In the minutes and hours following a car accident, it can be very easy to make further mistakes. Even if the accident isn’t your fault, it is easy to blame yourself and then to become discouraged by the belief you have made things worse.
The key is to learn how to deal with circumstances in a measured way and to make certain you have discharged your legal duties first. Your priority is the safety of everyone involved, followed by your own welfare. As long as you perform the correct actions in the correct order, as your nyc personal injury attorney will tell you, the situation will almost always turn out in your favor.
Here are some things you should remember if you’ve been in an auto accident.
If there are injuries, administer first aid in an emergency. Call for help from first responders. Fire department first, then police. If there is a fire at the scene, no matter how small, get yourself and any other persons to safety immediately. Do what you can to make any injured persons comfortable until help arrives.
These can be seen as legal duties which take precedence over any other circumstances at an accident scene. It is likely you are required to report the accident to police anyway, so calling for help from emergency first responders should be first on your priority list.
Police and Fire
When police arrive, make no statement as to the details of the accident. Do not answer questions like “what happened?” There is a high likelihood you could be facing civil or criminal liability for the accident. Anything you say you might as well be divulging to a jury. Keep your mouth shut until you have a chance to speak to your nyc personal injury attorney.
Do not consent to any search of your person or property. Lock your car and roll up your windows if possible. Pocket your keys. If asked, tell the officer you wish to speak to your attorney first.
The reason it is so important to protect your legal rights is because nobody can know how the evidence at the scene may combine with your statement to produce suspicion you may be at fault or may have broken traffic or other laws. Once your attorney has had an opportunity to evaluate the accident and your potential liability, they may elect to make a statement on your behalf, which is far and away the preferred option.
Although your policy likely requires you to notify your insurance company of the accident, doing so moments after the incident is probably not a good idea. Your insurance company is not going to look favorably on the possibility of a massive settlement payout, so they are going to do everything they can to avoid responsibility.
The best option is to let your attorney notify your insurance company. That will preserve your legal rights while allowing you to avoid making unnecessary admissions that might jeopardize a fair settlement.
Don’t forget your insurance company has no legal duty to keep your statement to them confidential. If you admit fault to your claims department, that statement will find its way into any future legal disputes and may unfairly damage your case.
Do your legal duty through your attorney first.
Determining fault is something that should take place long after your legal duties are discharged. The reason you should prioritize other things first is because any assertion you were not at fault can be easily refuted by someone pointing out the fact you did nothing to satisfy your legal obligations under the law.
However, if you did what was necessary and mandated, that will dramatically strengthen any future protestations of innocence when it comes to responsibility for the accident itself.
As with any complex legal matter, you are well served by finding a qualified attorney at the earliest possible opportunity. In this way, you not only protect your rights but your financial and legal welfare.