5 Advice From an Attorney After an Automobile Accident – What to Do – and What Not to Do!
As stated before, statistics show that most drivers will have some kind of car accident once every 13 years, unfortunately. The firm of Shlesinger & deVilleneuve has represented the rights of those who have been injured for more than 4 decades; we have literally investigated thousands of car accidents, and spoken to thousands of people about their accidents! We have interviewed witnesses, police officers, and professional accident reconstructionists, and we have found that there are two things that virtually every auto accident has in common: the first is that – after the accident – people are confused, scared, hurt, frightened, and/or angry. The second is that – they have no idea what they should do or say after an accident! This is true whether the collision is a minor fender-bender, or a major wreck with injuries – or worse!
If you are in an auto accident, information is important. Here are the guidelines and recommendations the attorneys at our firm have put together in the unlucky event of an accident:
What to Do After an Accident:<img class="alignright size-full wp-image-390"
• Immediately after an accident, stay in your car for a moment or two to collect your thoughts, determine if you are injured, and let your air bag deflate if it was deployed.
• Call the police for help as soon as possible!
• If you are able, get your car to the side of the road if it’s blocking traffic, and turn on all hazard lights and blinkers.
• If you are able, check to see if there are others who are injured, and if you can provide assistance.
• Immediately after you call the police, call your husband, wife, relative, or friend to come and assist you! Tell them to bring a camera to photograph the scene.
• If you need it – get medical attention! Adrenalin and possible head trauma from the accident may render you unable to think clearly. Studies have shown that a majority of victims of auto accidents generally say they are “fine” when clearly they aren’t, and will resist being taken to the hospital, especially in an ambulance. Do not argue – go to the hospital! Injuries often do not show up immediately.
• Exchange information with the other driver, including – name of driver, name of insured, address, phone numbers, driver’s license number, license plate number, make, model, and color of the car(s), insurance company information and policy number. Also get the names and numbers of anyone else who was in either vehicle.
• If you are able, get the names and numbers of any witnesses at the scene. If there is any kind of dispute, you will need someone who can testify about what actually happened!
• Either you or someone at the scene should take pictures of the cars, of every angle of the accident, including the street from both directions. If you are taken to the hospital, ask the person who you have called to go back to the accident and get pictures.
• Say as little as possible to anyone on the scene – except the police. Keep your statements brief and simple.
• Though it is felt that you should document your accident as much as possible if you are able, know that the police who answer the call will also help organize the situation and make a police report, which may or may not include the names and statements of any witnesses, as well as pictures. The police report of your accident will often contain information about what the police “inferred” from details they observe at the scene. Get the names and contact information of the police at the scene so you can contact them later.
What Not to Do After an Accident:<img class="alignright size-full wp-image-390"
• Never leave the scene of the accident!
• Don’t move or touch your car until the police tell you it is all right to do so.
• Do not become angry with the other driver, stay calm, don’t blame, use harsh language, or physically assault the other driver.
• Don’t discuss the accident with anyone other than your closest family, friends, the police, or your attorney.
• Don’t talk to the other person’s insurance company, refer them to your lawyer.
• When you talk to your own insurance company; keep your account simple, and just stick to the facts as you know them at that time. If possible – consult an attorney first.
• Never tell anyone that you are completely unhurt after an accident, because the truth is – you are probably in shock and have no idea whether you’re actually hurt or not.
And finally, this is something that will probably shock you, but:
• Never, ever say – “I’m sorry.”
Yes, this is correct; it is not wise to apologize in any way after you have been in an auto accident. Statistics have shown that saying “I’m sorry” after an auto accident will generally be used against a person if there is a dispute over who was responsible for the accident later. Interestingly, saying “It’s my fault” isn’t as serious an error in this kind of situation as saying “I’m sorry,” (which says something about our society, though it isn’t very positive, unfortunately). Consider this: we are schooled in apologizing from an early age. Our social conditioning is to apologize for many things that have nothing to do with us or our actions. If a child comes home and has lost his or her baseball game, a parent will generally say – “Oh honey, I’m sorry,” afterwards. When a spouse has had a bad day and seems sad or upset, it is almost a reflex action to say, “I’m sorry, what can I do,” in an effort to comfort him or her. We are, in effect, “conditioned” to apologize, which means that in the panicky aftermath of an auto accident, after a person asks “Are you all right?” the next natural, and almost automatic thing to say is – “I’m sorry,” even when the person apologizing is clearly not at fault! Unfortunately, in the field of law enforcement and insurance claims, a sincere and concerned “I’m sorry” is often turned into an admission of guilt. It may seem heartless, but – unfortunately – for your own benefit and safety, we advise our clients not to apologize after an accident. The best thing to say after – “Are you all right?” — is nothing at all!