You feel a jerk and suddenly you and your car aren't where you thought you should be. You may feel pain, or maybe just shock. You've just been in a collision. Now what? Find out what to do first after an auto accident.
While learning to drive, the focus is generally on what you should do to avoid an accident. But sometimes there is nothing you can do to avoid a collision. Last year, there were over 300,000 car crashes in Michigan, resulting in nearly 58,000 injuries. Knowing what to do when an accident happens can help cut through the panic of the crash and protect your rights.
Your first priority after an auto accident should always be safety. Depending on the location and severity of your crash, you may need to move the vehicles to the shoulder or median, or into a nearby parking lot. However, even if your vehicle isn't safe to move, you should still protect yourself by getting out of the way of traffic. Remember that damage to your vehicle's gas tank, fuel lines, or engine could make it dangerous to stay in the car after an accident.
Once you are sure everyone involved in the accident is safe, it's time to call 9-1-1. Michigan law requires motorists to report any auto accident that causes injury or at least $500 in property damage. That can even include fender-benders. The law gives you 24 hours to file your report. But when there is a serious injury or a vehicle is immobilized, you can't wait. Police can direct traffic away from the wreck while fire and medical responders make sure you and your vehicle are safe and secured. Don't forget that the shock of a collision can sometimes mask pain and serious injuries. If EMS says you should go to the emergency room, take their advice.
After safety and health, information gathering is essential after an auto accident. The police will ask for each driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance. You should get those details too. Make sure you have the contact information for drivers, passengers, and witnesses to your accident, and get the incident number from the officers investigating your crash. Modern motorists lead busy lives, so if you don't get their information quickly it could be difficult to track them down later on.
If you are not seriously injured in the auto accident, you can put the time on-site to good use. While you wait for the police and tow-truck operator to do their work, pull out your phone and start taking pictures. Photograph the collision site (including any signs or lights nearby). Also take pictures of each vehicle involved as well as their license plates. Be sure to document the damage done from multiple angles. If someone was injured, and you can do so without getting in the way of the EMS, take pictures of the injuries as well.
Even a relatively minor accident can cause serious injuries. But sometimes these conditions don't show up right away. Head and neck injuries, back pain, and other injuries can worsen in the hours and days following a car crash. Even when the ER isn't necessary, you should still get examined by a doctor to identify any injuries that could become serious over time.
You may only have days to file a notice of claim with your no-fault auto insurance provider and protect your right to no-fault benefits. If you weren't driving your own, insured vehicle, it may be difficult to know which company to notify. A personal injury attorney can help you figure out where to send your notice, and how to deal to any responses. It is common for insurance companies to offer a low-end settlement early in the process. If you haven't talked to a knowledgeable auto accident attorney, you may not know what you are entitled to, and when to say no to an offer.
At Sachs Waldman, we have extensive experience helping injured motorists after an auto accident. We can help you recover auto insurance benefits and third-party negligence damages. Contact our Detroit personal injury law office at 1-800-638-6722.