Being in a car accident can be a very traumatic experience. It is difficult to remember to keep a cool head when you may be in pain, disoriented, or concerned about your passengers. Assuming you are conscious, consider taking these following steps if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being in a car collision.
- Determine if you, your passengers, or anyone else is injured as a result of the accident. If anyone is hurt, call 911 immediately. Getting medical care as soon as possible is imperative.
- Do not leave the scene of the accident. Please note that the State of Florida requires drivers involved in a crash involving only damage to another vehicle or property which is driven or attended by any person to remain at the scene of said crash until he or she has filled the requirements of Fla. Stat. sec. 316.061 (duty to give information and aid). A person who violates that law commits a misdemeanor of the second degree. Drivers involved in a crash which results in injury, serious bodily injury, or death to another person are also required to remain at the scene and fulfill the requirements of Fla. Stat. sec. 316.062. A person who violates those sections commits a felony of the third degree, second degree, and first degree, respectively. (The driver of a vehicle involved in a crash which results in the death of a person who leaves the scene of the accident also shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 4 years.)
- Call the police. (Fla. stat. sec. 316.065 requires drivers involved in crashes resulting injury to or death of any persons or damage to any vehicle or other property in an apparent amount of at least $500 to immediately give notice of the crash to local law enforcement). Attempt to obtain the name of the police officer at the scene as well as a copy of the police report. (Or ask the officer for the police report number so that you may obtain a copy of it at a later date.) Make sure the investigating officer notates complete insurance information of all drivers on the crash report.
- Get critical information with the other drivers, such as their names, addresses and phone numbers. Additionally, jot down their vehicle’s color, make and model, as well as license plate information. Obtain names and other identifying information from any persons who witnessed the accident.
- Although you may be feeling emotional and feeling the need to get something off your chest, do not admit fault. That determination should be left to the court system. Conversely, if any other parties makes admissions, write them down.
- Take pictures if possible—of the vehicles, the damages the vehicles sustained, the license plate numbers, and the position of the vehicles. Take pictures of your injuries.
- The collision and any damages must be reported to your insurance company as soon as possible after the crash. Due to the nature of insurance companies wanting to minimize their payouts as well as the uneven playing field that exists between trained insurance agents and laypersons, it advisable to hire an experienced attorney to communicate with insurance companies on your behalf from the very beginning.