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September 13, 2023

Auto Accident: Immediate 5-Step Guide

by Evan Breaux | Auto Accidents | 0 comments

In the immediate aftermath of a car crash, you may feel overwhelmed, anxious, and confused. It’s important to know what to do next, from calling the police to speaking with the other driver. If you’ve been in an auto accident, here are 5 steps you should take after a car accident to protect yourself and to ensure that justice is served.

Steps You Should Follow Immediately After Getting into an Auto Accident:

1. AFTER A COLLISION, CHECK FOR INJURIES AND CALL 911. 

If you or anyone involved in the accident needs an ambulance or immediate medical attention, call 911. You should not move the cars until the police arrive and file their police report. If needed, put your hazard lights on to ensure that other drivers can safely maneuver around the accident site. 

2. TAKE PICTURES. 

Take a picture of the vehicles involved EXACTLY where they were positioned due to the accident. Do not move the vehicles first! If the accident is blocking traffic, wait for the police to arrive and redirect traffic. In case of a dispute about liability (in other words, who is at fault), pictures can be very helpful in liability determination.

As we discussed in our in-depth article, “What Pictures Should I Take After an Accident?,” you should walk around each vehicle and take close-up photos of dents, scratches, broken glass, or deployed airbags, as well as any damaged guardrails, street signs, sidewalks, lampposts, or trees nearby. Take photos from as many angles as possible, like the front, back, and sides.

Lean inside your car, if it’s safe to do so, and snap photos of any interior property damage or damaged items, which can be added to your claim. If it’s night, take photos with and without flash. Include pictures of skid marks, debris, broken glass, stop signs, traffic lights, and other clues as to how the crash occurred.

Next, take a picture of the license plate of the other vehicle involved in the accident. The experienced attorneys of Breaux Law Firm have the technology to run a license plate to see if there is any automobile insurance covering the vehicle associated with the accident.

If possible, take photos of any injuries on yourself or others involved in the accident. However, don’t take photos of someone else’s injuries without their permission.

There are some specific details you’ll need from the other driver, and many people don’t realize that they can easily photograph these documents (this can be especially helpful if you’re likely to lose the piece of paper where you wrote them down, or if you can’t find a pen, for example).

Using your phone, you can snap a photo of the other driver’s license, auto insurance card and policy number, vehicle registration information, and even their contact info page on their own phone.

It can also be helpful for liability determination if you are able to take photos of the context, which means the situation in which the accident occurred, like the area surrounding the scene of the accident, the weather, the road conditions, and the time of day.

Even if the relevance isn’t immediately clear to you while taking these photos, there may be elements that can later be used as evidence. To get a full sense of the context, you should also take photos of nearby businesses, some of which may have security cameras that captured the accident on video.

A photo will help you or your personal injury lawyer remember to contact these businesses later, when gathering additional evidence to make a successful claim.

If you are too injured and can’t take photographs of the car wreck, see if a bystander, witness, or another passenger in your vehicle can take photos for you.   

3. CALL THE POLICE TO REPORT THE ACCIDENT. 

The police accident report is a very important part of personal injury claims resulting from an automobile accident. Once you call the police, they will arrive at the scene and take statements from the drivers of the vehicles, the passengers of the vehicles involved, and witnesses.

The police officer will then generate a police report with all of the parties’ insurance information, their vehicular information, and their biographical information. This police report will be used by both your personal injury attorney, like the team at Breaux Law Firm, and the respective insurance adjusters to determine fault and to obtain all the necessary insurance information relevant to the case.

Why file a police report? Can you skip this step? No! A police report is an unbiased, third-party statement about the details of a car accident. An investigating officer writes the police report in response to a request for assistance at a car accident spot. It contains a summary of information regarding the crash and the opinions of the investigating officer.

The police report is used as evidence in a settlement claim. Filing a police report after an accident is painless, easy, and will protect you from insurance fraud while also helping to ensure you are fully compensated for injuries and property damage by your insurance company and/or the other drivers involved in the car crash.

