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Car crashes subject the occupants of the vehicles to violent forces that may cause broken bones, lacerations, and severe head and back injuries. The aftermath of a collision can be a time of shock and confusion, particularly when you have suffered a serious injury. It is a good idea to get advice from a personal injury lawyer about your rights to recover damages if you have been injured, but protecting and preserving those rights begins at the accident scene. You can help preserve your rights by following these five steps when injured in a car crash.
Leaving the scene of an accident in which someone has been injured or killed before reporting it to the police is a serious criminal offense punishable by substantial fines and imprisonment. Remain calm and do not attempt to move your vehicle or leave the scene. Instead, put your car in park, turn off the ignition and turn on your vehicle’s hazard lights.
If you believe you have been seriously injured, call 911 or ask someone else to make the call for you. You should await the arrival of emergency medical personnel before attempting to move around or get out of the car if you believe your injuries are serious or involve your head, neck or spine because movement can make your injuries worse.
Exchanging insurance, car registration and driver’s license information with other drivers involved in the collision is required by law in most states, but do not be concerned if your injuries prevent you from exchanging information with the other drivers. Focus on following the instructions of emergency medical personnel at the scene. The police will obtain the information and include it in the police report of the accident.
A collision between two or more vehicles often happens so quickly and without warning that it may be difficult to tell who is at fault right away. It usually takes a thorough investigation after the fact to determine exactly what caused the collision and which of the drivers might have been at fault. The scene of an accident is not a good place to admit fault or discuss what happened because you probably do not know all of the facts about what took place.
You should also refrain from commenting on your physical condition to anyone other than the police or medical personnel. You may not feel that poorly at the scene, but concussions and other injuries could take hours before the full extent your physical condition is clear.
Keep in mind that directly after an accident you may be in shock, and not able to take an accurate account of either your health or of the conditions of the collision at this time.
Get the names of the police, fire and ambulance agencies responding to the scene along with the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses. Take pictures showing the position of the vehicles along with photos of the damage to each of them. If your physical condition prevents you from documenting the accident, ask someone else to do it for you.
Notify your auto insurance company about the accident or have a friend or relative make the call for you. Auto insurance policies contain a provision requiring notice as soon as a potential claim arises, so do not delay making the call.
A personal injury lawyer is a good source for advice about the laws in your state pertaining to car accidents and your rights to compensation for your injuries. A consultation with a lawyer is important in states with no-fault insurance laws to ensure your claim for medical expenses, lost earnings and other benefits are properly handled.