What Should You Do After a Car Accident?
Hopefully, you will never find yourself in an automotive accident. However, if the worst does occur, it’s important to be prepared. Not only should you know what steps you need to take, but perhaps even more crucially, you should also know what actions and statements to avoid. In this article, our car accident lawyers will explain the do’s and don’ts for drivers after a crash or collision in Maryland.
Steps to Take After an Car Accident
First and foremost, you should always make safety your number one priority following an accident. Move your vehicle from the road only if it is safe to do so. Avoiding additional injuries and accidents is more important than causing a temporary traffic jam.
If it is both safe and necessary to move your vehicle, take as many photographs from as many angles as you can. This will provide evidence with regard to details like the location of dents and scratches, which can help to determine fault (and in turn, liability and compensation).
If anyone was injured in the crash, you should remain at the scene and immediately call 911 for medical assistance. Not only is this common sense – it’s also state law. If you were involved in a car crash that caused injury, it is mandatory to take the following three steps under MD Transportation Code Ann. § 20-104 (Duty to Give Information and Render Aid):
- You must render “reasonable assistance” to anyone who was injured in the accident.
- This includes any injured cyclists or pedestrians, not just the actual vehicle occupants.
- If the injured person requests it, or is visibly hurt, you must call 911 (i.e. “arrange for the transportation of the person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical treatment”).
- If a victim goes into shock, he or she will not be able to feel the severity of their injuries. Even if someone says they “feel fine,” you should err on the side of caution and call for medical help if the person appears to be injured. Let trained EMTs make the healthcare decisions once they arrive: it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- You and the other driver must share your name, address, and vehicle registration number with one another.
- If the injury victim and/or other driver requests you to do so, you must also display your driver’s license.
If the accident occurs in a rural or suburban area and no police officers are present as they might be on a busy city street, you must immediately “report the accident to the nearest office of an authorized police authority.” If you don’t know the phone number, call 911 and describe your location and the urgency of the situation. The operator will dispatch police officers to the scene.
Even if no one was injured and the accident resulted strictly in property damage, you are still legally obligated to remain at the scene in accordance with MD Transportation Code Ann. § 20-103, which states, “The driver of each vehicle involved in an accident that results only in damage to an attended vehicle or other attended property shall return to and remain at the scene of the accident until he has complied with § 20-104 of this title” (i.e. sharing your name, address, vehicle registration, and driver’s license).
Note that failure to comply with these statutes may result in criminal charges for “hit and run” (leaving the scene of an accident).
After you have taken care of injuries, sharing information, and notifying the police, your next step should be calling an personal injury lawyer. Your attorney will help you deal with the insurance company, which brings us to our next point…
What Not to Tell Your Insurance Company After a Crash
After you’ve been in a car accident, you absolutely should notify your insurance company. However, that does not mean you should “spill your guts” about every last detail of the accident. On the contrary, there are certain statements and pieces of information which you should actually keep to yourself.
Your insurance company will probably press you for a recorded statement of how the accident occurred. You should know that you are not obligated to consent to having your statements recorded. The insurance company is not your friend, and is looking for details that can undermine your claim. Politely express that you do not consent to being recorded and need to speak to your attorney first. (If you don’t have an attorney yet, bluff. Do not share your lack of legal representation with the insurance company.)
Your insurance company is also likely to extend an offer for a settlement. It might feel tempting to seize the chance, but it’s important that you resist the temptation to accept. Initial offers are almost always too low, simply because they fail to account for the true extent of the property damage and/or injuries which occurred.
For example, you might later discover that the discomfort in your chest is actually a broken rib. You have no way of knowing how severely you are injured until you see a doctor – and if you don’t know, neither does your insurer. (On a related note, you should avoid making statements like “I’m not badly hurt,” or, “I feel okay.”) Do not share your doctor’s contact information with the insurer.
Finally, you should avoid saying you are sorry to the other party. Yes, it feels cold and uncomfortable to withhold an apology, and it may seem like the wrong thing to do at the time – but by saying you’re sorry, you are potentially admitting guilt or fault, which will only undermine your claim in the future. Do not make any statements which could indicate liability, whether it’s in person, over the phone, via email, or on your Facebook page. Let your attorney handle communications for you. Your attorney will protect your best interests, and can intervene if your insurance company attempts to act in bad faith.
If you were injured in a car accident in Maryland, or if one your loved ones was a victim of wrongful death, the attorneys of Whitney, LLP may be able to help you recover compensation for your losses, pain, and suffering. To set up a free and private case evaluation, call our law offices at (410) 583-8000 today. We handle claims in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Howard County, Harford County, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County.