A car accident can be a traumatic experience. It can be hard to follow protocol or remember all the things you’re supposed to do. Do you need to give out your vehicle registration number, or just your license plate number? Does the other party need to know who your insurer is? Do they need your phone number, or is an email address okay?
It’s normal to feel a bit confused about what to do after a car accident. First and foremost, if you’re not feeling okay, always call 911.
But what about the things you shouldn’t do? Here are 7 things you should never do following an auto accident.
1. Leave the Scene Prematurely
If you were involved in an accident, no matter how minor, never just drive away. Always stop your car, turn on the hazard lights, and turn off the engine.
One of the 7 things you should never do following an auto accident is leave the scene! Leaving the scene of a car accident can result in legal consequences, including hit-and-run charges. It’s your legal responsibility as a driver to make sure that you and the other driver exchange details, or if the other driver has left, that you file a report with the police.
It doesn’t matter how much of a hurry you’re in – always stop and check on the other driver and surrounding pedestrians!
2. Forget to Call 911
To clarify, you may not need to dial 911 every single time you get into a minor fender bender but how can you determine what is minor? When in doubt, call 911. Every auto accident must be reported to the police within 10 days, and any accidents involving at least $1,000 in damages must be called in to the DMV right away, even if no one got hurt.
If someone gently rear-ended you by accident and both of you walk (drive) away with nothing more than a scratch on the bumper, then calling the police should be on your to-do list for the next few hours (preferably using the non-emergency number of your local precinct), but it’s not something you need to do at the scene. However, one of the 7 things you should never do following an auto accident is fail to inform the police of your accident within 24 hours. Failure may result in a fine or even the loss of your driving license.
If you can’t judge the severity of your accident, then call 911 anyway! It’s better to be safe than sorry in the case of a car accident, and many injuries aren’t apparent until hours after, because of adrenaline and the shock of a major physical trauma. Many injuries following an auto accident are internal, which can be difficult to see at first glance, and even difficult to feel until the injury becomes much more debilitating when the shock wears off..
Other reasons to call the police rather than file a report include:
Suspecting the other driver to be drunk, or under the influence of drugs.
Suspecting that someone got hurt.
Calling an ambulance or the police if the road has been blocked due to the accident.
Suspecting that the other driver rear-ended you on purpose or intended to hurt you.
3. Admit Fault
One of the 7 things you should never do following an auto accident is say sorry! Never use any language that sounds like you’re admitting fault in any way.
Avoid admitting fault or taking blame for the accident, even if you believe it was your fault. Determining fault is the responsibility of the authorities and insurance companies – if you’re admitting fault, you’re putting yourself in an incredibly precarious position, and robbing your insurance company of doing the very thing you’re paying them to do, which is to help cover you against any losses caused by your negligence.
4. Neglect to Exchange Information
One of the legal requirements after a car accident is the exchange of key information for insurance claims and accident reports sent to the police. It’s important to be aware of what information to give out, and what to keep.
The other party will need your name, address, phone number, or other contact information, your insurance details, and your vehicle registration number. You will need the same from the other party.
The other driver might not be the car’s owner (it could be a company car). In that case, get both the information of the driver and the vehicle’s owner. If you’re driving someone else’s car, it’s normal for the other party to want the insurance and contact details of both you and the owner.
If there is no other party – for example, if you caused damage to a parked car, and have no way of finding the owner within a reasonable amount of time – then it’s perfectly fine for you to leave your information on a note somewhere where the owner can see it. If the accident occurred at a public place, like the parking lot of a supermarket or a hospital, you can ask the front desk to help you locate the driver through the PA system.
5. Forget to Document the Scene
If – and only if! – you’re healthy and relatively unscathed, consider taking the time to use your smartphone to take photos of the accident, or any other important details such as the road condition, traffic signs, or license plates of the vehicles involved.
However, help comes first! Don’t whip out your phone camera before checking on the other driver. It is your legal responsibility to ensure that anyone else involved in the accident hasn’t been hurt if you weren’t hurt too badly yourself. Once you’ve established that everyone is okay, try to see what you can document or take note of.
If you were hurt, then your priority should be to get help for yourself and anyone else involved.
6. Decline Medical Attention
If you feel fine after an accident, then take note of it – but don’t neglect a doctor’s visit anyway. You may not feel like you need an ambulance, but a trip to an urgent care center, hospital, or your personal doctor within the same day is heavily recommended, especially if you want the best chance of a favorable outcome with your insurance claim. One of the 7 things you should never do following an auto accident is ignore your own health.
If you end up getting sick or injured after the effects of the adrenaline wear off but decline to seek medical attention in a timely manner, you may risk losing some of your insurance benefits.
Once you’ve been professionally evaluated, follow the doctor’s instructions to a tee, and schedule a follow-up visit.
7. Discuss the Accident on Social Media
Avoid discussing the accident or your injuries on social media platforms. Don’t post pictures of what happened to you without first discussing it with a lawyer. What you say online can be used against you, so it’s best to refrain from posting about the accident until the case is resolved.
Auto Accident Legal Services at OPO Law
Seeking legal advice from an attorney experienced in personal injury cases is a wise step to ensure that you’re fairly and properly represented after a car accident, especially if the fault is still up in the air. We at Owen, Patterson & Owen represent claims of all sizes, no matter how big or small. If you want to learn more about your rights after an auto accident, give us a call at 800-676-5295.
Need expert legal advice?
Don't navigate the complexities alone.