I’ve just been in a car accident: What should I do?
While most of us stay safe on the roads, you never know when you’ll be the unlucky one. Most of us are not prepared for car accidents. In the moment, it’s hard to think straight about what to do. This article helps you think straight before you have an accident and could help you or someone else in a crisis on the highway.
To start with, you cannot do anything if you are seriously injured. In this case, somebody else will be following these steps to take care of you.
But if your injuries are slight, or you are not hurt at all, there are some things you must and must not do.
Do not run away
If you are not too hurt and your vehicle is intact, you may be tempted to run from the scene. Under Virginia’s Hit & Run Law and other state laws, this is a crime and will make the whole thing worse. You must stay at the scene of the crash until all formalities are over.
Next, you must try to move your vehicle out of the way of traffic, if possible. Leaving your vehicle in the travel lane after a crash could cause traffic to bank up or even create the conditions for another more serious crash. You can warn others of the hazard by using your hazard lights, tying a white handkerchief to your door or waving a red flag. Remember it is too dangerous to try and stop traffic.
See who is hurt
Drivers and passengers who are not too injured are obliged to help others who are. If you are not medically qualified, be wary of doing too much and try to give moral support. You may be able to call a doctor or drive someone who needs medical treatment – and can be moved – to the nearest hospital.
Report to the authorities
You must give your personal information – name, driver’s license number, address, vehicle registration number, vehicle type, insurer – to state police and others involved in the accident. If you are too injured, you will report to the authorities when you are well enough to do so. If you have hit a vehicle or property – and there is nobody around – you must leave a note at the scene then file a report to the police within 24 hours.
It is even more important to notify state police when people are injured or killed, if a driver appears intoxicated, vehicles cannot be moved, damage exceeds $1,500 or a driver has no insurance. Do not call 911 unless it is an emergency.
Tell your insurer what happened
Your insurer needs to know, as promptly as possible, exactly what happened. They will also need any available police report. The police report makes it easier for you to prove the damage to your vehicle or to prove when another driver is making a false damage claim against you.
Some people do not know exactly what coverage is provided by their auto insurer so it is worth checking on that today. A valid policy will at least include liability insurance (bodily injury and property damage) and uninsured motorist coverage (in Virginia).
Bodily injury insurance pays for injuries you cause to another driver (known as the third party) if it was your fault. It does not include the medical costs of injuries you (known as the first party) may suffer. So you may choose to get extra insurance to cover the costs of any injuries you could sustain.
You may be tempted to tell everyone about the accident, after all, it’s upsetting and you want to get it off your chest. In fact, personal injury attorneys advise against discussing the accident, using forms of social media, signing any documents, or admitting you were at fault. In case of serious injuries, you may even consider hiring an attorney.
Another warning is due. If you witness a car accident, but are not involved, you do not have to stop. You might think it is your duty but, in fact, there can be problems with getting involved unless you know what you’re doing.
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