According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, someone dies in a car accident every 12 minutes in the U.S., and someone is injured every 10 seconds. While Rhode Island’s motor vehicle fatality rate is slightly lower than the national rate of auto-accident deaths, eight people still died and 1,393 people were injured in 2009 for every 100,000 drivers in the state.
When you are in a Rhode Island car accident – whether a minor fender bender or a serious one that causes injuries – it is natural to feel confused and scared after the accident occurs. It is jarring to find yourself at an accident scene.
Unfortunately, the minutes and hours after your accident can have a significant impact on your ongoing future health and on your legal rights. Therefore, it is very important that you know what to do after a car accident. The Rhode Island car accident lawyers at Gemma Law Associates, Inc., have compiled a list of five steps that you should take after a crash so you are protected.
1. Get to a safe location.
After a crash, your vehicle and the other cars may be in the middle of the road and in the path of oncoming traffic. This can create a dangerous situation. In fact, many multiple-car pileups occur when other cars cannot stop quickly enough when they come upon the scene of an accident.
If the accident was minor, if no one was killed and if the cars are moveable, then you and the other driver should both pull over to a safe location on the side of the road.
However, if you or anyone else in the car has been hurt, if the cars are not drivable or if it would be dangerous to move the vehicles, then you will need to leave them where they are. If this is the case, then you should try to put on your hazard lights to ensure that other motorists can see you.
If the cars cannot be moved, but you are capable of leaving the car, then you may wish to exit the vehicle and move to a safe location on the side of the road so that you will not be further injured if someone strikes your car. If there is danger of fire, then you should also exit your vehicle immediately.
2. Call the police and get medical help.
Once you have moved out of the path of danger, the next step is to get the medical and law enforcement help you need. Call 911 as soon as possible.
Law enforcement can assess the scene of the accident and write a police report indicating how they believe the accident occurred. This can be invaluable if your account of the incident and the details provided by the other driver are different.
Sometimes, people who cause auto accidents will be dishonest about the circumstances of the crash. They may try to make it seem as if the accident was your fault when it wasn’t. An accident report provided by law enforcement can be invaluable in proving your version of events is true.
In some cases, police will also issue citations or tickets at the accident scene if they believe that one or more of the drivers broke driver safety laws. Information about citations can also be used as evidence to prove who was at fault in the crash.
The information provided by a doctor or medical care provider is also important for protecting your health and your legal rights.
You should ALWAYS see a doctor, even if you do not think you’ve been seriously hurt. Many injuries do not manifest immediately or have obvious symptoms right away. For example, traumatic brain injuries and internal bleeding often go unnoticed right after they occur. You need to have these hidden injuries diagnosed and treated so you do not jeopardize your health.
Seeing a doctor right away also ensures that you will have the evidence you need to prove that your injuries arose from the accident. If you put off seeing a physician, and it later turns out you were seriously hurt or your minor aches and pains after the crash do not go away, then the other driver can try to argue that the injuries weren’t really accident-related. Going to the doctor immediately after the crash and having the injuries documented will disprove this and give you necessary evidence to bolster your claim.
3. Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver.
You need to get the name and insurance information of the other driver who was involved in the crash, and you must provide the same details to him. If the other driver is not being cooperative or does not want to share information, wait until law enforcement comes. The police can write down his or her insurance details for you, and you can request a copy.
If you suspect the other driver may try to leave without giving contact information to you, then jot down the license plate. Leaving the scene of an accident can be considered a hit-and-run. In fact, it is illegal.
In addition to getting details from the other driver(s) in the crash, you will also want to get the names and contact information of witnesses to the accident. These witnesses can testify about what they saw and lend support to your story by backing your claims about how the accident occurred and who was responsible for it.
4. Record information about the car accident scene.
In addition to getting details from witnesses, you can also help to gather evidence for an accident claim by taking pictures immediately after the crash. You should take pictures of damage to the cars and of any debris that is lying on the road. Take careful pictures of where the accident happened and where the cars ended up in the accident.
If you hope to make a claim against the other driver who was responsible for causing your auto accident, it will be your burden to prove that the other driver is to blame. If the event turns into a he-said-she-said scenario, photographic evidence (along with the police report and witness info) can be used to help you to meet your burden.
Some people will even take pictures of the injuries they sustain after the crash. These photographs can be used as proof of pain and suffering and to show the extent of your injuries, and they can help to maximize your compensation.
5. Call your insurer and a lawyer.
Finally, the last step you should take right after an accident is to call both your insurance company and an experienced Rhode Island car accident lawyer.
You need to call your insurance company to preserve your right to make a legal claim. However, your insurer has the primary focus of making money. This means that the company’s goal is to pay nothing or as little as possible. When you have to deal with any insurance company – whether your own or the other driver’s insurer – you need to keep this fact in mind. Remember, too, that the insurance company has experts and lawyers. You should have your own legal advocate.
Calling a car accident lawyer right away is essential so that your lawyer can deal with the insurance companies for you. An experienced Rhode Island car accident attorney can also make sure you do not inadvertently say anything that will jeopardize your claim and can help you in ensuring you gather all of the necessary evidence at the crash. The sooner you call a lawyer, the stronger your case can become, and the more quickly you will have someone looking out for your rights and interests.
Get Legal Help from a Rhode Island Car Accident Lawyer Today
Being involved in a car accident is scary. The legal aftermath can be almost as frightening as you try to navigate the process of filing insurance claims and protecting your legal rights. An experienced Rhode Island car accident lawyer can play a crucial role in making sure you get the compensation you deserve and can take stress out of the process.
After you’ve been hurt, you need to focus on your recovery. Let Gemma Law Associates, Inc., handle the legal issues on your behalf. Call us today at our toll-free number or complete our online form to schedule a free consultation.