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When a car accident occurs, your first thoughts will be for the safety of everyone involved. After that, you might be concerned about how you sort out insurance matters and deciding who was at fault for the accident. Because most of us are - thankfully - in very few accidents, many of us are unsure whether you should call the police at this point or simply exchange information with the other driver.
Knowing what to do after an accident can help take some of the stress out of the situation, allowing you to focus on the important things – ensuring the safety of everyone involved and making sure you gather all the information you need for an insurance claim.
Different states have different legal requirements about whether you must call 911 from the scene of a car accident. These usually concern the extent of property damage and whether anyone has been hurt by the incident. It might also be relevant if you believe the other party has broken a traffic rule – for example, if they appear to be intoxicated, or if they have run a red light. If the accident is serious and people are hurt, the police should always be called.
While some minor fender benders might appear to be simple to sort out without the police, in general, it is often still advisable to call them. Even an amicable exchange of insurance information might turn into a lengthy disagreement later on, so it is often better to check with a dispatcher whether the police should attend.
If you call the police and they come to the scene of the accident, they will make a police report about the accident. This will contain the different parties’ versions of what happened, as well as the police officer’s own assessment of the incident. This report can be very important for insurance claims and you should make sure you obtain a copy of it.
If the police do not come to the scene of the accident, you can still report the accident at a police station. This will involve telling the police the circumstances of the accident and giving them your own details and those of the other party. Because of this, it is very important to make sure you get the other driver’s:
The police will create a police report of the accident, based on their assessment of both drivers’ stories.
After an accident, your car may be blocking traffic or be dangerously close to other hazards. In general, it is advisable to move the car to somewhere safe at the side of the road if there are no injuries and the car is capable of being moved. Use your hazard warning lights and wait somewhere away from the roadside to avoid being hit by traffic. Don’t try to move a vehicle if someone is injured. This might add to their injuries and could lead to additional liability during a claim for damages.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified car accident lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local car accident attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.