What do I do after an accident?
A car accident can cause you to experience many emotions, including shock, surprise, confusion, and stress, as well as physical pain and disorientation. It can be difficult to know how to handle yourself in such a situation, but the things you do and don’t do at the scene and afterward can have a huge impact on how your claim for compensation works out. Here’s what to do in the minutes and days following an auto accident in New Jersey to make sure your rights are protected and that you get the care and compensation you need.
Stay calm and make sure everyone is okay
Your safety and the safety of others should be your number one concern after an accident. If anyone is seriously injured, call 911 and request an ambulance. If you know First Aid and feel comfortable with performing it, help yourself or others who need immediate attention. However, it is recommended that you do not move an unconscious or immobile person unless it is absolutely necessary to save their life. If the vehicles are drivable, they should be moved to the side of the road out of traffic, if it is safe to do so.
It is a requirement for the drivers to exchange information, such as name, phone number, driver’s license number and insurance company and policy number. Beyond that, however, it is usually best to limit your contact with the other driver and avoid making statements about what caused the accident or how much insurance coverage you carry.
Gather evidence at the scene if possible
If you are physically able and it is safe to do so, it is a good idea to take pictures of the scene of the accident. This includes the damage to all vehicles involved, skid marks, debris and any surrounding damage. Although the police, and later insurance companies and attorneys, may make a more detailed investigation, sometimes important evidence can be cleaned up or washed away before it can be properly documented. Try to write down anything that might seem important, such as the weather conditions at the time, the position of the sun, light or heavy traffic, and so on. These notes can help your attorney and can also help you recall details of the accident.
If there were any witnesses of the accident, see if you can get a statement from them about what they saw, and get their contact information.
Give a statement to the police
Unless the property damage is minor and there are no injuries, the police should be called to the scene, so that there will be an official report of the accident. Make sure that the police take your statement, and that you give them a detailed account of the events that caused the accident. If you can’t give a statement to the police at the scene of the accident – such as if your injuries prevent you from giving a statement or the police are called away before you have the chance – provide a statement at the police station at your soonest opportunity.
You should also request a copy of the police report when it becomes available. Review the report, and if you see anything you do not think is accurate, ask to provide supplementary information to the report.
Call your insurance company
Most insurance policies require you to notify them anytime you have been in an accident, and to do so within a timely manner. Whether your claim will eventually be handled by your own insurance company or the other driver’s, or whether you will need your insurance company to defend you in court, following the procedures set out in your policy is important to protect your rights and make sure you get the coverage you paid for.
Contact an experienced New Jersey Car Accident Lawyer
The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner you can get your case started to collect compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other legal damages caused by the accident. Additionally, getting a lawyer will make sure you do not waive important rights or make mistakes that can jeopardize your case. For instance, don’t give a statement to the other driver’s insurance company; let your attorney talk to them on your behalf. Also, don’t sign any statements, waivers or releases, and do not accept or cash any checks, until you have talked to an attorney. Your lawyer’s sole purpose is to look out for you and make sure you are treated fairly throughout the entire process.
In Passaic County and surrounding areas, call De Frank, McCluskey & Kopp in Wayne Township at 1-844-465-4487.