The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates there are more than 6 million passenger car accidents and another 4 million light truck accidents annually. In light of these statistics, drivers seem to have a false sense of security on the road today: vehicles are increasingly comfortable with many enhanced safety features, offering a feeling of safety. The reality is that each day accidents lead to property damage, injuries, and fatalities. Being prepared with the knowledge of how to proceed after an accident is critical to potentially save lives, limit injuries and make the claims process more efficient.
Traffic accidents where there is a loss of life are particularly devastating. Fatal accidents can be grouped into two general categories: sudden death or eventual death. In sudden death accidents, an occupant of a vehicle is killed instantly by the severity of the crash, which are most common when high speeds or larger vehicles are involved. Eventual death accidents are those where a party incurs injuries that are severe in nature and that lead to death at a later time.
What to Do: After an Accident
The most critical consideration following a crash is the safety of those involved. Getting prompt medical attention for the injured is the primary concern. Other important practices include the following:
- If possible, position your vehicle in a safe location that is not obstructing traffic to determine the severity of the damage.
- Always contact law enforcement and medical responders as needed in the event of a moderate or severe accident.
- Begin to gather all relevant data and details relating to injuries, those present, the conditions etc.
- Note the names or badge number of the responding officers and determine the procedure for obtaining an accident report.
- Note the names, contact and insurance information of the other driver(s) involved—do not discuss fault.
- Try to obtain contact information from witnesses at the scene—you can follow up with them later.
- Document the precise location, as well as current roadway and weather conditions at the scene.
- Use the camera on your mobile phone for photos of the scene, damages and injuries incurred.
- Seek medical attention promptly, even if you feel that your injuries are minor.
What to Do: Contacting Insurance
Drivers should promptly contact their auto insurance company. Many insurers now have web-based or mobile device apps to begin the claims process, check the status of a claim, coordinate a rental vehicle, etc. Take the time to verify that the insurer has all contact information accurately noted to avoid unneeded delays. You should keep all information relating to the incident in a central location.
Ken Gonyea, an accident investigations detective, explained in an edmunds article some aspects of the accident investigation process. He has assessed fatal accident scenes on many occasions. Often some of his findings will be used in criminal prosecution as well as civil litigation. He explains that in instances of fatal accidents, lawsuits are extremely common. Generally, the scene is roped or taped off in some fashion to secure the evidence to be gathered. Skid marks are often critical evidence of these accidents because they may be used to gauge speed and braking distances. Those involved in serious auto accidents may benefit from a consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Those who investigate the scene may consider the actions of the drivers and local traffic laws in making an assessment regarding fault in the accident. Between 2013 and 2016, the number of fatal crashes in Colorado rose by 40%. Distracted driving has become a leading cause of accidents recently, largely due to driver usage of a mobile device. Driving while intoxicated remains a serious cause of accidents across the state and marijuana usage has further emerged. Between 2013 and 2015, the presence of alcohol among drivers involved in fatal accidents rose by 17%. Similarly, the number of drivers who tested positive for marijuana has increased by over 140%. This may be partially due to increased rates of testing for marijuana since the state passed legalization.
In the next segment, we discuss crash scams, which happen more than what you may think.