CDC data shows that tens of thousands of people end up in the emergency room every year as a result of car crashes. Car crash injuries result in tens of billions of dollars in lifetime costs incurred by victims. And while the total number of car crashes on U.S. roads has dropped steadily since 2005, your chances of being involved in at least one crash during your lifetime are fairly high.
In light of the data, here’s an important question: what do you do if you’re injured in an auto accident?
What is described below constitutes a basic introduction to car crashes and how they should be handled. This information should in no way be considered comprehensive – or applicable to your case in any way. If you are ever unsure about your rights or responsibilities following a car crash, do not hesitate to contact my office.
1. Stop, Pull Over If You Can
The first thing to do in the event of a car crash is stop your car and, if possible, pull over to the side of the road. Don’t give in to panic and anxiety to the extent you drive away from the scene. Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime in all 50 states. If the accident involves injury or death, leaving the scene could carry additional charges.
As for pulling over to the side of the road, doing so reduces the likelihood that other cars approaching the accident site will be involved. Obviously, you may be involved in a crash too serious to make moving the cars impossible. At least get out of your car and stand at the side of the road if you can. If you cannot, wait for first responders to arrive.
2. Check on Other Victims
Assuming you are not injured seriously enough to impede getting up and moving around, check on anyone else involved in the accident. Use your cell phone to call for help. If any other victims appear to be seriously injured, do not attempt to move them. Doing so could make any injuries worse and expose you to liability.
3. Trade Information
If everybody involved is conscious and reasonably able to communicate, trade insurance information. Your insurance company’s name, address, and telephone number – and your policy number – should be on your insurance card. Every driver involved in the accident should produce an insurance card.
At this point, do not admit to anything. Let the police and the insurance companies sort out who is at fault. If you admit to something inadvertently, you could be opening yourself up to litigation. Just trade insurance information, comfort one another, and wait for police to arrive.
4. Seek Medical Attention
After speaking with police and making arrangements for your vehicle, the next step is to seek medical attention for yourself. I recommend contacting a personal injury lawyer before you make your way to the doctor. The obvious exception here is a medical emergency requiring a visit to the hospital ER. In that case, you can wait until discharge to call a lawyer.
Contacting a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible following your accident makes an enormous difference. Attorneys need time to investigate. They need the opportunity to speak with the police, communicate with insurance companies, and so forth. Your lawyer may even recommend that you see specific doctors specializing in crash-related injuries.
Car crashes are a part of life. If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in one, step back and think things through. Follow the steps outlined here and you should be okay.