With more than 276 million vehicles on the road in America on any given day, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll end up in a car accident. According to a recent post publishing on the Wandering Jeep, there are about six million car accidents per year in the United States.
Being in an accident is often a chaotic and frightening experience, so it’s good to be prepared to know exactly what you need to do. Here are 10 vital pieces of car accident advice that can help you navigate the situation.
Stop Your Vehicle
The most important thing to remember is to stop your vehicle after the accident. Leaving the scene of an accident, especially where there is significant damage or injury, could have serious legal implications.
Do a Safety Check
Next, check on the safety of you and your passengers — and also of those in any other involved vehicle. It might be necessary to get medical attention.
Document the Scene
Be sure to photograph the scene if that’s possible. The sooner this is done, the better. There will almost always be conflicting stories about the circumstances around the accident, so whatever you can document will be helpful.
However, this isn’t always possible. It might be necessary to move the involved vehicles if the accident happens on a bend on a highway or a similarly unsafe location that might jeopardize drivers in oncoming vehicles. They might not see you until it’s too late to avoid you. In situations like this, it’s best to move the vehicles if you can for the safety of yourself and your passengers.
Limit Interaction with the Other Driver
This can be difficult if tempers are flaring, but it’s an important piece of car accident advice. Any comments made during this time can come back to haunt you during the insurance process or should the case go to court. Communication should mainly be limited to ensuring that those in other vehicles do not need medical attention.
Get a Police Report
Call the police if the accident has caused injury or serious damage. Having a police report will be an important piece of paperwork for your insurance company and in the event you have a court hearing. This report will document the time, place, and conditions of the accident, as well as the involved parties and witness statements. The report can also include the officer’s assessment of fault, although that’s not considered the final ruling. So this is an important document to have on hand should you need to seek car accident advice. You can request the police report from the department responding to the crash or possibly from your insurance company.
Call Your Insurance Company
One of your first calls after a car accident should be to your auto insurance agency. It’s best to report the accident as soon as possible while the details are still fresh in your mind.
After a car accident, an insurance company might try to settle quickly, and while it might be tempting to do so, you shouldn’t. It’s important to avoid pressure to settle until you understand the full extent of the damage from the car accident, including medical costs.
Insurance companies might be motivated to settle early to limit their payout. Vehicle insurance companies usually arrange car rentals for drivers whose cars are considered a total loss. You might be eligible for this, so be sure to ask.
Also, learn about how fault is determined in an accident and how it might impact your payout. If you live in a “no-fault” state, it means that no matter who is to blame for the accident, each party’s insurance will pay a share of medical expenses. For the most part, though, the at-fault driver is responsible for medical and repair bills for both drivers. The fault is determined by the insurance company using various factors including the aforementioned police report. But some types of accidents, such as rear-end collisions, are widely considered to be the fault of the second vehicle. That’s because one of the rules of the road is to avoid tailgating, or following too closely behind a car. Regardless, it’s best to obtain solid car accident advice in working with insurance companies — things can get complicated quickly.
Know How to Proceed in a One-Car Accident
Single-vehicle accidents can happen in a variety of circumstances — poorly maintained roads, weather or driver fatigue. Depending on the cause, the driver might receive a traffic ticket, which can be challenged in court. If you believe bad roads were the cause of your accident, you might be able to file a claim against the agency responsible for road maintenance.
The cause could even be due to circumstances out of human control, such as an earthquake or a hurricane. These are also known as Acts of God events. A driver might attempt to claim an Act of God event if he or she hydroplanes in a heavy rainstorm, but that’s isn’t quite accurate — hydroplaning is caused by driving too fast in rainy conditions. As long as the driver can show that the cause of an accident is truly an event out of their control, it can be a successful defense in court.
Know Your Options if You’re at Fault
If you are deemed responsible for the accident, you’ll need expert car accident advice about what to expect.
You might receive a citation for breaking traffic laws. This can often be accompanied by a heavy fine and points against your driver’s license. Accruing points against your license can lead to increased costs for vehicle insurance. Fines and point penalties can be challenged in court.
In the event that a driver is suspected of driving under the influence or reckless driving, you might be arrested as a result of the accident. If that happens, you should seek the guidance of an attorney immediately.
If you are unable to meet your bail, it might be necessary to use a bail bond agency to secure your release. A bail bond agency essentially pays the bond on behalf of a person who can’t afford bail. If you end up using a bail bond agency, you will have to repay the bondsman, and also usually pay a 10-15% fee. An experienced bail bondsman can help provide car accident advice if you need to pursue this option.
