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What to Do If You're in a Major Car AccidentSalem-News.com
"Expect the Unexpected" and be prepared to handle things calmly.
(SALEM, Ore.) - During the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, car accidents and deaths in Portland, as well as around the country decreased significantly, mostly because there were fewer vehicles on the road.
Even as states like California saw an increase in speeding on deserted roads during this time, there just weren’t as many people driving, so there weren’t as many obstacles for speeders to crash into. But, in 2021, this trend reversed.
A shocking 63 people died on Portland roads in 2021, representing the highest number in 30 years. Other states are seeing similar increases. The streets are more dangerous than ever, so it’s critical you know what to do if you’re involved in a major car accident.
The first and most important thing you must do if you’re involved in any accident, whether minor or major is to stop. Driving away from the scene of a motor vehicle accident only compounds your problems, even if you weren’t at fault. In the event of a major accident, you may not be able to drive off anyway, but fleeing the scene on foot or otherwise is a crime.
Seek Medical Attention
If you or anyone involved in the accident is seriously injured, medical attention should take precedence over everything else. Call the police, or have a bystander do it, and make sure an ambulance is dispatched as well. If you’re able, administer first aid to anyone who is injured until medical professionals arrive.
Protect Yourself and Others
Whenever there’s an accident that occurs where there’s traffic, it’s vital for you to make sure subsequent cars avoid the crash. If it’s dark outside, turn on your vehicle’s lights. If they don’t work because of the accident, use flares or a flashlight to warn other drivers (it’s always advisable to keep these tools in your car just in case).
Call the Police
Even if there are no obvious injuries, always call the police in the event of a motor vehicle accident. A police report is usually necessary to file a claim with your insurance company and an official record will help determine who was at fault.
The police report may not make such a determination, but it will reflect participants’ statements, witness statements, and the opinion of the officer on scene, all of which will be used by investigators and courts to decide who was at fault.
Give a Truthful Statement
When recounting what happened to the officer on scene, tell them everything you remember, even if it doesn’t paint you in the best light. You don’t have to admit fault, but you do need to give an accurate statement of events.
The officer will ask if you are injured. If you are, say you are. If you aren’t sure, don’t say no. Injuries from motor vehicle accidents can appear hours and even days after the event so you don’t want to give up your right to be compensated for medical bills by saying you’re not injured.
Most people have phones that take pictures these days, so there should be no reason to not take pictures of the scene, damage, and visible injuries.
Be sure to document the damage to all other vehicles involved in the accident as well as your own. This will help you prove the extent of damage done if another party tries to claim that more or less damage occurred.
Provide Your Information to the Police or Other Party
Usually, the responding police officer will take care of getting the information of all parties involved in a motor vehicle accident, but it doesn’t hurt for you to get it as well. You’ll want the name, address, and telephone number for all drivers, passengers, and witnesses.
If you need to involve an investigator later on, this will help them track everyone down to help your case. Insurance information should also be exchanged between drivers so that everyone is aware of which companies will be handling the case.
Report the Accident to Insurance
As soon as possible following the accident, notify your insurance company of the accident. Don’t wait for the other party to contact your insurer, as that could have the appearance of you trying to avoid reporting it.
You’ll want to know what your coverage is for medical treatment and vehicle damage anyway, so it’s best to get the ball rolling as soon as you can. You may want to wait until after you’ve dealt with the police to report it, but you probably shouldn’t wait much longer than that.
Get Yourself Checked Out
You may not feel injured immediately after the accident, but as previously mentioned, injuries from car accidents can show up later.
It’s always a good idea to see a doctor within a day or two of the date of the accident. The sooner the better, since some insurance policies won’t cover your charges if you wait too long.
Report all aches and pains you’re experiencing after the accident to your doctor, even if you’re not sure they’re related. Chances are, if these aches and pains are new, they’re the result of the crash.
Consult an Accident Attorney
Whether you’re at fault or not, you absolutely must take steps to protect your rights, and the first step is to consult an accident attorney.
From ensuring you get the most compensation possible from your insurance company (or the other party’s insurance company) to protecting valuable evidence, an attorney will be able to provide you with advice that puts you in the best position possible, even if you caused the accident.
They can also help you investigate the crash if you were seriously injured and unable to perform all the recommended tasks at the scene.
Keep Organized Records
Establish a file where you’ll put every document related to the accident so it’s all in one place. This will include a copy of the police report, insurance information, contact information, the claims number, and more. When you hire an attorney, give them this file. They’ll take it from there.
Unfortunately, motor vehicle accidents are up in Portland and elsewhere. While you don’t ever want to think about getting into a car crash, one can happen any time you’re on the road. So, prepare yourself by knowing exactly what to do if you’re involved in an accident.
Source: Salem-News.com Special Features Dept.
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