Six million car accidents per year occur in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Esurance, an online insurance aggregator, calculated the average driver will file an insurance claim once every 17.9 years. Stated in another way, the average American will be in 3-4 accidents over the course of a lifetime!
A motor vehicle accident can profoundly alter the course of our lives. Preparing for an event that you hope never occurs makes sense. Purchasing flares is one way to prepare. Informing yourself about what happens after an accident is another way. Here’s some information about what to do after a crash.
The following are crucial steps to take. Becoming familiar with this information will help you at the scene when you are likely to be shaken up and not thinking clearly.
- Stay at the scene of the accident, however minor. Leaving could be considered a “hit-and-run” and lead to a warrant for your arrest.
- Call 911 for medical assistance if needed.
- If possible, get the vehicle(s) out of traffic to prevent further damage or injury. Turn on your hazard lights. If you have flares or reflective emergency triangles, place them on the ground to direct traffic and serve as a warning for approaching cars.
- Call 911 to file a police report. In New Mexico, if property damage exceeds $500 and/or injury has occurred you must file a police report, which covers just about any accident these days. Many police departments have transitioned to online reporting for minor accidents. Rules governing filing a police report vary slightly by county and city. If on the scene, the responding law enforcement officer will submit a police report to the New Mexico Department of Transportation within 24 hours. This police report is an important document that puts in writing the facts surrounding the accident. If you fail to report a serious car accident, you will lack crucial documentation to support you claim or case.
- Collect the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the driver(s) as well as drivers’ license numbers. If the driver’s name doesn’t match up with the car’s registration, determine the person’s relationship with the vehicle’s owner.
- Gather all vehicle info including year, make, model, color, license plate number and optimally the vehicle VIN (vehicle identification number). Remember to get the insurance policy number of the driver(s).
- Look for witnesses willing to recount what they saw and ask questions.
- Using your smartphone’s camera, audio and video features, record as much detail about the accident as possible. Document skid marks on the road and the position of the cars relative to the street. Dictate what happened while all the details are still fresh in your mind. Also, include information about the weather, visibility, traffic, and road conditions, etc.
- Call a tow truck if needed.
- Contact your insurance company. Many insurers now offer mobile phone apps to allow you to begin the claims process online. It may be tempting in the case of small fender bender to keep the accident “off the books” by settling with the other driver(s) or offering to pay if you are at fault – but this is a risky course of action.
- If you are injured (even if you think the injury is minor) call your doctor to make an appointment. Many symptoms aren’t immediately apparent and may not show up for several days. Seeing a doctor as soon as possible after being in an accident will support your injury claim.
Even a minor accident can be the cause of stress, leading to PTSD or other forms of mental distress. The Trauma Survivor’s Network may offer some resources and support for you to heal the emotional wounds from the accident.
The mission of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “is to save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce economic costs due to road traffic crashes, through education, research, safety standards, and enforcement.” This organization offers a wealth of information including info on vehicle recalls, manufacturers’ safety records and other data by make, model and year of most cars. Useful if you think a vehicle malfunction may have contributed to the accident.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving offers information and support for victims of car accidents involving drunk or intoxicated drivers. Their mission is to “stop drunk driving, support those affected by drunk driving, and prevent underage drinking.”
Coping with the aftermath of a serious car accident can be difficult and complicated. Our attorneys at Prince, Schmidt, Korte and Baca are highly experienced in handling car accidents. They can take all the weight off your shoulders. Call Prince, Schmidt, Korte and Baca, LLP for a consultation today: 505.982.5380