One minute you are driving down the highway on your way to spending a long-awaited vacation with your family at the beach. Next thing you know, a distracted driver has crashed into your car. The entire back end of your car is smashed in, your glass windows are shattered on the pavement, and your family is stranded in the middle of traffic in a deserted part of eastern North Carolina. What do you do next?
Accidents are stressful and dangerous, and they can leave us emotional, injured and asking many questions at once. It is important that you know what to do if you are involved in an accident. Here is a list of steps to keep in mind if you are ever in that situation:
- Move minor accidents to a safe place, if possible – If you are involved in a minor accident, North Carolina’s “Move Over” law requires you to move your vehicle to a safe location, like the shoulder of the road. Turn on your hazard lights. If you can’t move your car, stay inside with your seat belt fastened.
- Stay at the scene – North Carolina law requires you to stay at the accident scene whether or not you are at fault. If someone is seriously injured or killed, you could face serious criminal penalties and fines for being a hit-and-run driver. Remember, if you leave, the only story the police have is the other driver’s version of what happened.
- Remain calm and check ALL passengers – Whether you are the driver or passenger, check on everyone in your car as well as everyone in other cars involved in the accident. It is okay to ask how other people are feeling but avoid saying things like “I’m sorry” or talking about what happened in the accident. These seemingly harmless comments could be seen as you admitting legal liability when it is too early to tell what happened or who was at fault.
- Seek medical attention – If someone is injured, immediately call 911. If you see someone is unconscious or has a neck or back injury, do not try to move the person because doing so can make the injury worse. Consider covering an injured person with a blanket or clothing, or shading him or her from the sun if it is hot while waiting for EMS.
- Call the police – Even if the accident just looks like a “fender-bender,” minor property damage or physical injury should prompt you to call the police. Ask the responding officer(s) to file an accident report. Make sure to take down the officers’ names and contact information.
- Take pictures – For legal and insurance reasons, document the accident scene. Take pictures and video of the inside and outside of all cars involved in the accident, of the road, of weather conditions, and of all personal injuries even if they look minor at the time.
- Exchange information – Exchange names, contact information, insurance information, and driver’s license information with anyone else involved in the accident. Never give out your Social Security number or let another driver take a picture of your driver’s license. Remember, you want to confirm the information given by the other driver by seeing their driver’s license and registration.
- Get witness names and information – Take down the name, address and contact information of any witnesses at the scene. Ask them what happened and what they saw. If you are able to, write down as much as possible. Ask witnesses to please wait until the police arrive so they can give a statement.
- Contact your insurance company – File a claim as quickly as possible so you can remember details more easily and your agent can get to work on it right away.
- Contact an accident attorney – Consider hiring an attorney to evaluate your potential claims which can include property damage, medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages and, in the most extreme cases, wrongful death of a loved one. Our personal injury attorneys are experienced and have the skill to handle the often complex legal nuances of car accident and personal injury cases.
The McIntosh Law Firm asks you to please drive safely and be cautious and courteous of other drivers while you enjoy your summer.