Find out What Your Health Insurance Covers
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than two million drivers are injured in car accidents each year and 32,000 suffer fatal injuries.
If you are hurt in a car accident, you’ll need to check in with your employer’s group health provider as you consider what will be covered. You will need to submit all your medical bills to the insurance company.
Even if the settlement process is drawn out, medical bills are still your responsibility to pay in a timely fashion. The circumstances of the accident will not keep your outstanding bills from going into collection, which will permanently damage your credit. Your insurance company might be able to help during this time, however. Most plans allow for employees to negotiating coverage rates in emergency situations, even if it’s before the annual routine window for changes to your plan.
If you are in a car accident and you have no health insurance, one option is to seek Medicaid funding. Although Medicaid is a federal program designed to help with health care costs, the money is distributed through the states, so contacting your state’s office can you determine if you are eligible. Personal injury lawyers can help you explore all possible avenues to pursue financial compensation.
If you are injured in a crash and it renders you unable to return to your job, you can apply for Social Security disability. This is an option if your injuries are expected to keep you out of work for more than a year. If you need to fill out a Social Security disability application, you can do so online or reach out to an attorney who can provide the appropriate car accident advice to help you fill out this form correctly.
Other Scenarios Where You’ll Need Car Accident Advice
Driving a rented vehicle: Usually, a rental company or auto dealership will offer temporary insurance with the vehicle to keep you covered if you’re borrowing a vehicle. You might also be covered by your regular vehicle insurance. If this is the case, and you are at fault, most rental insurance agreements are written so that the borrower handles damages, but the driver still needs to handle other outstanding costs, such as medical bills. If the other driver is at fault, the rental company or dealership will work with that driver’s insurance company. But if you are driving a rental car and have an accident without insurance coverage, and are the responsible party, then you will largely be responsible for damages. In most states, however, it’s illegal to drive a rental car without some form of insurance. For the most part, drivers in a rented vehicle can get car accident advice from the rental agency or their own insurance company.
Driving With a Learner’s Permit: Teenagers are four times more likely to have an accident than any other group of drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A learner’s permit means that young drivers must have an adult in the car with them. If a driver with a permit can keep her record clean for one year, she can apply for a license. In some states, the driver must also meet a certain amount of supervised driving time. There might also be restrictions on when an inexperienced driver can be on the road. For example, he or she might not be allowed to drive during the night because it’s considered too dangerous. This also depends on where the driver lives.
Although studies show that this approach of graduated licensing is effective at keeping crash rates down, accidents do still happen.
In this situation, if the driver with a permit is at fault, the driver and his parents are responsible for any damages. If the permit driver was driving without an adult or their parent, the parents might also be held legally accountable if they knowingly allowed their child to break the permit requirements. If the permit driver wasn’t at fault, he can still face penalties if he were driving alone. Again, these requirements vary by state and it’s always a good idea to get professional car accident advice if you find yourself dealing with an inexperienced driver in his first accident.
Driving Without Insurance: If you’re involved in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have insurance, you are likely in for a long legal battle. If the uninsured driver is at fault for the accident, you will likely need to sue the driver to receive any payment for costs associated with the accident. State laws also vary on the penalties such a driver would face, especially if they cause serious injury. Even if the uninsured driver isn’t at fault, some states restrict payments he or she could receive. In all cases, insurance companies will be hesitant to provide coverage to an uninsured driver, even if it’s only the driver’s first accident.
Accidents Involving Cyclists: With more Americans turning to bicycling to commute, the most recent Department of Transportation data shows that 860 bicyclists were killed in accidents involving motor vehicles. Many of these fatalities happen in urban areas. So what are the rules regarding such accidents? Many cyclists already have a form of insurance, either homeowner, auto, or health insurance. If a cyclist is injured in a crash and is deemed to be at fault, their liability coverage in their plans would cover any costs incurred by an accident.
However, bicyclists are often more likely to incur serious injury in an accident with a motor vehicle, so the financial burden in the event of an accident does tend to fall on the driver. It’s important to chat with a car accident attorney before regularly bicycling on your daily commute. Cyclists who are involved in accidents with vehicles should consult with a firm that can provide car accident advice that applies to their situation.
Rely on these Tips to Drive More Safely
Navigating the legal terrain after a car accident can be difficult. If you, or your child, need assistance, it’s important to get advice from a car accident attorney with expertise.