An automobile accident can happen to any of us. If you drive a vehicle, sooner or later, you may be involved in a vehicle accident. The moments after a vehicle accident are stressful. Stress is only made greater if you or someone you love was injured as a result of the vehicle accident. Below are some tips to help you navigate the moments after a vehicle accident.
Remain calm and assess the situation.
Remain calm. If your vehicle is still moving, stop as close to the scene as possible. Assess the situation. Ensure that your immediate area is safe from traffic and that no vehicle is on fire.
Assess your medical condition and the medical conditions of those around you. Are you, the other driver, or any passengers injured? If so, immediately call 911 for medical help. If you are injured, promptly get medical care.
Call law enforcement. If the vehicle accident resulted in any personal injury or total property damage exceeding $1,000, you should immediately contact law enforcement. Failure to contact law enforcement is a crime and may cause your driver’s license to be suspended. You must wait for the officer to arrive.
Take photographs. If you can safely do so, take photos of the accident scene and damage to the vehicles.
Give a full description to the law enforcement officer.
When law enforcement arrives, be cooperative. Give a full and complete statement to law enforcement about what occurred. Remember, if the accident involves a personal injury or property damage exceeding $1,000, law enforcement will interview witnesses and, within 24 hours after completing their investigation, prepare a crash report. After completion of the investigation, law enforcement sends the report to the Division of Highways.
Gather the other driver’s information.
If a driver is physically able to do so, a driver is required to provide:
His or her name, a valid telephone number where he or she may be contacted and the year, make, model and last four digits of the vehicle identification number of the vehicle he or she is driving; and
Proof of security and financial responsibility required by [law], and if provided by insurance, the information provided upon the certificate of insurance, including the name of the insured, the name and contact information of the insurer and insurance policy number.
W.Va. Code §17C-4-3(a)(1). This information can be provided directly to law enforcement instead of the other driver or passenger in the driver’s vehicle.
You should request the other driver’s insurance information at the scene from law enforcement or the other driver. If you are unable to do so, this information will be included in the officer’s crash report which can be obtained after the vehicle accident investigation is completed.
Contact insurance companies.
If you have the at-fault driver’s insurance information, you should promptly file a claim for the injuries you sustained as a result of the vehicle accident. As indicated above, if you do not have this information, it can be obtained from law enforcement after the crash report is completed. It is not advisable to give a statement to the insurance company without consulting a vehicle accident lawyer.
Similarly, you should promptly report the accident to your own insurance company and file a claim. Immediately after the accident, you are not likely to the know nature and extent of your physical injuries. Similarly, you are not likely to know the nature and extent of the at-fault parties’ insurance coverage. Your injuries could exceed the available insurance of the at-fault party. Even worse, the at-fault driver may not have insurance coverage. Most insurance companies require that you promptly report any claim. The best practice is to report the claim to your own insurance company to ensure you are not left with significant medical bills and no insurance coverage.
Contact an automobile accident lawyer.
After an automobile accident, navigating insurance, liability, and settlement issues can be daunting. Contact a personal injury attorney to assist you. A vehicle accident lawyer can act your behalf and allow you to focus on recovering from your injuries, not dealing with insurance claims handlers.
Barney Law PLLC represents people involved in automobile accidents in Putnam County, Kanawha County, Mason County, Lincoln County, and surrounding counties. Importantly, we work on a contingency fee basis meaning you owe us nothing unless a recovery is made for you. The initial consultation is free.