The summer vacation season is coming to an end, but not before we will experience bumper-to-bumper Labor Day traffic jams. But what if bumpers collide and there’s a wreck? Travelers need to know what to do (and what not to do) after a crash, especially as laws vary from state to state.
What are the main do’s and don’ts when you get into a car accident?
Here are the don’ts
DON’T yell, scream, or aggressively confront the other driver. In an already scary situation, that behavior could further risk your safety.
DON’T follow the other driver if they do not remain on the scene. While it may be tempting to follow someone who hits and runs, it’s not safe. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you should still be protected if the person who hit your vehicle is never found or does not have insurance of their own.
DON’T offer or accept payment to avoid involving insurance companies. It is impossible to know for certain at that moment the extent of your injuries or damage to your vehicle. Offering or accepting money can put you in a difficult position if you later try to make a claim.
DON’T post on social media. Whether you are doing a live video or just posting photos, it is never beneficial to post information about an accident on social media. It’s part of the public record and could be used against you in the future.
Here are the do’s
DO get medical attention if you or anyone in your vehicle are hurt or don’t feel well.
DO call the police and ask for assistance. Even if it seems like a minor collision, having a police officer present to help facilitate exchanging information protects you.
DO take photos. Before you move vehicles out of the roadway, take photos of the location of all vehicles involved if it is safe to do so. Having pictures of the vehicles where they were at the moment of impact could help if the other driver gives a different version of events.
DO get information from the other driver and any witnesses. Take a picture of the other driver’s license, and insurance information. Get contact information, including telephone numbers, email, etc., for the other drivers involved and for any witnesses.
DO check the scene for any cameras. Cameras are everywhere these days! Look around and see if there was a building, home or dash cam that could have captured the collision.
DO know your rights and the rights of your passengers. For example, in Maryland, a minor child has three years from the date that they turn 18 years of age to file a claim as a result of an accident versus just three years from the date of the accident. This allows the parents and medical professionals to wait and see how a child heals, and whether there are any residual complications resulting from the accident.
What do you do if you’re out of state when you get in an accident? If you are an insured driver in your home state, you’re insured nationwide.
Jurisdiction for out-of-state cases can get tricky. As a rule, you can sue another driver in the state where the accident occurred or the state where the other driver resides. You generally cannot sue in the state where you reside unless the other driver also happens to live there, or regularly conducts business there.
You will want to find a lawyer in the jurisdiction where the accident happened who can advise you on the specific legal rights and consequences in your case.
Regardless of what state you are in, make sure to take immediate action. As soon as the accident occurs, call the police and have them investigate your accident, just like you would do at home. Be meticulous about gathering information: the name of the investigating law enforcement agency, insurance information for the other driver(s) involved, contact information for witnesses, and so on.
Get prompt medical attention in the state where you’re located, then follow up with your doctor when you get back home.
Report the accident to your insurance company and get legal help.
Ivonne Corsino Lindley is a personal injury attorney with Stein Sperling. She can be reached at [email protected].