What to Do When Are In An Auto Accident

By Paul Cannon  Sep. 22, 2020 7:49a

An auto accident can be everything from a minor annoyance that will make you late to work, to a catastrophic event that will change your life forever. An auto accident takes place in Harris County on an average of every 15 minutes. Chances are better than average, if you live and work or attend school in the Houston area, you will eventually be involved in an auto accident. Being prepared for an accident before the accident happens can make the process much smoother.

Stay Calm

DO NOT PANIC. Panic will only make a bad situation worse, so resist the instinct to give in to it. If you have children in the vehicle with you, think about how they are going to perceive the situation if they witness their guardian and protector coming apart at the seams. The very last thing you will need to be dealing with is panicking children at a time like this, so keep it together.

Assess the Injuries in Your Car

Assess the injures of everyone in your vehicle and call 911 if anyone needs immediate medical assistance. Time is of the essence when it comes to traumatic injuries. The sooner you summon first responders, the better the chances of recovery for any injured people in your vehicle. If you and your passengers are alright, your next thoughts should be on how to stay that way.

Assess the Scene of the Accident

To assess the scene of an accident, you must quickly address several questions.

  • Are you in traffic? If your vehicle is drivable, the city of Houston requires you to "Steer it and Clear it". According to Texas Transportation Code Chapter 550.022, if you are involved in a motor vehicle crash on the "main lane, ramp, shoulder, median, or adjacent area of a freeway in a metropolitan area" with no apparent serious personal injury or death, the driver of each vehicle involved is required to remove their vehicle from the roadway.
  • Do you need to turn on emergency flashers? It would be good to err on the side of caution and use your emergency flashers if your vehicle will be stationary in a lane of traffic or pulled onto the median of the road.
  • Can you Exit the vehicle safely? You want to make your car as visible as possible and make sure you are aware of all approaching traffic before exiting the vehicle. An accident that could have been minor fender bender becomes a major accident when someone exits a vehicle when it is unsafe to do so and gets hit as a pedestrian by an unsuspecting driver.

Assess the Injures in the Other Car

If you can see the other vehicle from your vehicle after the accident, you may be able to tell whether they need emergency assistance as well. If the other vehicles occupants are obviously in need of emergency medical assistance, then summon first responders by dialing 911. Keep in mind, it is important that you assess injuries of the occupants of other vehicles involved, however do not attempt to exit your vehicle and check on others unless you are sure it is safe to do so.

Move it to a Safe Area

If the vehicles can be moved to a shoulder, parking lot, side road, or other safe area then you should do so as previously mentioned. If any of the damaged vehicles cannot be moved, contact the police or other emergency services, and move to a safe distance from the crash site until help arrives to assist in removing the wrecked vehicles from the crash site.

Call the Police

No matter how slight the damage may appear, you should always notify the police so they can complete an accident report. The accident report is a critical document for the insurance company and your attorney in the event you go to court. Approximately 50% of the drivers in the Houston area have no insurance, expired insurance, fake insurance, or are excluded from the policy they may show you at the accident scene. Additionally, all too often people change their story when they talk to your insurance company after the accident and there is no established record to refer to. Getting an accident report will help your insurance company identify the person responsible for the accident and get an accurate version of what transpired.

Pictures! Pictures! Take a lot of Pictures!

Use your smartphone to take pictures of everything that has to do with the accident scene including:

  • The damage to your vehicle. Make sure to take pictures from different angles.
  • The damage to the other vehicles involved in the accident. This is important for claim information as your insurance company may ask you for them.
  • The other driver(s) driver's license and insurance card.
  • Take pictures of the intersection or the scene of the accident itself. These pictures will assist in piecing together the chain of events that led to the collision. Also make sure to note if the roads were wet, slick from oil residue, or if anything unusual about the location is worth mentioning.
  • Take pictures of the license plates of all vehicles that were involved in the collision and any license plates for vehicles of potential witnesses to the accident.
  • Take pictures of the tow truck driver's business card and company information.
  • Take a picture of the police officer's card and/or badge number and get their name(s).
  • Take pictures of any witnesses to accident and make sure to get their contact information.

In order to remain safe, please do not enter into traffic to take photos of the accident scene or the damaged vehicles. Make sure you are on the curb or shoulder in a safe place before taking photos.

Consider a Visit to Your Doctor

It is not uncommon to feel "fine" after a minor collision only to find out latent injuries were masked by adrenaline. Often after an auto accident, our bodies have pumped so much adrenaline into our bloodstream that we will not feel the full effects of the injuries until the adrenaline has worked its way out of our system. Injuries like whiplash and mild concussions can seem like soreness and headaches at the onset. If you are experiencing any discomfort, you would be wise to get checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible.

Should You Consult an Accident Attorney After an Auto Accident?

If the accident was not your fault and you suffered injuries, or liability is likely to be disputed, it would be wise to get a free consultation with a car accident lawyer. The role of the insurance company for the other driver is to protect their insured customer, not necessarily look out for your benefit. Remember, the insurance company is in business to make money like any other business. If they can retain their money by getting you to accept a minimal offer for your injuries, then they count that as a win.

If the accident was your fault, your insurance company is obligated to provide you with a legal defense if necessary. You may also have some limited personal injury protection benefits that apply regardless of who is at fault that you can apply for to reimburse initial medical expenses and health insurance deductibles.

Accidents Happen

The more time you spend on the road, the more likely it is that you will eventually be involved in an auto accident. If that happens to you, remember to stay calm, be prepared, and always put safety first.

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