Steps to Take after Being in a Car Accident in Newfoundland
Car accidents can happen in a matter of seconds. One moment, you are driving along and the next moment, you are at a standstill, in agonizing pain, trying to piece together what just happened. A collision can cause serious injury, significant stress, expense, and unwanted time off work. The responsibility for the collision and extent of your injuries will need to be determined in order to arrive at whether you have a personal injury case for compensation. In order to ensure that your legal interests are protected, there are certain steps you should take after being in a car accident.
1. Safety First
Immediately after the collision, observe the injuries that you and your passengers may have. Drive your vehicle to the side of the road if it is possible, or get out of the vehicle and go to the side of the road, unless moving would further compromise safety. Do not move yourself or anyone experiencing neck or back pain – instead call for help. Check to see if any other drivers or passengers are injured. Phone 911 or ask someone to phone for you if an ambulance is needed.
If possible, place warning signs or road flares out to create a safe zone around the site, especially if the accident occurred at night or during inclement weather.
2. Call the Police
Dispatching police to the accident scene will help to ensure the safety of those involved in the accident. The police can also direct traffic around the accident (if applicable) where necessary. The police will investigate, decide whether to lay charges, and prepare a report that documents the facts (e.g., weather, road conditions, location, time of day) and witness statements. Obtain the name and badge number of the investigating officer for your records.
If you leave the accident scene without contacting police, then you must go to your local police collision centre to file a report as soon as possible.
You have a duty to share insurance information with the other driver(s). Try to obtain:
3. Exchange Insurance Information
- Names, addresses, phone numbers, and driver’s licenses of all drivers, regardless of who is at fault
- Names and contact information of all witnesses
- Insurance details of the drivers and the registered owner names for all vehicles involved
- Make, model, year, and license plate number of all vehicles involved
If you exchange cell phone numbers, call the other driver while at the accident to ensure that the phone number you have is correct
4. Don’t Incriminate Yourself or Otherwise Cause Harm to Your CaseThere are some things you should not do after a car accident. For example,
- Don’t move an injured person. Wait for trained paramedics to arrive at the scene.
- Don’t admit fault or blame or cast blame on the other driver(s).
- Don’t discuss the accident, and instead, limit what you say. Your statements at the accident scene may be used against you later.
- Don’t discuss payment with another driver or accept an offer or sign anything.
5. Do Make Your Own Accident RecordYou should not rely on the police to record all the relevant information correctly. Having your own notes if made at the scene or shortly afterwards will be of assistance later on in the process when you are trying to recall what happened. If charges are laid and the accused disputes the charges, you may not be able to obtain a copy of the police report until the matter has been dealt with in court. Here are some other tips:
- Do note the date, time, and location of the collision, and what was said and by whom.
- Do note the condition of the drivers and passengers (if any) and their names and the injuries that each injured person sustained, including yours.
- Do note the extent of damage to the vehicles and your description of what you saw happen before, during, and after the accident.
- Do take photos of:
- The damage to both vehicles, from different angles and distances.
- The geographic location of the accident, including nearby traffic signs.
- The road conditions (e.g., dry or wet roads, paved roads or gravel, any debris, or potholes).
- Whether skid marks occurred.
- The weather conditions and driving visibility (e.g., rain, snow, sleet, fog, cloudy, sunshine).
- Visible injuries to all parties involved and where you feel pain.
- Driver’s license and insurance policy of the other driver(s) if possible.
If you do not have a camera with you or cannot take photos at the time due to your injuries, then go back to the accident scene as soon as possible to take photos or ask a family member to take them for you. Photos are an excellent way to provide objective evidence for your case. You should create a back-up and provide a copy of the pictures to your lawyer.
6. Visit Your Doctor
Visit your family doctor as soon as possible after the car accident to document your accident injuries, as this can be very important for your recovery and for your car accident case. Briefly explain all your injuries and see that your doctor records each item, including the location of any soreness or stiffness. Car accidents do not necessarily leave visible scars and the pain is not always felt immediately, but it can show up later (e.g., in whiplash and brain injuries).
7. Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer If You Sustained Injuries
A lawyer can assess your case and help you to access the accident benefits you are entitled to. Your lawyer can report the accident to the insurance company on your behalf. This way, you will not give information that the insurance company can later use against you. Having your lawyer contact the insurance also makes it clear to the adjuster that you have retained counsel, so he or she should contact your lawyer to communicate to you.
8. Contact Gittens & Associates
If you have been injured in a car accident, contact us at Gittens & Associates Barristers, Solicitors, Notaries in St. John’s. Our personal injury lawyers in Newfoundland can review the particulars of your case to determine if you should be compensated for your injuries. An awareness of how to respond at the accident scene can help you to protect yourself legally. At Gittens & Associates, we look out for your legal interests. Call us today at 1-888-592-7171.