Around six million car accidents happen in the United States every year, injuring three million people. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that almost 5,000 people died and almost 90,000 people were injured due to motorcycle crashes. There are a number of reasons that people get into car accidents — weather, negligent driving, distracted driving, driving under the influence, etc., — but it’s good to know what to do when you have a car accident, particularly if someone is badly hurt or dies. This can also be useful if you’re a witness to an accident and are on the scene to help. Hopefully it’s never knowledge you’ll have to use, but it’s good to have, just in case.
What are the Statistics for Car Accidents?
Sadly, over one million people die all across the world because of car accidents on an annual basis. Over half of personal injury cases are a result of motor vehicle accidents.
Though there are many reasons for car accidents, drunk driving can account for a particularly high rate. Someone is injured in a drunk driving crash every two minutes and drivers operate motor vehicles while drunk almost 300,000 times, yet under 4,000 are ever arrested. Distracted driving can also be deadly — almost 3,500 deaths were due to distracted driving in 2015. Put that cell phone away!
It’s also important to be aware of road conditions. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, almost a quarter of semi-truck accidents were because a driver was going too fast for the road conditions. In bad weather or on badly kept roads, it’s important to slow down and be alert.
What To Do When You Have a Car Accident?
What To Do When You Have a Car Accident: Both Parties
If someone is injured or hurt, the first thing any party should do is immediately call 911 and get help on the scene as quickly as possible. However, if all parties are unscathed, try and get your vehicles to a safe area if you can (for example, if one party was rear ended and not too much damage was done). Stop your vehicle and get out to see if the other party (or parties) are okay. Police should be called to file a police accident report. If no one was hurt, you can also file this through your local DMV.
Get everyone’s information, including all names, contact information, insurance information, license plates, locations, and the information of any police officers to arrive on the scene. It’s also good to take pictures of the scene, in case you need them when filing for insurance.
You’ll also need to file the accident with your insurance company within 30 days to claim no-fault benefits. The insurance company will then try and broker a settlement between parties.
If You’re the Injured Party
If you or someone in your vehicle is badly hurt or passes away as a result of the crash, you may be able to sue for personal injury losses, especially if the the other party is clearly at fault. You’ll want to seek out a personal injury attorney and let them advise you on the best course of action.
If You’re the Party at Fault
You absolutely must stay on the scene if you’re the party at fault or risk being seen as a “hit-and-run” driver, which incurs steep penalties. Be sure to not offer up any information about who was at fault for the accident before speaking to your insurance agent or a lawyer. Remember that anything you say at the scene could be used in court against you at a later date. Don’t agree to anything other than a traffic ticket at the scene.
It can certainly be in your best interests to retain a lawyer, especially if there were serious injuries or a death as a result of the car accident.
Knowing what to do when you have a car accident can help make things after the fact go a bit more smoothly. You’ll be prepared for what to do next and know what the following steps will be.