When Cars Collide-What You Should Do

iStock_State_TrooperAs a Chicago Personal Injury attorney, one thing I constantly repeat to my clients and potential clients is what to do and not to do in the event of a traffic collision. Even if an injury is not involved, there are certain things about which we should all be aware in the event of an automobile collision.

An article featured in the Chicago Tribune "What's Your Problem" Column and Blog, stated in great detail the dos and don'ts associated with the aftermath of an automobile collision. The first thing to remember, whether there is a personal injury or not, is that admitting fault is not recommended.

Keep in mind that this is an instantly stressful time, the moments immediately ensuing after a motor vehicle collision. Either you or others may be injured, vehicles are damaged, perhaps irreparably, thoughts of insurance, body shops, towing, and perhaps even personal injury lawsuits rear their ugly heads in a "life flashing before one's eyes"-type of rush. Before losing focus, however, it is a good thing to have a plan and a priorty list of what to do and what not to do.

You should do the following:

  • Check yourself, your passengers, or others within your purview. Evaluate whether you or others are injured, need medical or EMT treatment, determine whether 911 needs to be called, and look for signs of immediate danger, such as leaking gas or fluid, fire, or whether vehicles should be moved from the scene for safety reasons.
  • Complete a police report, either at the scene, or, if the police will not come to the scene, at the nearest police station. This is essential for any insurance claim.
  • Take photographs of all the vehicles involved (before moving them!), any obvious injuries, the scene of the accident, or anything else that will help preserve your memory of what happened. It is always helpful to take photos that help identify the vehicles involved (including license plates), who was driving the vehicle (take a photo of the person exiting the driver's seat), number and identity of occupants, and insurance information. It is completely legal to take a photograph of all of this information so as to prevent mistaken information later.
  • Take notes (you can email yourself a running history of anything you note at the scene) of anything that will help you reconstruct the time, the lane, the color of the light, the angle of the sun, the type of weather, and the like.
  • Get all contact information, insurance information, telephone and email information, and other salient information from the other driver.
  • Contact your insurance company. Report this even if you are convinced the other driver(s) may be at fault. Failure to report can lead to your carrier refusing to cover this!
  • Contact a lawyer. Do not wait and see how things go only to find out you should have called your lawyer first. Just call your lawyer right from the scene and find out what to do. Sometimes just having an experienced person guide you when you are stressed can lead to fewer errors.
  • Get medical treatment as soon as necessary/possible if injured. If you need to have an ambulance, have the police call an ambulance. Nothing is ever gained by "toughing it out."

You should NOT do the following:

  • Admit fault. As stated repeatedly by me and by others, there is no good that can come out of you saying anything of this type at the scene of the incident. Even if you believe you may have been at fault, just stick to the facts that you remember when speaking to the police officer.
  • Do not let anyone tow your car who was not called by either you, your insurance company, or the police officer. Many tow trucks will hover like vultures at accident scenes, picking up vehicles, only to hold them "hostage" until you pay exhorbitant "storage" fees. Do not fall for this scam!
  • Do not say "I am not hurt." You should simply avoid saying this until after you have been checked out by your choice of medical provider. Many injuries manifest themselves later and, while you may truly believe you are "fine" at the scene, you may turn out to be in great pain the next day. As with admitting fault, admitting to not being injured is never a good thing.

And have these essentials in the car with you just in case:

  • Pen and paper
  • Your insurance card
  • Disposable camera (if your phone does not have a built-in camera)
  • Flares or hazard cones
  • Warm clothing in the event you are "stuck" outside for awhile
  • Basic first aid kit

In sum, always have a plan that enables you to do the right thing while under great stress. Be prepared so when you are unable to think clearly, you do not have to do so!

As always, if you have any questions about an Illinois Personal Injury case or Chicago Personal Injury case, please call us at 773-944-9737. We would be happy to guide you in the right direction without obligation.

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