There are approximately 13,675 serious injury car accidents every year. One death every 2 1/2 hours. One injury every 2 1/2 minutes. These are the numbers that describe the state of our Texas roads. So yes, it can happen to you or someone you care about, heaven forfend! One need not feel helpless in the face of this frightening state of affairs, however. Just remember your Boy Scout motto and make sure you know exactly what experts say to do in the event you should be caught up in a traffic collision.
First, pull over. It should go without saying, but pull over and make sure that everyone in your vehicle is all right. Then call 911 and, as calmly as humanly possible under the circumstances, prepare yourself to answer questions about what happened and at what exact location.
The next step is to alert the police, especially if the accident results in injury or death. Under Texas state law, failure to report an accident that results in injury or death is highly illegal.
You must stop, determine whether anyone involved needs aid, and notify the police. Provide them with a full and truthful account of the incident, and remember to request a copy of the police report at a later date. While you are waiting for the authorities to come, talk to the other driver. Try to ascertain their name, contact information, vehicle registration number, driver’s license number, insurance policy number, and vehicle make and model.
Be very careful what you say at the scene of the accident. Shock, fear, and adrenaline mean you might not be fully aware of what is going on or how you’re interacting with others. But anything you say at the scene of the accident, especially regarding the fault or cause of the accident, may later come back to haunt you.
Even if an accident wasn’t in any way your fault, blurting out something like “I’m sorry,” can be taken as an admission of guilt, and may later be used against you in an insurance investigation or at a legal hearing.
Another point to consider is the fact that you may be mistaken about what caused the accident. It may later become evident that the other driver was, in fact, at fault. So for now, only talk to 911 and the authorities, and stick to the facts as you understand them.
Try to document the scene of the accident as much as possible. Take a few pictures on your cell phone, especially of any damage or injury that may have resulted from the incident. Try to find any witnesses and get their names and contact information. Try to get an idea of what they saw and how much they saw. Try to take notes as well. After all, the weakest ink is better than the strongest memory!
If an injury impedes you from doing any of this, don’t worry too much. A skilled Dallas car accident lawyer, and possibly accident reconstruction experts, can arrive later to record as much evidence as possible. Your primary concern after an accident is your health and safety and the health and safety of the other people involved. Your attorney can use your statements, the statements of other witnesses, and other evidence to recreate step by step how the accident happened.
Again, this should go without saying — though isn’t it, after all, the things that go without saying that most need to be repeated? — but if you or someone else involved in the accident is seriously injured, skip the documentation step.
If you are injured in some way that prevents pain-free movement or may result in permanent injury or death, focus on getting medical care.
In fact, whether or not your injuries are serious, and even if you believe that you are completely uninjured, seek immediate medical attention and keep a careful record of any and all medical documentation. Many serious injuries, such as whiplash or internal bleeding, are not immediately apparent, and will only be discovered hours or even days after the trauma.
Should you need an attorney, he or she can later help you sort through the documentation to find what is relevant to your case.
After all of this has been done, you must notify your insurance company. It doesn’t matter who was at fault, any accident serious enough to result in property damage or injury must be promptly reported to the insurance company. Delays in reporting an accident may render you ineligible for compensation under the terms of your policy.
Even if you were at fault for the accident, you may be eligible for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or other forms of protection from your own insurance company.
And if you weren’t at fault, you may still need to get your car repaired or replaced under your own policy while you and your company wait for reimbursement from the other driver’s insurance. The same holds for towing and medical costs.
Perhaps most vitally, if you do not report the accident, the other driver may report it to his or her company and tell them you were liable, in which case the other driver may seek reimbursement at your expense. When you first speak to the insurance people, restrict the conversation to general information: the date, time, location of the accident, as well as the names and addresses of all involved parties. Don’t discuss fault with them until after you have spoken with a seasoned traffic attorney.
Here, in fact, we have arrived at the most important step of all, hiring an attorney. Even if you don’t believe that the accident was your fault or that your insurance company will question your account, expert legal advice is crucial to generating a favorable outcome. Remember, the other driver or their insurance people may contest your account of what happened.
Remember also that Texas is a “fault” state regarding car accidents, meaning that liability for the accident falls on the party or parties deemed responsible.
If you are at fault, the least that could happen is that your insurance premiums may go up. You may also be held liable for injuries and property damage that result from the accident, meaning you may be subject to a personal injury lawsuit and made responsible for thousands of dollars in compensation.
Most people simply don’t have enough insurance coverage to fully absorb these costs, and they will have to pay a large sum out of pocket.
There are few experiences more traumatic and potentially life-altering than a car accident. We sincerely hope that you never have to face being one of the thousands of Americans involved in these horrific events. Do understand, however, that you don’t have to face it alone. Skilled attorneys are available to help you understand how to deal with the accident and its aftermath.