With 70% of of West Virginians licensed to drive, most of us will be involved in a motor vehicle accident sometime in our lives. The explosion of cell phone use and texting while driving has increased the number of auto accidents nationwide. Being prepared is one of the best things we can do to protect ourselves and our family from the potentially devastating effects of a car accident.
If you are involved in an auto collision, try to remain calm, and follow these steps:
Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Glove Compartment.
Drivers should carry a cell phone, a pen and paper for taking notes, and a disposable camera to take photos. Drivers should also carry a card with information about medical allergies or conditions that may require special attention if there are serious personal injuries. There are a number of auto accident kits that usually include a flashlight, a reusable camera and accident documentation instructions. It’s advisable to keep a set of cones, warning triangles or emergency flares, and jumper cables in the trunk.
Check your self, passengers and other drivers for injuries. If nobody is in critical need of medical attention, move your car to the side of the road, out of the way of oncoming traffic. Leaving cars parked in the middle of the road or a busy intersection can result in additional accidents and injuries. Usually, if a car cannot be moved, drivers and passengers should remain in their cars with seatbelts fastened until help arrives. In some instances, however, it may be better to exit the car; for example if your car is in an area blind to oncoming traffic. Regardless, warn oncoming traffic by activating your hazard lights and setting emergency flares, warning triangles and or cones.
After the accident, exchange the following information: name, address, phone number, insurance company, policy number, driver license number and license plate number for the driver and the owner of each vehicle. If the driver is not the insured, establish what the relationship is between the driver and insured and take down the name and address for each individual. Write down a description of each car, including year, make, model and color. Also, include in your notes the exact location of the collision and how it happened. If there are witnesses, try to get their contact information. Their statements may be critical to your case, especially if the other driver denies fault or claims that you caused the car accident.
Photograph the Accident.
Use your camera to photograph the damage to all the vehicles and the scene of the accident. Keep in mind that your photos may end up being your best evidence. Photograph anything that may even be potentially relevant, including potholes, obscured signs, the position of the cars relative to each, the intersection, and so forth; more is better.
File An Accident Report.
Call 911 or the appropriate emergency number to report the accident. If law enforcement does not respond, file a state vehicle accident report, which is available at police stations and on the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles’ Web site. A police report will help speed up your claim. When reporting your version of the collision, don’t tell the other drivers or the police that you were at fault, even if you think you were. You may later discover facts that change your mind about the cause of the accident, but any statements you make at the scene may be used against you. Therefore, it’s best to just state the facts of the accident and avoid any interpretations.
Seek immediate medical attention.
Even if you do not think you are seriously injured, it is necessary to have a complete medical examination. Some injuries may not become apparent until days, weeks, and sometimes months after a serious crash. The longer you wait to get medical treatment, the more suspicious insurance adjusters’ will become of your claim. It’s common for insurance companies to deny claims simply because a person injured in an auto accident delayed in seeking medical care.
Contact a car accident lawyer.
It’s advisable to call a car accident attorney for advice about your claim. Most, if not all, skilled West Virginia personal injury lawyers offer Contact West Law Firm for a free consultation with a West Virginia personal injury lawyer. If you call an injury attorney at West Law Offices, we will tell you whether we think you need a lawyer or not. Sometimes persons involved in auto collisions don’t need an attorney. However, because insurance companies often needlessly delay, deny and defend claims, those injured in accidents often have to rely on an attorney to obtain fair compensation. A good accident lawyer can also spot items that are compensable that a non-attorney would likely miss, such as cost of future medical care that may not become necessary until years later. An experienced injury attorney will also look into the client’s recommended line of medical treatment and make sure that he or she is getting the best possible medical care.