I just had a car accident, what should I do?
The immediacy and shock of an automobile accident may cause feelings of panic and anger in your initial dazed and confused condition. But you must control yourself, without acting rashly, and begin to reasonably and rationally assess the situation.
You must stop if you are involved in an accident. In Ohio the penalties for “hit-and-run” driving are severe. You may be jailed for up to six months, fined for up to $1,000.00, and you could lose your license. Ohio’s Good Samaritan Law encourages that reasonable assistance be given to any injured persons.
Do not move anyone who is badly injured, unless there is danger for greater injury by leaving them alone. If needed, call for an ambulance.
If possible, do not move the vehicles until a record of the accident has been made. Protect the scene, and help reroute traffic around the accident. Try to warn approaching motorists with flares, hazard lights, raising the hood of your car, etc.
Call the police or Highway Patrol to have them come out to the accident scene to take a report. They are much more likely to be interested in filing a report on the accident if there were: 1) any laws broken, 2) any drugs or alcohol involved, 3) injury to any of the persons, or 4) substantial property damage incurred. If the police will not come out to the scene of the accident to file a report, you should go to the police station to file a counter report as soon as possible. This is especially important to help preserve your rights if you are making an uninsured motorist claim against the insurance company.
Try to make sure that all drivers, passengers, pedestrians and witnesses remain at the scene of the accident. If they insist on leaving, write down their names addresses, phone numbers, license plate numbers, etc. – and an account of what they saw. Take down the name of the police officer and his badge number. Ask him when and where you may pick up a copy of the accident report.
Obtain prompt medical attention. Remember that serious and costly injuries do not always result in immediate disabling pain or bloodshed. If you suspect you have sustained any injuries, proceed to the nearest hospital or emergency room facility.
Both drivers must identify themselves to each other. Copy down information contained on the other driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance card. Likewise, identify all passengers and witnesses. You will need their names, addresses and phone numbers.
Make a diagram of the accident, showing the positions of the cars before, during and after impact. Measure skid marks, note the positions of traffic lights and street signs, estimate the respective driving speeds, and record details about the weather and road conditions. If possible, take photographs of the accident scene and of any damage or injury. Photographs of your vehicle (inside and out) should be taken with a digital camera (non-cell phone camera preferred) before your vehicle is either repaired or turned over for salvage if totaled.
VERY IMPORTANT: Cooperate with police officers investigating the case. You must take an alcohol test if requested, or risk losing your license for one year. Advise the officer of basic facts, without adding personal comments or interpretations. Keep calm. Obtain prompt medical attention. Remember that serious and costly injuries do not always result in immediate disabling pain or bloodshed. If you suspect you have sustained any injuries, proceed to the nearest hospital or emergency room facility.
You will need to contact your insurance company, usually within 24 hours, to file a report. You may want to talk to a personal injury lawyer at this time to clarify your rights and discuss questions of liability for the accident. You also need to file a Motor Vehicle Crash Report with the Department of Motor Vehicles within 30 days. Take photographs of your vehicle (inside and out) and save them for reference.
If you have had a car accident and need some help figuring it all out, give me a call and I can help
By Robert J. DiCello