With any luck, you will never be involved in a car accident. Unfortunately, the odds aren’t on your side. Millions of automotive accidents occur every year in the United States – many of which result in property damage, personal injury, or even wrongful death. If you ever find yourself in a crash or collision, you need to know what steps to take (and what steps to avoid) after an accident. In this article, car accident lawyer Brent Wieand will cover the do’s and don’ts for Pennsylvania drivers.
After any automotive accident, safety should always come first. Move your vehicle from the road only if doing so will not create a risk of causing additional accidents or injuries. Traffic delays are less important than keeping yourself and the people around you safe from harm.
If you do decide to move your vehicle, try and take photographs and/or video footage of the untouched accident scene first. Photographs of dents, scratches, tears, skid marks, and other physical damage will help investigators piece together what happened to determine fault and liability. Ideally, you should photograph and/or film the scene from as many angles as possible (without putting yourself in harm’s way).
If anyone has been injured in the accident (including bicyclists, pedestrians, and other people who were not inside either vehicle), you must remain at the scene and call 911. That isn’t just a courtesy – it’s required by Pennsylvania law.
In accordance with 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3744 (Duty to Give Information and Render Aid), it is mandatory to provide “reasonable assistance” to anyone who was injured in the accident. That includes “the making of arrangements for the carrying of the injured person to a physician, surgeon or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary or if requested by the injured person” – in other words, calling 911.
Keep in mind that serious injuries can interfere with normal perception of pain, tissue damage, blood loss, and so forth. If an injury victim goes into shock, he or she will feel numb and will not know how badly injured he or she really is. If someone says they feel alright but appears to be injured, call 911 and let the EMTs decide what sort of care is appropriate. It is better to call for help which proves unnecessary than to take the risk of letting an injured person’s condition decline.
Once you’ve taken care of the urgent safety issues like calling for medical help and getting out of the path of oncoming traffic, you should also be sure to disclose all contact information required by state law. Under 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3744, you must share your name, address, and vehicle registration with the other party. If the other driver asks to see it, you must also exhibit your driver’s license as well as “information relating to financial responsibility” (i.e. your insurance information).
Last but not least, you should call an experienced personal injury lawyer right away. Your attorney will protect you against accidentally making self-incriminating statements, handle the paperwork and insurance negotiations, and defend your legal rights if your insurance company attempts to deal in bad faith (e.g. not returning calls, failing to explain the reason for claim denials).
It’s true that you should inform your auto insurance company after an accident has occurred. However, there are certain pieces of information which you should not disclose at this stage of the process.
For example, you should never give a recorded statement, which your insurer will probably ask you for, before speaking with an attorney. If the insurer asks for your permission to record a statement about the accident, simply tell them that you must first consult with your attorney. If you haven’t called an attorney by this point (which you should do as soon as possible), the insurance company doesn’t need to know. You can take the proper steps to retain a lawyer after reporting the accident to your insurer. Unfortunately, unscrupulous insurance companies may try to take advantage of you if they believe you don’t have a lawyer watching out for your legal interests.
If you haven’t called an attorney by this point (which you should do as soon as possible), the insurance company doesn’t need to know. Act as though you already have legal representation, even if you don’t. Unfortunately, unscrupulous insurance companies may try to take advantage of you if they believe you don’t have a lawyer watching out for your legal interests.
You should never accept any settlement offers which the insurance company extends before consulting with legal counsel. But why? After all, they’re offering you money – shouldn’t you take it while you have the opportunity?
The rationale against accepting an early settlement is that insurers are notorious for making early low-ball offers that will seldom, if ever, account for the true extent of your injuries. For example, what feels like a annoying twinge now might later turn out to be a fractured bone once you see it on an X-ray. Put simply, you just can’t be certain of how badly you are hurt until you are evaluated by a medical professional; and if you don’t know the extent of your injuries, how can your insurance company? Do not make statements like “I’m not injured” or “I feel fine,” no matter how mild your discomfort may be at this point in time.
You should also avoid making apologetic statements at the accident scene. While it might seem cold or rude, there’s a good reason not to apologize: it weakens the strength of your claim. Saying “I’m so sorry…” can be inferred to mean that you were at least partially fault for the accident. An apology may later be used as an admission against you which could interfere with your ability to recover compensation later.
Last but not least, don’t post details about your accident or injuries to social media. Information posted on the internet may be taken out of context and used against you in court. It is better to stop using social media until your personal injury claim is resolved.
If you were injured in a car accident in Pennsylvania, or if one of your loved ones was a wrongful death victim, auto accident attorney Brent Wieand may be able to help. To set up a free and confidential legal consultation, call (800) 481-5206. Brent handles injury claims arising throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Legal Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal advice. You should always consult with an attorney if you have questions about a personal injury claim following a car accident.