Ten days after I got my driver’s license, I was in a car accident. Another driver drifted into my lane and hit my car while tuning his radio. The good news is that everyone was okay. Only my car was damaged. Well, that, and my sixteenyear- old ego.
The bad news? I didn’t handle the aftermath of the accident very well. Granted, I was scared and didn’t know how to respond. And I was only sixteen. But I took some actions that could have carried negative legal repercussions for years to come.
So, what should a person do after a car accident? Attorney Brody Reid, a Richmond native who practices personal injury and worker’s compensation law, has this advice for our readers and their children who experience car accidents:
Call the police right away. Assuming you are not at fault, a police report will likely help if you need to recover for vehicle, medical, or other damages. When you talk to the police, don’t be shy to assert what you know is true. For example, if you know the light was green, say, “The light was green…” and not, “I think the light was green.” Also, be sure to tell them if you believe you are hurt.
Call an ambulance if anyone involved is possibly hurt. Taking a ride to the ER will ensure a full trauma work-up, allowing any injured party the benefit of complex tests to rule out potentially serious internal injuries.
Generally, don’t get out of the vehicle or move the vehicle. Wait until the paramedics arrive to exit the vehicle, unless emergency circumstances require you to get out immediately. Moving could increase your medical injuries. Likewise, unless there is a minor accident and it is safe to do so, do not move your car until police arrive. The placement of your car immediately following the accident can be a key factor in determining cause.
Get the other party’s information. The police report will include all pertinent information, but make sure that you also have the other driver’s name, contact information, insurance details, and vehicle make, model, and license plate.
Consider consulting an attorney if the accident is more than just a minor fender-bender. Many attorneys provide a free consultation to car accident victims, which can help you discern your rights and obligations following an accident. And if you do seek the advice of an attorney, don’t make a statement to any insurance company, including your own, until after your consultation. Even if you do not end up retaining the attorney, you will at least have an idea of your postaccident legal options.
Find out if you have med-pay on your auto policy. Med-pay (or medical payment coverage) is an optional benefit on insurance policies that allows payment, often up to $5,000, for medical expenses resulting from the use of your vehicle. And it pays out regardless of fault. So, if you are injured in an accident and go to the ER, your insurance company can reimburse you for the expense, up to allowable limits.
Luckily, that accident I had as a teen resulted in no medical injuries. And my mom and dad eventually let me drive again. Since then, I have been rear-ended no fewer than five times. Most of us will experience at least one car accident at some point in our lives, and it’s best to be armed beforehand with knowledge that could help you get through a rather scary situation.
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