by Carrollton Injury Lawyer, Tim O’Hare
You’re a law-abiding citizen who abides by traffic laws, carries appropriate automobile insurance and generally practices safe driving. Still, accidents happen, and one could happen to you when you least expect it.
Do you know what to do if you’re involved in a car accident? How prepared are you to deal with the various scenarios that can surround a car accident, such as being involved in a wreck with an uninsured or underinsured driver?
When you’re in an accident, the immediate situation can seem chaotic, and even if you aren’t seriously injured, you may be too flustered to think clearly. By taking time to regularly review what to do in an accident (and to go over these tips with any other drivers in your household) can prove very helpful if and when you are in a car accident.
First steps to take if you are in a Car Accident
Unfortunately, even the safest drivers can be involved in a car accident. Do you know what to do if you’re in a car wreck? Review these 11 tips regularly and you’ll be more likely to remember them in the stress of the moment.
- Turn your car engine off and turn on hazard lights. Leaving your car running increases chances of a fire sparking. Hazard lights should be used to warn other drivers. If available, place caution triangles or set out flares to warn oncoming traffic, especially at night.
- Do not leave the scene of the accident. Stay calm and avoid arguing with or accusing anyone else who was involved in the accident. It’s also important that you not make any admission of blame in the accident. If possible, move your vehicle to the shoulder of the road to get it out of the way of oncoming traffic. Get all passengers out of the vehicle and stand as far off the roadway as possible.
- Call 911. Report any injuries immediately and ask for police to come to the scene. If there are any potential injuries, ask for an ambulance. When a police officer arrives, get the officer’s name, badge number, city the officer is responding from and request a police accident report and the report number.
- Help anyone who has been injured or who is in distress. If you are able, get out of your vehicle and attempt to make contact with other individuals involved in the accident. If you are a medical professional, CPR and/or First Aid certified, render aid as needed. Assess injuries and notify 911 immediately.
- Don’t admit fault, but tell the truth about what happened. Responding police officers will ask questions as they build their accident report. Be truthful about what happened, but be careful not to admit fault and avoid any settlement discussions. Individuals who are not carrying car insurance or have another reason to avoid legal trouble may attempt to get you to settle by offering a cash payment on the scene. Do not accept any settlements on the scene, as you may be liable for the damages to your car later on.
- Get a copy/picture of the other driver’s driver license, license plate and insurance card. After an accident, exchange names, addresses, phone numbers, insurance companies, policy numbers, driver’s license numbers and license plate numbers with any other drivers involved in the accident. Be sure to note the relationship between the individual driving and the owner of the vehicle if their names don’t match.
- Take pictures of all vehicles and property involved in the collision. Use your camera to document any damage to all property and vehicles involved in the accident, as well as the position of cars and scene of the accident.
- Ask the police to prepare an accident report. A documented report of the accident is an essential piece of evidence both for insurance and in any lawsuit that may arise as a result of the accident. Even if the officer claims a “no fault” accident or suggests a report isn’t needed, politely insist on a written report from responding law enforcement.
- Get medical care, if needed, promptly after the accident. If you have been injured, seek immediate medical attention. If you think you may be injured, do not wait to see a doctor. If able and you would prefer not to ride in an ambulance, drive yourself or have a friend or family member drive you straight from the accident scene to the nearest emergency room or urgent care facility.
- Call an attorney before speaking to any insurance company, including your own. Insurance companies are notorious for attempting to skip out on paying accident and injury-related claims. Do not attempt to negotiate with either insurance company yourself. Contact a skilled and experienced lawyer who will represent your best interests. If you have been injured, a personal injury lawyer can help you recover financial losses due to medical bills and lost wages. In addition, a respected personal injury lawyer can help you recover money for pain, suffering and mental anguish. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the better, so do so after you have received medical attention at the scene and law enforcement has been notified of the accident.
What to do if you are in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver
Once the dust settles and it’s time to file an insurance claim, you may be surprised to learn the person at fault did not carry insurance, even though it is illegal to drive in Texas without at least liability insurance. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, about 25 percent of the state’s 17 million licensed drivers do not carry liability insurance.
The term “uninsured motorist” refers to a driver of a vehicle who is not carrying liability insurance, or to an unidentified driver of a hit-and-run accident. It may also refer to an insured driver whose insurance has denied coverage for some reason. Here’s what to do if it happens to you.
- Get the other driver’s information. Do not let the other driver get away without first exchanging contact information. If the other driver presents an expired insurance card, they may still be covered. Get any and all information from the other driver so you can find out whether or not they are insured.
- Contact your insurance company (through your lawyer only if you are injured). The Texas Insurance Code has mandated that all insurance companies doing business in Texas offer uninsured and underinsured motorist protection. Uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance coverage applies to the policyholder and any family members residing in the same household, as well as passengers in the insured vehicle and anyone driving the insured vehicle with the owner’s permission. If you have uninsured insurance coverage, your insurance company should help cover your expenses from an accident.
- Call an experienced personal injury attorney. Even if you have insurance coverage for this scenario, don’t expect your insurance company to do you any favors. Your insurance company will do everything it can to lessen the amount they pay to you, and insurance companies regularly tell people they are being paid what is “fair,” and frequently their definition of “fair” is far different than what most juries and policyholders would describe as fair.
- Be sure you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP). If you do not currently have PIP, we recommend you purchase as much PIP as you can afford. PIP is insurance that pays for your medical expenses (including deductibles and/or co-pays) regardless of who was at fault in the accident. There are a number of reasons we recommend PIP:
- PIP is inexpensive security.
- There are millions of uninsured drivers in the state of Texas.
- You are likely to be in an accident at some point in your life and medical services are increasingly more and more costly.
- PIP will help you whether you are at fault or not.
- PIP also covers lost wages.
No matter what kind of insurance coverage you have, we never recommend that you attempt to deal with the insurance company yourself, but rather hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to protect your interests. If you have been injured in a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident or other motor-vehicle related incident, or have lost a loved one in a car wreck, call us. The experienced legal team at The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare will guide you through your case and ensure you get everything you deserve.
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