What to Do First if You Have Been in a Car Crash
The choices you make in the moments and days after an auto accident can dictate what will happen in your life for months and years to come. Find out what to do first if you have been in a car crash to make things easier for yourself and your passengers.
Step 1 - Stay at the Scene and Call 911
The first choice you make after a car crash is simple: “Should I stay, or should I go.” If you choose to drive away from an injury accident or one involving significant property damage, you could end up facing criminal charges for hit and run. Even if it felt like a minor fender-bender to you, stop and make sure everyone is alright.
Staying at the scene doesn’t mean putting yourself at risk. Get to safety as quickly as possible, either by pulling your car to the shoulder, or by getting to the side of the road yourself. However, if you are injured, remain where you are to avoid causing yourself more harm. The same is true for passengers or the other drivers involved. Connecticut law says you must “render such assistance as may be needed” to others involved in the crash. But unless you are a medical doctor, that may mean leaving them still and calling for help.
Once you are safely out of the way of traffic, call 911. The dispatcher can make sure that police, fire, and emergency medical crews are sent your way quickly. To make sure the right help is on the way be sure to tell the 911 operator:
- The accident location (use intersections, mile markers, or exit ramps).
- Whether anyone is bleeding or says they are hurt.
- If there is broken glass, leaking fluids, or debris in the roadway.
- If your vehicles are blocking traffic.
Step 2 - Start Gathering Evidence
Unless you are hurt, start gathering evidence while you wait for the police. Start with the other driver. Connecticut law requires drivers to exchange basic information. Ask the driver of each vehicle to provide you their:
- Full name
- Work and home addresses
- Driver’s license numbers
- Car registration information
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) -- This is visible through the driver-side windshield or inside the driver’s door jam. It is also on the car registration.
- Telephone numbers and email addresses
- Date of birth -- this is on the driver’s license
You should also collect information from each passenger and any bystanding witnesses:
- Contact information
- Passengers’ dates of birth
- Their descriptions of what happened
Many witnesses won’t want to wait for the police to arrive to give a statement. Consider video recording of their description of the event with your phone in case they need to leave. While you have your phone out, be sure to take pictures of everything that might become relevant to the case:
- Each vehicle (especially where they were damaged) -- be sure to note the make and model of each car.
- Any visible injuries (cuts, scrapes, bruising, etc.).
- The location of the accident and where each vehicle ended up.
- Any signs or traffic signals.
Step 3 - Talk to Police or Make an Accident Report
Connecticut does not require the police to respond to every 911 call about a car crash. When the officers do arrive, they will begin investigating the crash. Politely follow their instructions, including remaining at the scene and providing ID and other documentation.
Remember, you are not required to make statements against yourself. If you believe you were partially responsible for the crash, you may want to decline making a statement especially if there was alcohol involved. However, if you can do so without incriminating yourself, it is a good idea to tell the police what happened. That way the police report will document your first impressions and the police may issue a citation against the other, at-fault driver.
If the police do not respond to the scene, you are legally required to file Connecticut Uniform Police Accident Report at the nearest police station within 5 days of any car crash resulting in injuries or property damage over $1,000. Since many injuries don’t show up until days or even weeks later, it is a good idea to file a report of any accident, no matter how small.
Step 4 - Seek Medical Assistance
Once Emergency Medical Services responds to the crash scene, they will check everyone for injuries. If the EMS says you should go to the emergency room, listen to them. Often adrenaline and shock can mask serious injuries. Delaying treatment can aggravate the condition and make treatment cost more in the long run.
Even if your injuries don’t require an ER visit, you should still see your doctor as soon as possible after the car crash. He or she can give you a physical examination and begin documenting your injuries for use in later filing an insurance claim.
Step 5 - Talk to a Personal Injury Attorney
You shouldn’t wait long after a crash to have a consultation with a personal injury attorney. That is because, in Connecticut, where you report a crash can depend on what happened, who caused it, and what the damages (including injuries) were. A personal injury attorney can help you decide whether to file a claim:
- With your own insurance provider
- With the other driver’s insurer
- In state court
The firm can also help you notify your insurance provider as required under the policy’s “Notice of Occurrence and Cooperation Clause”. Some of these clauses only give you days after a car crash to file your report, but anything you say in the report can be used against you if the insurance company later denies your claim. You should talk to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to meet the deadlines. Once you and your personal injury attorney report the accident, you can work together to decide where to file your claim, and gather the evidence to prove what insurance proceeds you should receive.
At The Lebedevitch Law Firm, our personal injury attorneys have decades of experience helping injured motorists after a car crash. We can help you assess your options and know what to do next to protect your claims. Contact The Lebedevitch Law Firm today to schedule your free consultation.