You are legally required in the state of Louisiana to report a car accident, according to Louisiana legislation RS 32:398. This law states that a car accident must be reported as quickly as possible to the local police station if the incident involves injury, death, or $500 or more in property damage to either vehicle. So in fact, calling 911 and making a police report is not optional. It is required.

Never let another driver convince you to avoid calling the police. They may be afraid of legal repercussions, especially if they don’t have insurance or they are impaired by drugs or alcohol. But it is your duty and legal requirement to report the accident.

When the police arrive, you’ll want to get the name and badge number of the police officers. 

4. REMAIN CALM AND GATHER CONTACT INFORMATION. 

You should obtain the following information from the other driver (or anyone involved in the accident): 

1) name

2) driver’s license

3) name of vehicle insurance company

4) vehicle insurance policy number

5) vehicle registration information

6) make and model of the other car or cars involved

Gathering this vital information protects you in the event that the driver flees before the police arrive at the scene. Breaux Law Firm can then use this information to begin your claim. Make sure to keep all of the information you gather well organized in a safe place. 

You should also speak to any other parties involved in the accident, to gather their information, as well as any bystanders or witnesses. 

When speaking to everyone involved in the collision, remain neutral and respectful. Do not make any statements that could be construed as accepting fault. Do not apologize, get into an argument about what happened, or admit to any wrongdoing.

Do not make any agreements about payments with the other driver, or agree to receive cash for the accident instead of filing an insurance claim. The other driver may offer you a significant sum or claim to not have auto insurance, but you should continue to insist that you will file a report with both the police and your insurance company.

5. CONTACT BREAUX LAW FIRM.

Once you are safe and sound, back at home, and on the road to recovery, the next thing you should do is reach out to Breaux Law Firm for a free consultation.

Being in a car accident is frightening, and getting back on your feet should be as easy as possible. The expert personal injury attorneys at Breaux Law Firm have been in business for decades, working successfully in New Orleans and Louisiana for thousands of clients.

FAQ

What if it was only a minor fender bender?

Yes, you should still take these steps. According to Louisiana legislation RS 32:398, there is an additional requirement for fender benders or small car accidents, which is that “the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person or total property damage to an apparent extent of one hundred dollars or more shall, within twenty-four hours after the accident, forward a written report of the accident to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.” In other words, even if there is little damage to either car, if that damage exceeds $100 (which is likely the case), you are legally required to file an accident report.

By calling the police to file a police report after a small crash or fender bender, the police officer will forward the report to the Department of Public Safety and Corrections for you.

Should I call my insurance company right away?

Yes, you should contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the accident with them. But rather than tackling this yourself, you’ll want to have your legal representation, like Breaux Law Firm, call them for you. Calling the insurance company yourself lets your insurance company know that you have no legal counsel.

The insurance company will send a “non-repped” insurance adjuster to handle your claim, and this person’s sole job is to offer the victim of a car accident as little money as possible to settle the claim quickly, resolve liability, and stop the victim from ever receiving additional compensation. 

However, when you hire a personal attorney after a car accident, your attorney will send a letter to the auto insurance company on your behalf.

The insurance company will send a different, “attorney-repped” adjuster to review your claim, and the insurance company will take your claim more seriously. Statistically speaking, it is very likely that you will receive more compensation for your damages when your attorney contacts the insurance company rather than yourself. 

CALL BREAUX LAW FIRM

When you call Breaux Law Firm, we will listen to the details of what happened, review the official report and statements by all involved parties, and help determine fault for the accident.

Even if the accident was minor, we’ll help you understand whether or not you have a case, and what is the right path forward. We’re happy to spend the time it takes for you to understand what comes next. Our reputation speaks for itself. We’re ready to fight for you. And we take a strong approach when dealing with insurance companies after an accident.

Our exceptional attorneys will discuss your next steps and all of your options. You can reach us 24/7 using our 24-hour phone line: (504) 914-7779.