A car accident can range in severity from a mere annoyance – fender bender with a little cosmetic damage and frayed nerves – to major catastrophes with many lives being lost and injuries being incurred. There are many bad car smashes and choosing one to be named 'the worst' would mean deciding between the number of cars involved or the highest number of deaths.
The more serious car crashes can seriously disrupt lives; upsetting short term plans, shortening or cancelling holidays and even irrevocably changing the course of an entire family. When you are involved in a collision it is important to follow these steps to remain safe and legally compliant.
What should you do if you are in an accident?
First of all, make sure that everyone in the vehicle is OK – a cursory glance is fine as long as everyone is conscious and not too severely injured, initially, as you must make sure that you get a good look at the other vehicle, just in case the driver decides to flee the scene! Note the colour and model and try to memorize the number plate – if you have a notebook or pen to jot it down, so much the better. Of course, you will probably have a smartphone to hand, with integral camera, so snap off a couple of shots, showing where the vehicles are, and including all the identifying markers that you can. Then double-check that your passengers are OK, asking them to test that they have no broken bones or wounds. You will all be shaky and subject to unusual moods – the body does not respond well to near fatal encounters. Breathe deeply and slowly, keep everyone calm and try to reassure them that the worst is over.
Turn on your hazard lights as soon as you can, especially if your vehicle is in the road. Warning other drivers to use caution may prevent them from making your situation even more serious.
Call the police as soon as you can. Even if the accident seems to be relatively minor the police must be informed as your insurance provider will require a police report in order to process your claims.
When it is safe to do so, you can leave your vehicle and check on the other driver if he or she is still there. Make sure that they are relatively uninjured, and then exchange contact details. If they are injured call an ambulance for them and wait until the paramedics and the police have been and gone.
Make sure that you go to a doctor as soon as possible after a collision. Even if you feel completely fine you can suffer from ill-effects a fair while after an incident. Claims for whiplash and back injuries are very common, but are also quite hard to prove either way, and you do not want to risk having an accident solicitor or law firm turn down your personal injury case because they do not think that your case is winnable. Keep notes on your health for up to six months following an crash and ask your doctor to keep good notes on any issues that occur. In this way, if you do seek the services of a solicitor you will be able to provide full and accurate information about everything that has happened since the collision. Do not rely on your memory as we humans have a tendency to forget or gloss over the bad times; being asked to recall your state of health or mind some months later may be trickier than you realize.
- Never admit liability until you have spoken to your insurer.
- It is a stressful time for everyone involved in the accident, try to be patient and remain calm.
- If submitting a personal injury claim, be as honest and open as you can – the other side may employ private investigators to try and trip you up on the stand.