No one likes having to think about car accidents, especially the prospect of being involved in an accident when you are driving. Still, it happens all the time; tens of thousands of times each year across the U.S. Unfortunately, chances are that most of us will be involved in some kind of car accident over the course of our driving lives, possibly resulting in injuries. It is best to have a good idea ahead of time how to take care of yourself and others at the scene, until qualified medical help arrives.
At the scene
The first thing you should do is check yourself for injuries. If you are hurt, it is best not to try to move, and to let people come to you. If you find you are uninjured and you can safely move, then you want to work through the following steps:
1. Check for injured passengers in your car. Call 911 immediately and try to stay on the phone until help arrives. Do your best to administer immediate first aid, if required, but remember the physician's mantra: First do no harm. Only do as much as you are sure you are doing correctly. Do not reject any offer of emergency medical care or a ride to the hospital emergency room, if offered by the police or medical responders.
2. If no one is hurt, call a non-emergency accident reporting line to alert the local law enforcement and get an officer to the scene of the accident. But remember, 911 is always okay if you are unsure who to call.
3. If it is safe to leave your vehicle, get out and remove yourself and passengers to a clear area, well-away from the crash scene. When you have collected your thoughts, now is a good time to photograph the crash damage. But DO NOT put yourself or anyone at the scene in any danger trying to gather evidence, either by photograph or from inside the vehicle.
4. Give a statement to the officer to get your narrative down. Be completely honest but do not offer any conjectures about what you think might have happened. Just give the officers the facts they are asking for. Give your statement out of earshot of the other driver or passengers who may be involved.
5. After the police have talked to everyone they need to take statements from, it is okay to exchange insurance information with the other driver. You are not compelled to exchange personal contact information.
After leaving the scene
Once the officer has confirmed that you are allowed to leave the scene, it is important to follow up with an attorney to discuss the accident and your options. If the crash was not your fault, then there is a chance you will be able to claim damages that will help you get back on your feet again. Experienced accident attorneys know exactly what accident victims are allowed to claim, and they have the experience to help make claims as successful as possible.
Do not wait. There is often a limited window of opportunity in which to act after an accident, and the sooner you begin the process, the sooner you will know whether or not you are able to recover the costs of your medical care, lost wages and other accident-related expenses.