No matter how good a driver you are, there is always a risk you will be involved in an accident. Car accidents are simply an everyday fact of life here in Ohio. And even if you are 100 percent certain the accident was not your fault, it is important to remain calm and not angrily confront the other driver. Instead, here is a checklist of items that will help you deal with the immediate aftermath of your accident.
1. Get Medical Attention
Obviously, your first priority is making sure nobody is seriously injured at the accident scene. If you have any reason to think someone is injured, always play it safe and call 911. You should never delay seeking medical treatment for yourself or your passengers.
2. Contact the Police
Even if you do not require medical help, it is still important to call 911 and seek police assistance. Indeed, Ohio law requires all car accidents to be reported. This does not necessarily mean that you suspect any criminal or illegal activity related to the accident (e.g., the other driver was drunk). Rather, the police serve as a neutral party who can take statements from you, the other driver, and any witnesses, and prepare an official report. Insurance companies often want to see such a report before paying any claims.
Always wait for the police. Do not leave the scene until after the police have arrived, taken your statement, and given you permission to go. If you leave the scene prematurely, that may be interpreted as an attempt to “flee” and avoid taking responsibility for the accident.
3. Be Honest, But Don’t Volunteer Information
When you do speak with the police, do not lie or try to cover anything up. If you believe the other driver was at fault or violated traffic laws, you should say so. But do not volunteer any information that might constitute an admission of fault on your part. Along those same lines, do not apologize to the other driver, even if you think you might be partially to blame. Anything you say at the accident scene may be used against you by an insurance company or a defense lawyer in court.
4. Collect as Much Information as You Can
You do not have to stand around passively and wait for the police. At a minimum, you should exchange contact, vehicle, and insurance information with the other driver. You should also gather contact information from any witnesses or bystanders at the scene. Ask them questions about what they saw–but again, do not volunteer any information yourself or acknowledge liability for the accident.
You should also use your smartphone–or a disposable camera, if you have one–to take pictures of the accident scene. Make sure to get clear images of any damage to the vehicles. You should also photograph the area surrounding the accident, including any road signs and street markings. This can prove invaluable in helping to recreate the scene later.
More generally, take note of anything that you think might be useful later. For example, was it raining at the time of the accident? Wet road conditions may definitely be relevant when determining whether the other driver was driving safely under the circumstances.
Finally, make sure you ascertain the ownership and insurance status of any other vehicles involved in your accident. Many times the person driving the car is not the owner, and the owner may still be liable under Ohio law for damages caused by the driver, especially if it is a company-owned vehicle driven by an employee.
5. Contact Your Insurance Company
It is illegal to drive a car in Ohio without having a minimum amount of insurance coverage. You must present proof of insurance to a police officer at an accident scene. And you must contact your own insurance company as soon as possible following an accident, even if you believe the other driver was to blame.
You should only provide basic information about the accident when first speaking to your insurance company. Remember, do not admit liability yourself or get into issues of fault. Depending on the terms of your policy, your insurance company may pay to cover certain damages upfront, such as car repairs and medical bills, which it can then later recover from the negligent driver’s insurer.
6. Keep Records of Everything
Once you have left the accident scene, it is critical to document everything thing you do afterwards. This includes keeping copies of all medical records and bills, car repair quotes, proof of any lost wages due to taking off time from work, and anything else that may illustrate your total damages arising from the accident.
7. Do Not Sign Any Third-Party Documents Related to the Accident
You may be approached by representatives of the other driver’s insurance company–or in some cases, even the other driver–to sign a statement absolving them of liability. You should never sign any such document without first consulting an attorney. Aside from the police report and any statements made to your own insurance company, you should not even speak to any third-party representative without the assistance of counsel.
8. Contact a Toledo Car Accident Lawyer If You Have Any Questions.
Many car accidents are simple “fender benders” that require nothing more than an exchange of insurance information. But if you run into any kind of trouble, either from the other driver or even your own insurance company, do not try to handle the matter alone. An experienced Toledo personal injury lawyer can review your accident and advise you of your legal options.
Speaking with a Toledo car accident lawyer does not mean you plan to sue the other driver. It just means that you want to seek advice from someone who knows how to deal with these types of situations. In particular, you want someone on your side who knows how to negotiate with insurance companies and, if necessary, pursue your legal rights in court.
If you have been in a car accident and require prompt legal assistance, call the offices of Groth & Associates, Attorneys at Law, in Toledo or Bowling Green right away.