Getting into a car accident is terrifying. But once you’ve realized that you’re OK (or mostly OK), there are some important actions you need to take. We hope that this never happens to you or anyone you know, but if it does, our team at Wright Gray is here to help. Here’s our advice for first steps:
1. Get to a safe place
Try to pull off to the side of the road. Be especially careful if you’re on a busy street. You want to get out of the way of traffic without causing any more damage. If you can’t move your car, stop the car if it hasn’t stopped already, and at least try to find a safe place to stand.
2. Call the police
According to Louisiana law, the police must be notified of an accident if there is a death, an injury, or any damages worth more than $500. (If any of these things happen and you fail to notify the police of the accident within 24 hours, you may be given a fine or even have your license suspended.)
You should also call the police if the other driver leaves the scene without giving you any of their information, or if you suspect the other driver to be uninsured or driving under the influence. Plus, if you plan to make a personal injury claim, having a police report on file is good for your case.
3. Take detailed notes about the scene
It can be difficult to recall all the details later on, so even if you’re feeling shaken up, do the best you can to take as many notes as possible while you’re waiting for the police to arrive. Your notes can be written or saved as a voice note, and they should include:
- Date and time of the accident
- Address or approximate address and nearest cross streets
- Directions you and the other car were driving
- What happened (from your perspective)
- Driving conditions (Was it raining? Was there something blocking the road?)
- Names and phone numbers of witnesses
- When the police arrive, include the name, badge number, and contact info for the police officers who come to the scene
You should also take photos of the accident from several different angles. Take photos of your car and the other person’s car, visible injuries to you or your passengers, the area where the accident occurred, and any relevant traffic signs or lights. Take photos of any perceivable injuries you have, as well.
4. Exchange Information
You need to get the name, address, phone number, and insurance information from the other driver, and you should give them your information, as well. (You don’t necessarily need to take pictures of each other’s driver’s licenses, as this can be a risk for identity theft.)
5. Go to the doctor
Once you’ve finished up at the accident scene, you should go to the doctor – even if you feel fine. Sometimes injuries don’t appear immediately, and you may start to feel bad the next day. Be sure to explain to your doctor what happened in the accident.
6. Don’t talk to other party’s insurance company or admit fault
Louisiana follows a “pure comparative negligence” system. This means that for any amount of fault that the court finds you to have, any damages you’re hoping to recover will be reduced by that same percentage. (For example, if you’re found to be 10% at fault for the accident, the damages you recover will be 10% less than they would have been if you had not been at fault at all.)
For this reason – and for liability reasons in general – do not admit or discuss fault at the scene of the crime. Later on, the other driver’s insurance company may try to call you. You should not talk to them. They are hoping to get you to apologize, admit that you feel fine, or somehow take some blame for the accident. Don’t give them a chance!
7. Keep track of lost wages
Hang on to any important documentation that shows any loss of income due to the accident. This will help your personal injury case, as well.
8. Contact Wright Gray
Get in touch with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to make your claim. Louisiana is a ‘direct action’ state, which means that you can file your suit against the other driver’s insurance company directly. This is especially helpful if the other driver in your accident is uninsured, bankrupt, or has passed away.
You need to be sure to hire an attorney who is willing and capable of getting you the compensation you deserve. Call Wright Gray as soon as possible so we can help you make your next steps 504-500-0000.