Steps To Take Following An Auto Accident
Have you been involved in a car accident? Do you need to know what to do and what insurance benefits are available to you?
Stop. North Carolina law requires that drivers of vehicles involved in an accident resulting in personal injury, death or property damage, immediately stop their vehicles at the scene of the accident or collision, avoid obstructing traffic more than is necessary, and immediately return to or remain at the scene of the accident until a law enforcement officer completes an investigation or authorizes them to leave. You may leave temporarily to get medical help or call an officer, but you must return if you can as soon as possible. Warning devices should be used to let approaching motorists know an accident has occurred.
Assist the injured. If someone is seriously injured, immediately seek medical assistance. Make the injured person comfortable but do not move the person unless you know what you are doing. You may, however, render reasonable assistance. Unless the person giving assistance is guilty of wanton conduct or intentional wrongdoing, that person cannot be held liable for damages resulting from the effort to provide assistance.
Call an officer. North Carolina law requires that drivers of vehicles involved in accidents resulting in personal injury, death or total property damages of $1,000 or more, shall immediately, by the quickest means of communication, give notice to the local police department or, if outside city limits, to the nearest office of the North Carolina Highway Patrol, sheriff's department or rural police. An accident which does not involve personal injury, death or total property damage in excess of $1,000 is not required to be reported to the police or Highway Patrol unless an unattended vehicle is damaged.
Witnesses. Obtain the names, phone numbers and addresses of any and all witnesses who might have some information about any of the circumstances of the accident. Attempt to obtain from these witnesses statements as to what happened.
YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO ADMIT FAULT/LIABILITY. IT IS IMPORTANT TO CONSULT AN ATTORNEY if you have any question about whether or not you should make a statement about an accident.
Exchange of information. Obtain the other driver's name, phone number, address, operator's license number and the registration number on the vehicle. You should request to see the other person’s driver's license. North Carolina requires both of you to give this information to each other. It is advisable, but not required, that all parties to an accident exchange information identifying their insurance company and policy number. In the event your accident involves a parked car or unattended property and you cannot identify the owner, you should contact the nearest police agency, leaving your name, address and vehicle registration number and also leave this information conspicuously attached to the damaged property. In any event, police authorities must be informed within 48 hours of all accidents with parked or unattended vehicles.
Take notes. Fill out an accident information form and diagram, if possible. Make your own written notes on all significant circumstances concerning the accident. Show position of cars after the accident. Step off exact distances of skid marks and other important distances. Be certain that you can, at a later date, point out on the road where the vehicles collided and where they came to a stop. If you or someone else has a camera at the scene, take pictures to preserve skid marks, position of cars, and other physical evidence that will disappear after time.
Arrests. An arrest at the scene does not necessarily indicate liability. An arrest or conviction in connection with an automobile accident ordinarily cannot be used against you later in a suit for damages. However, if a person pleads responsible or guilty or "pays off" the citation, the plea or pay off can be used against that person in a suit for damages as some evidence of negligence.
When to leave the scene. Unless your injuries compel you to do otherwise, do not leave the scene of the accident until you have, as outlined previously, assisted the injured, protected the scene, called and assisted an officer, identified the other driver, obtained the names, addresses and statements of all witnesses, made notes, and filled out the accident information form.
See a doctor. Remember that serious and costly injuries may not always be obvious or result in immediate pain or bloodshed. Inform your insurance company of any injury/medical condition and of your medical bills. After an accident, prompt medical evaluation and treatment are critical.
Notify insurance company. Make a complete report to your automobile liability insurance company immediately, or, if you desire, have your lawyer make the report for you. Be sure to notify the other party’s insurance company as well.
Pay nothing. Make no immediate payment of any kind to the other party and do not promise to make a payment. Any such payment would be at your own risk. The other driver cannot force you to make any payment without legal proceedings or hold your car without legal action.
Consult a lawyer. If you have any question about the participants' rights, responsibilities, insurance coverage, liability or court proceedings following an accident, please contact Wright, Worley, Moss & Ekster, PLLC to schedule an initial consultation at a mutually convenient time and place. Remember, having your personal injury claims skillfully handled by a lawyer is very important for a strong recovery. An injured person and his or her family are typically subject to extraordinary stress and expenses. There are a myriad of administrative details to cope with in relation to the injury, medical expenses, liability, and compensation. These injuries may also involve workers’ compensation and/or disability claims. At Wright, Worley, Moss & Ekster, PLLC, our lawyers will help you deal with all of these issues. As necessary, on your behalf, we may also consult experienced medical economists and life care planners who provide detailed, accurate cost-data analyses of the injuries of our clients. We take into account costs associated with future surgery, in-home nursing care, physical therapy, medical equipment, lost wages, and pain and suffering. We also work with medical experts across a wide variety of specialties in order to establish the scope and nature of our clients’ injuries. You also need to know all of the insurance coverages available to you. We will help you make this analysis.
Schedule a free initial consultation with your local legal team if you or a family member has been injured in an accident.