Welcome to our legal column! We hope that we will provide useful information. Our first article is titled:
What to Do When You are Involved in an Auto Accident
We certainly hope that you are never injured in a car accident. Unfortunately, statistics show that people are involved in at least two car accidents during their lifetime–and the number is trending higher. (According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 10 million car collisions every year.) If you are in an accident, or more likely, when you are in an accident, you should be prepared. Although every situation can be different, here is our general advice, the things you should do if you are involved in a car accident:
- Stop & Call the Police. New York law requires that the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident stop at the scene. Do not move the cars unless their current position causes a dangerous condition.
I know “word on the street” is that it is better not to call the police and insurance companies for fender benders, and avoid the possibility of insurance premiums rising. We disagree. You should call the police if there is any damage or any possibility of anyone being injured–basically all the time. Besides the legal requirement, we also find that repairs are often more costly than anticipated; injuries take a little while to manifest; drivers who are perfectly candid at the scene sometimes develop a slightly different version of how the accident occurred. A police report will help you in all of these situations. When you get home you should report the accident to your insurance company and forward them the police report when it becomes available.
- Information. Obtain from the other driver their insurance information, driver’s license information, and contact information. When the police arrive and take statements, cooperate fully, and find out how and when to obtain the police report. Talk to the police, but other than exchanging information with the other driver, don’t have a discussion with the other driver. Even when talking to the police it is best to recite what happened as opposed to assigning or accepting fault.
- Witnesses. If there are witnesses, try to obtain their names and contact information. Witnesses can be difficult to locate, so the more information you can obtain at the time, the better.
- Evidence. Record as much information as possible. Use your cell phone to take pictures of the scene, the damage to the cars, skid marks, and injuries to yourself and others (as appropriate). Write down what happened while it is still fresh in your mind. Evidence of what happened will be useful if facts are later disputed.
- Seek Medical Attention. Get your injuries cared for immediately at the emergency room or at your physician’s office. Tell the examining doctor every complaint and injury you have, even if you think they are minor. A serious internal injury may not show immediately.
- Legal Representation. If you are injured, consult with an experienced attorney. Retaining an attorney as soon as possible will help ensure that you receive fair and just compensation for your injuries and losses, and will help you maximize your recovery.
By Reuven Epstein