Even the most careful and conscientious drivers are not immune from automobile accidents.
Even the most careful and conscientious drivers are not immune from automobile accidents. In addition to learning how to drive safely, drivers who are armed with knowledge on what to do immediately following an accident will no doubt be safer drivers. Make yourself a safer driver and know the following information:
Stop Your Car
You are required to stop as close to the accident scene as possible without blocking traffic or putting yourself or others in harms way. No matter how minor the collision, if you fail to stop at the scene you may subject yourself to criminal prosecution, even if the accident was not your fault. Leaving the scene of a personal injury accident in which you were involved is a serious misdemeanor. Punishment could be one year in jail and/or a fine up to $1,500. These fines and prison confinement increase significantly if someone was killed in the accident.
If possible, station someone in position to warn approaching vehicles and use flares, reflectors, traffic cones, flashlights or hazard signals.
Aid the Injured
Immediately determine if anyone involved in the accident is hurt or injured. Call emergency, "911” or "0” for help and medical assistance. Do not move the injured. Attempt to make the injured as comfortable as you can, however, moving an injured person may contribute to their injuries. Do not render medical assistance unless you are specifically trained to do so.
Call the Police
As soon as you can or direct someone else to, contact or locate the authorities, including police, county sheriff, Iowa Highway Patrol or Iowa Department of Transportation. Police officers or authorities are trained to properly investigate accident scenes. Tell the investigating officers exactly what your observations were. Be sure to distinguish between what you actually saw, heard or felt from information which you were told by someone else or conclusions based upon guess or speculation. The authorities will be recording their investigations and will ultimately produce a report. This report may be useful if you are sued or decide to sue for your personal injuries and/or property damage.
Generally, if the collision is very minor you may not need to contact the police or the police may determine that an investigation is not necessary. If someone is injured or if there is more than $1,000 in property damage, you must file an accident report with the Iowa DOT’s Office of Driver Services. You can obtain appropriate report forms from the police or DOT. You must file the report within 72 hours of the accident or your license may be suspended.
Do not admit fault at this point. The excitement of the moment may cloud your judgment and perceptions. Fault is a determination for the insurance companies, and if necessary, a court of law.
Obtain Witness Names, Addresses, and Telephone Numbers
Write down the other driver’s name, address, car license, driver’s license and auto insurance information. Be prepared to provide the same information to the other driver. Be sure to record the names, addresses and telephone numbers of people who witnessed the collision or events before, during or after the collision. This includes passengers in the other involved vehicles, pedestrians, residents, construction workers, and employees from businesses located at the scene. Finally, be sure to obtain the investigating officer’s badge number and name.
Take Notes and Drawings of the Scene
As soon as you are able or can have someone assist you, make notes of the important aspects of the collision to help you remember. Diagram the exact position of the vehicles before and after the accident and note any skid marks, property damage or other tangible evidence of the collision. Make notes of any observations you had before, during and after the collision. These measures may prove invaluable in the event a legal question develops.
Seek Medical Attention
You may be overwhelmed by the accident and not realize you need to see a doctor. If you have any doubt about your own condition or that of your passengers, see your doctor immediately for an examination. If the police suggest you go by ambulance to the hospital it is always best to follow their suggestion, even though you may feel it unnecessary. Be sure to inform your doctor of the facts of the collision, including seat belt use, however, refrain from providing your opinions about the accident and comments as to speed and distance.
Call Your Insurance Agent
Notify your automobile insurance agent or company immediately and cooperate with your insurance representatives in their investigation. You will probably be asked to give a statement to the other driver’s insurance company as well as your own insurance company. It is not unusual for claims adjusters to record your statement. A lawyer may be helpful at this point in giving your statement if you choose to hire one. The most important thing to remember is to be honest and truthful and relay only what your observations were. Do not give your opinions as to the cause of the accident or whose fault it was.
You may also want to ascertain what policy coverage you have under your own auto insurance that may help with medical bills, prescriptions, property repair or replacement and car rental.
Your Legal Rights
If you are uncertain of your legal rights regarding property damage and personal injuries, consult a lawyer. A lawyer can help you assess whether an offer made to resolve bodily injury and property damage claims is fair and reasonable. The reasonableness of an offer depends on the type and seriousness of your injuries, how much you were at fault and other factors such as court jurisdiction and other damages.