This is an unfortunate scene played out on the streets of every city every day. It does not matter whether you are totally at fault, partially at fault, or totally innocent- you have to deal with the accident. Below are some tips that, if followed, should guide you through the aftermath of an accident with the least cost and stress.
- Stop. North Carolina law requires that drivers involved in an accident stop at the scene of an accident.
- Call for help. If someone is injured, call an ambulance. Rendering reasonable assistance will not expose you to liability, but it is generally not a good idea to attempt to provide medical assistance unless you have training. You may leave the scene to get assistance, but you must return as soon as possible. Also, notify the police if the accident involved an unattended car or caused property damage over $500.
- Remove obstructions from traffic. If cars can be moved and doing so will not destroy evidence, clear the road. If you cannot move cars due to damage or if you feel the officer needs to view the scene before it is changed, do what you can to alert oncoming traffic.
- Assemble information. As soon as the officer arrives you will have to produce your license, car registration, and insurance information. Have this information handy in your car. If necessary, take notes so you remember important details like your speed and position, the weather, the layout of the road/intersection, the identity of any witnesses, and the name of the officer making the report. The officer will fill out a report, but by making your own notes you insure that information will not be lost. Taking pictures of the scene can greatly help you in a lawsuit. Use a camera-phone if you have it or you can keep a disposable camera in your car or maybe you’re accident will be in front of a supermarket or gas station that sells cameras. If any witnesses stopped to help be sure and get their names and contact information.
- Avoid speaking to the other driver. There are two reasons for this. First, the other driver may be so angry that any contact may create a threat to your safety. Second, it prevents you from making a statement you will later regret. The trauma of an accident may prompt some drivers to say seemingly innocent things like “I’m so sorry” or “I never saw you” and some drivers may feel compelled to offer to pay for damages. These statements are not so innocent sounding when repeated in a courtroom. Don’t make them.
- Before leaving the scene... Make sure you have information regarding the other driver including name and address, passengers’ names and addresses, the number of the police report, and the other driver’s insurance information.
- After the accident... If you have any discomfort or concern, see a doctor. If there’s a chance the other driver might sue you, call your insurance company so they can prepare for the claim. If you think you might want to sue the other driver, contact a lawyer. In all three cases, the sooner these parties get involved, the better.
This article is meant as general knowledge and not meant to substitute for legal advice on specific issues. If you have a question, please call Doug McClanahan at 861-0693.