What to do at the scene of the accident
Check on the health and safety of everyone involved
The very first thing to do after any type of auto accident is to take a moment and, to the best of your ability, check yourself for injuries. You may be seriously injured and not realize it due to things like shock and confusion. Then, if it is safe to do so, check on the other people involved in the crash, starting with those in your vehicle. Before checking on any other vehicles and their passengers, please ensure it is safe to exit your vehicle. If there are oncoming vehicles, it may be safer to stay in your car and call 911 from your car. If it is safe to get out, make sure your vehicle is turned off and your hazard lights are on. It is also important to check the vehicles involved to see if they are at risk being involved in a secondary or subsequent wreck. This typically occurs when the vehicles involved in the initial wreck come to rest while still in a busy roadway. It is also important to check the involved vehicles for signs of other immediate dangers, such as a fire. Of course, the next best steps to take will depend on the unique circumstances of each particular crash.
Once you are satisfied that the people involved in the accident are not at risk of further injury, attempt to determine if they are in need of emergency first aid. However, authorities on the issue often advise against moving accident victims unless there is an immediate need to do so. For more detailed guidance on how to render first aid in an emergency, please see the American Red Cross’. It is important to note that Texas law provides protections to those who render aid in an emergency known as Good Samaritan laws. The language of the law itself is available here.
Call the police
Always call the police after an accident. Even if you think the accident was minor, the damage to the vehicles involved and to the people involved can be and, unfortunately, often is far worse than it initially appears. Moreover, Texas law actually requires drivers involved in a vehicle crash with over $1,000 of damage to a car or any injuries to report the accident to the police. This is true even if the car accident is just a fender bender and any injuries appear minor. It is also true even if the other driver admits they were at fault. Unfortunately, it is common for a driver to admit fault at the scene and then change their story when discussing the crash with their insurance company. A police report can be very helpful in establishing what happened, who is responsible, and the contact information for any witnesses and, without a report, it may be your word against theirs.
Do not let anyone talk you out of calling the police
Often, the person responsible for the crash will try to talk the other driver out of calling the police. They may offer to pay to have the other vehicle repaired, offer cash, or act like calling the police is not needed. This is especially true when the damage to either or both cars appears to be minor. The other driver may even say that the police will not respond or that calling the police is overreacting – call the police anyway. Again, it is not uncommon for the person who caused the car accident to turn around and say that they were not at fault once they have left the scene.
If you were recently involved in a car accident and the police were called, you can find more information on how to obtain the police report in our blog
If you were hurt, seek medical treatment
If you believe that you or someone else may have been hurt, you should always request medical assistance. This is true even if injuries seem minor. Misjudging the severity of an accident-related injury is common because the confusion and adrenaline that often occur after a crash. Even once the adrenaline and confusion wear off, many common types of injuries sustained in car accidents may not be felt for hours or even days. This is common with injuries that typically result from a car accident, such as injuries to the neck and back. Seeking immediate medical care and letting a doctor or other medical professional assess the extent of your injuries is the only way to know how injured you really are. Again, your injuries may be worse than you think. And leaving the scene with having them evaluated could put you at risk of severe complications. Also, if you delay in seeking medical treatment, the other driver’s insurance company may try to take advantage of your attempt to let the injuries resolve on their own. They often claim people who wait to get treatment were not really hurt.
Once you have checked on everyone involved, called the police, and requested any needed medical assistance, the next step is to gather information and evidence. If it is safe to do so, take photos and video of the accident. The photos and video should try to capture the entire scene of the accident if possible. This may require that they be taken from a distance. Ideally, the photos and/or video would show the vehicles involved as well the area immediately surrounding the crash. If possible, it is also helpful to document the vehicles involved and the damage they sustained. Images of the vehicle in its entirety as well as close up images of all the damage they sustained is ideal. It is also important to capture images of anything else that may have been involved in the crash. For example, if there was road construction at or near the crash site. It may have played a role in the crash and having images of the state of the cones and other traffic control devices can be critical. Especially considering that they are moved on an almost daily basis.
Talk to any witnesses. If there are bystanders, ask if they witnessed the car crash. If they did, ask for their contact information. If a police officer has already arrived at the accident scene, you should also notify the officer of any potential witnesses. The officer can then include their name and contact information in the police report. Also, ask the names of any responding officers, what the event number is for the accident, and ask when a copy of the police report will be available.
Do Not Take Responsibility for the Crash
When speaking with the other driver, or anyone else at the scene, do not apologize. A lot of people apologize as a natural response to a car accident, often meaning that they are simply sorry that the car wreck occurred. However, the other driver and their insurance company may attempt to use this polite response as an admission that you caused the wreck.
It is also best to avoid discussing liability with anyone at the scene. While you will need to carefully describe what happened to the police officer, you should avoid discussing the crash and who is responsible with the other driver or anyone else at the scene. Also, do not admit fault. Even if you are unsure and if the other driver accuses you of being responsible, do not be pressured into admitting fault. The cause of the car accident can be very complicated, and the liable party may not be who it first appears.
If you are still at the scene of a car accident and have questions, please feel free to call us. The team at Sandoval & James is here to assist you, (512) 382-7707. Consultations are completely free.