Avoid Making Mistakes at the Car Accident Scene
Right after an accident, you may be pretty shaken up and forget some of the information you should be getting from the other driver. Here is our first piece of advice to avoid making mistakes at the scene of the car wreck and damaging your case. Doing this can help us win for you the greatest money compensation you deserve.
Tip #1: Stay Calm and Remain at the Scene
You (and the other driver) are required by law to stop your vehicle and remain at the scene for any accident that results in bodily injury or death until each of you has: (a) rendered reasonable assistance to any person injured in the accident, (b) made arrangements for transportation to a doctor or hospital for any person requesting medical treatment or who apparently needs medical treatment, (c) exchanged certain information with the other driver and (d) “exhibited” (i.e., shown) your driver’s license to other driver, if requested. (See Tip #3 for more details on the legally required exchange of information.)
Failing to remain at the scene and do these things is a crime. It’s an automatic misdemeanor under any circumstances, punishable by a fine up to $500 and imprisonment up to 2 months. Further, if the accident results in serious bodily injury, then failing to remain at the scene becomes a felony, punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and imprisonment up to 5 years. If the accident results in death, then failing to remain is felony punishable by a fine up to $10,000 and imprisonment up to 10 years.
Tip #2: Call 9-1-1 Immediately
Immediately after the wreck, call 9-1-1 and ask that a police officer be sent to the accident scene. Also request an ambulance be sent if you or anyone else experiences pain or appears to be injured. If you feel you cannot move or shouldn’t get out of your car for safety reasons, wait until the police arrive. When the police arrive, be prepared to give the officer your driver’s license, insurance card and vehicle registration.
Tell the police officer what happened and make it clear in your telling of how it happened that the accident was not your fault, but rather the fault of the other driver. No matter what the police officer says, do not admit it was your fault. Even if you are given a ticket, all you have to do is sign for it. You do not have to agree with the police officer or the other driver that you were responsible for the accident. Talk to a lawyer before admitting fault, who, undoubtedly, will tell you not to admit fault. Be courteous, but don’t be bullied into agreeing that you were at fault (to any degree), since the term “fault” is a legal conclusion and will be determined later in the claim and legal process.
Get the police officer’s name, badge number and telephone number, in addition to the accident report number. Often the police officer can give you his or her business card with all that information on it.
Tip #3: Get the other driver’s information
As noted above, Maryland law requires each driver to provide certain information at the scene of the accident. This information must be provided by each driver to the other driver, an injured person and any passengers. The required information includes:
(1) Driver’s name and address
(2) Registration number of vehicle he or she is driving (photograph the license plate, too)
(3) Driver’s insurance information, including:
~ name and address of the insurance company
~ insurance policy number
~ name and address of insurance agent or the insurance company’s local office
(4) In addition, upon request, each driver is required to “exhibit” (show) his or her driver’s license, if it’s available
So, at some point, you’ll want to get this information directly from the other driver or through the police officer. Remember, the other driver cannot refuse to give you this information because he or she is legally obligated to provide it.
Also, if you are able, make a mental note of the other driver’s physical description so that you can identify him or her later if needed (gender, race, age, height, weight, skin tone, hair color, distinguishing marks, etc.). If you obtain this information directly from the other driver, keep your conversation matter-of-fact and simply exchange the information. Don’t argue with the other driver or threaten, curse or yell. Stay calm. Do not admit any fault under any circumstances whatsoever. Listen to what the other driver says, especially if he or she admits fault or apologizes. (See item #7 below).
Tip #4: Make arrangements for your car
If your car can be safely driven, have it moved out of the way, parked and locked. You or someone you trust can retrieve it later and drive it your residence or repair shop. If your car can’t be driven and will be towed, get the name and phone number of the towing company and find out where your car will be towed and stored. A cell phone camera shot of the side of the tow truck should capture most or all of this information.
Tip #5: Get medical care
If you DO feel pain at the scene, don’t move around. Wait for the ambulance to arrive and allow the EMTs to render medical aid to you on the scene and transport you to the hospital. At the hospital, be sure to get a disability note from the Emergency Room doctor excusing you from work. If the emergency room is busy, you may need to wait a bit. Be patient and wait to be seen by the doctor. Follow their medical advice and fill all prescriptions they give you, even if you’re not sure you want to take the medicine due to side-effects. Once you’ve been discharged, you will need to get follow up care with your doctor or a specialist, depending on your situation and injuries. If you are admitted to stay overnight, call our office once you are settled in you room. Time is of the essence and we can meet you at the hospital in need be to start working to protect your rights and help get everything in order.
Even if you DO NOT feel pain at the scene, don’t say your “fine” or “okay.” Rather, if asked, state that you don’t know for sure whether you’ve been injured and will need to see a doctor or go to the hospital later. Then, see how you feel later. Sometimes it takes several hours or days before people feel the pain and spasm from neck and back strain and sprain. If you start to feel pain later on, go to the hospital immediately. You don’t want to ignore this important message from your body that something is wrong. Better to be safe than sorry.
Tip #6 Get the witness’ information
You will want to find out if there are any witnesses. For each witness, get the person’s name and contact information (telephone and address). If you’re able talk, find out briefly what the witness saw and heard. Be very careful not to admit any fault to the witness.
Independent witnesses are often the deciding factor in contested cases. So, if there’s a witness who is on your side, be sure to the get the witness’ information and give it to your lawyer to follow up with the witness.
Tip #7: Get other evidence
Photographs. Keep a disposable or inexpensive camera in your glove box, if you cell phone doesn’t have a camera. A camera comes in very handy at an accident scene. For example, a client took a picture of her vehicle and the dump truck that came into her lane and struck her car, immediately after impact and before the vehicles were moved. The photo clearly showed that she was completely in her lane of travel and that the rear tires of the dump truck had crossed into her lane and was at fault. This is very powerful evidence.
If you are able, get pictures of:
~ the damage to your vehicle;
~ the damage to the other driver’s vehicle;
~ the vehicles where they came to rest after the collision, before they are moved; and
~ the accident of the scene itself.
If your cell phone doesn’t take pictures or you don’t have a camera with you, borrow someone’s cell phone at the scene and then have them email or text it to you. A picture is worth 1000 words.
Date, Time and Location of Accident. Be sure to note the date, time and location of the accident. Your testimony about the time of the accident will generally be more accurate and reliable than the police officer’s accident report, because the police officer arrives after the accident has happened.
We have an accident organizer we call “The Glovebox Lawyer” that includes space for you to note this information. If you’d like a free copy, fill out the contact form at the top of this page and in the message box write “Free Glovebox Lawyer Offer.” We'll send one to you right away. Also, you should also keep a pen or pencil in your glovebox with which you can make notes at the scene.
Admissions of fault by the other driver. Listen to what the other driver says (or the other driver’s passengers say) and make a mental note of any admissions or apologies made by the other driver. As soon as you can, write them down and give to your attorney. Admissions can be very powerful evidence in your case. Don’t make any admissions of fault yourself. Also, see if you can find out if the other driver was on the cell phone or texting at the time of the accident by simply asking, “Were you on the phone?” or “Were you texting?” Some people will refuse to answer the question or lie, but you’d be surprised that some people will honestly admit to talking or texting while driving. Remember, you don’t lose anything by asking.
Bonus Tip: Call Us to Get a FREE Consultation.
As soon as you can, call our office to get a consultation about your rights and the steps you can take to build a strong case for top money compensation. The initial consultation is FREE. It costs you nothing to call, but could cost you everything if you don't. So don't wait - call us today.