What you should do immediately after an accident

We are now at the height of Louisiana’s tourist season. Out-of-state visitors are flocking to our beaches and other attractions. While this is great for our economy, the downside is that we have more vehicles on our highways, roads and streets. More vehicles mean more accidents. If you find yourself involved in an auto wreck this summer, knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what you should do.

The first thing you should do is stay where you are until law enforcement officers appear on the scene and say you can leave. If you leave too soon, they could charge you with leaving the scene or hit-and-run.

Check for injuries

Naturally you must check yourself, your passengers, and the occupants of all other vehicles involved in the accident to see if anyone is injured. If so, use your cellphone to call 911, give the operator the accident location and request that (s)he send both emergency response personnel and law enforcement officers to your scene.

Since you can exacerbate someone’s injuries by moving him or her, do not try to get any injured or unconscious people out of their respective vehicles unless they face immediate danger by remaining inside, such as from a fire, live electrical line or rising flood waters.

Talk to other drivers

Be sure to get the name, address and phone number of each driver involved in the accident, as well as his or her driver’s license and license plate state and number. In addition, get the name and phone number of each driver’s insurance company. Give the same information about yourself, your vehicle and your insurance company to each of the other drivers.

In the aftermath of an accident, it is natural for people to speculate on what actually happened and who was at fault. Do not engage in these types of conversations and never, under any circumstances, say or imply that you think you caused the accident.

Talk to witnesses

If any pedestrians or occupants of other vehicles that stopped to help witnessed the accident, get their respective names, phone numbers and their initial assessment of what happened. You, or more likely your attorney, may need to contact them in the future.

Take pictures

If your cellphone functions as a camera, too, use it to take photos of every vehicle involved in the accident. Include pictures of the following:

  • Each vehicle’s license plate
  • Each vehicle’s make and, if possible, its model
  • Each vehicle’s new damage, if any
  • Each vehicle’s prior damage, if any

While you are in picture-taking mode, take a few of the surrounding area, especially of any traffic signals or signs, barricades, closed or narrowing lanes, road hazards, and lighting if the accident happened after dark.

Make a police report

Once law enforcement officers arrive, get each officer’s name and badge number. Answer their questions to the best of your ability, but again, neither admit nor imply guilt. Ask them for the number of their police report and how, when and where you can get a copy.

Call your insurance company

Call your insurance company to let them know about the accident. While you can give them your initial assessment regarding possible injuries and property damage, do not attempt to give them a detailed report. Instead, let them know that officers began an investigation and you will provide them with a copy of it once you get it yourself.

Contact an attorney

While you need not contact an attorney immediately after your accident, in all likelihood it is in your best interests to call one within a day or two afterward. Why? Because unfortunately, an accident often is only the first in a possibly long and acrimonious series of events. You want someone looking out for you and protecting your rights when insurance companies begin pressing you to give them a written or recorded statement and/or accept their initial settlement offer. In addition, should you feel the need to sue the other driver(s) or should one or more of them sue you, you need an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to guide you through the process.

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