Check for on-coming traffic – from ALL DIRECTIONS. Then, if it’s safe, and you are physically able to do so, get out of your car.
- CHECK FOR INJURIES IN OTHER VEHICLES: Check to see if anyone in the other vehicle is hurt. If so, call 911 immediately.
- GET OUT OF THE ROAD: After you have checked for injuries, get out of the road completely. If you can’t get off the road completely, get on the shoulder of the road, as far from the traffic lanes, as is possible.
- CALL THE POLICE: You should ALWAYS call the police. It is impossible, at the scene, to tell whether a car has been damaged, or a person has been injured. It is almost impossible to successfully pursue a legal claim for a collision that is not reported to the police.
- GATHER YOUR OWN EVIDENCE: Do NOT assume that the Police will completely, or accurately, investigate the facts. If you are physically able, you should:
- Exchange insurance information with the other drivers.
- Get the names, addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses who stopped at the scene.
- TAKE PICTURES: (If you don’t have a camera, ask one of the witnesses to take pictures for you): Take pictures of:
- the resting position of the vehicles before they are moved.
- Property damage to the vehicles.
- skid marks.
- If it is an intersection collision, all traffic control devices, such as stop lights and stop signs.
- DON’T DISCUSS WHO WAS AT FAULT: If you admit that the collision was your fault, to either a witness, or the other drivers, that will be used against you later. If you accuse the other driver of being at fault, it might lead to an argument, or to a violent confrontation.
- MAKE MENTAL NOTES: When the police arrive on the scene, you are going to be asked what happened. You are probably going to be asked to give a written statement, as well. So, as soon as possible after accident, make mental notes about the facts surrounding the accident, such as:
- the time, date, location of the accident.
- the weather conditions.
- the speed and directions of the vehicles involved.
- whether turn signals were used.
- Be sure to note any signs of intoxication – slurred speech, alcohol on breath, watery eyes, etc. – on the part of another driver.
- WAIT FOR THE POLICE: If the police have been called, stay at the scene of the accident until the responding police officer tells you can leave.
- COOPERATE WITH THE POLICE: Be polite, and cooperate with, the police officer(s) who respond to the scene. If the police give YOU the ticket, DON’T ARGUE. That’s what lawyers are for!
- CALL YOUR AUTO INSURANCE CARRIER: Here in Colorado, you are required by your insurance policy to promptly notify your carrier of any accidents. If you don’t report the collision in a timely manner, your insurance company might deny your claim for failure to notify them.
- GET THE MEDICAL CARE YOU NEED, ASAP: Get the medical care you need, as soon as possible. If you are injured, even if it doesn’t seem that bad, go to the emergency room to be checked out by a medical doctor, on the day of the accident. If pain develops later – as it often does – go to the emergency room, or to see your primary care doctor, as soon as possible. An unreasonable delay in getting medical care can be a huge problem in a legal case.
- DOCUMENT YOUR INJURIES: After you get home from the emergency room, have a family member, or friend, take pictures of all of your injuries, including:
- bruises (especially any bruises on chest, shoulders, waist and hips, caused by the seatbelt),
- bandages, crutches, or casts.
- DO NOT SPEAK TO THE OTHER DRIVER’S INSURANCE COMPANY: Insurance adjustors for the other driver may call and ask you to give them a recorded statement, or to sign medical records releases so that they can get your medical records. DO NOT DO IT! Don’t ever forget, as nice as that insurance adjuster might sound over the phone, that person has one goal in life – to find the evidence necessary to DEFEAT YOUR CLAIM.
After you have taken those “first steps,” the next step to take is to CALL US AT VADEN LAW at 303-377-2933. Car accidents can leave you reeling, suffering from damage to your vehicle and mounting medical bills, as well as pain and suffering and lost wages due to being unable to work. You need an experienced personal injury attorney fighting in your corner. Let us deal with the legal claims, so that you can focus your time, and attention, making a complete physical, emotional, and economic recovery from the accident.
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