Auto accidents happen to even the safest of drivers. One minute, you can be driving down the road, heading home from work or out running a few errands, and in the next you could be involved in a potentially serious accident resulting in life-threatening injuries.
Although every case is different, the following are tips to help you of what to do if you are involved in an accident in Missouri.
1 – Stay Calm – This one is the most important in any emergency. Do not panic! No one expects to have a car accident. When it happens, you will likely feel shocked and even angry. You or the other party may have injuries that require medical attention. Remember becoming emotionally agitated means you are more likely to make rash or impulsive decisions.
2 – Contact 911 – Car accidents occur in the blink of an eye. Pull over to a safe place and call 911. Then get out of your car and check to see if anyone is injured. The 911 operator will need specific information to quickly dispatch police and paramedics. This is not the time to give your opinion of whom is at fault. Give the 911 operator this information: Accident location, Describe the scene, and any injuries. In Missouri, you MUST report a car accident to the police if all of the following facts are true:
The accident happened less than one year ago.
The crash involved at least one uninsured driver.
The accident caused more than $500 in property damage OR at least one person was injured or killed.
3 – Stay at the Scene – This one might seem obvious. In Missouri, leaving the scene of an accident is a crime. Do not leave until law enforcement officers give you permission to do so. If you need to avoid further accidents, it is ok to move all damaged vehicles out of the roadway. Check for injuries first before moving any persons though.
4 – Exchange information – Once the scene is secure and injuries have been addressed or paramedics are there to take care of the injured, you need to get the following information from the other driver as it will be necessary for processing your insurance claim:
Driver License Number
Vehicle Identification Number
License Plate Number
Name of Insurance Company
Insurance Policy Number
Make, model and year of vehicles involved
It is also a good idea to get their home, cell and work phone numbers and email address
5- Watch what you say – Along with staying calm, be careful what information you share with others involved in the accident. Here are a few things you should NOT talk about with them: Do not admit fault, Do not say “I’m ok”, Do not tell the other driver what you were doing at the time of the accident. Here are a few things that you DO need to tell police officers investigating your crash:
The direction you were traveling.
Were you turning and did you use a turn signal.
Any injuries you or your passengers suffered.
What you did immediately before and after the accident, to the best of your memory.
Avoid making assumptions about the other driver, stick to the facts.
6 – Description of the accident – Record your own description of the accident. Do this as soon as possible, before your memory fades. Here are some things to record:
Date and time of the accident
Address or location where the crash occurred
Road you were traveling on or the nearest cross street
Direction you were traveling
Direction of the other driver
Weather conditions and visibility
Other conditions such as road construction
Names and contact information for any witnesses
Names, badge numbers and contact info for responding police officers.
The speed you were driving
Location and type of any road obstructions
7 – Contact your Insurance Company – The sooner you file a claim with your insurance company, the smoother the entire transaction will go. Contact your insurance company or agent from the scene of the accident if possible. The person you talk to will help you through the claims process. Give your agent the facts and do not engage in any further discussion. Provide the other driver’s insurance information to your agent. Most insurance companies offer a mobile app, download that to your device so you can file claims more quickly.
8 – Take pictures – Photos and videos capture the accident scene immediately after it occurred. Use a digital camera of your cell phone to take photos and videos of the scene. Be sure to include the position of the cars, property damage, skid marks, weather, and even the demeanor of the driver, passengers, and witnesses. When shooting video, be sure to include sound.
9 – When do you need an attorney – There are two categories of injuries: “soft tissues” injuries and the more serious “hard injuries”. Soft tissue is more of sprains to muscles, ligaments, tendons, minor bruising, whiplash and similarly mild injuries. Hard injuries include loss of body parts, compound fractures, 3rd degree burns, head trauma, and other similar injuries. Unlike soft tissue injury claims, hard injury claims always require expert legal representation.
Experienced personal injury attorneys are usually able to settle their clients’ injury claims for much higher amounts than if you tried to file the suit yourself. Insurance companies know that injury attorneys have much greater resources.
If you find yourself in an accident with hard injuries, KNOW WHAT TO DO, call Tad Morlan.