During 2015, Colorado had approximately 3,217 traffic accidents that resulted in severe injuries and 547 with fatalities. Unfortunately, in 2016 the volume of fatal accidents rose by roughly 10% to 608. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that over $100 million is spent just in medical costs resulting from accident injuries and fatalities in Colorado. State agencies including the Colorado Department of Transportation and Colorado State Patrol are currently tasked with improving roadway safety. Being involved in a traffic accident can be traumatic, particularly when injuries and property damage occur. Here, we will address the best practices for motorists to follow after being involved in an automobile accident.
Initial Injury Assessment & Vehicle Positioning
The moments immediately following an auto accident are critical. It is important to breathe deeply and try to remain calm despite the circumstances. Assess how your body feels to determine if you are injured. Keep in mind not to underestimate what seems initially to be simply a minor injury, as adrenaline at the time may partially reduce the feelings of pain. If you have passengers, check on their injury status.
It is best to move your vehicle out of the road if possible, to an area away from traffic and activate your hazard lights, use road flares or position cones to warn oncoming traffic. Remember that you must remain near the scene of the accident, failing to do so can be deemed as a potential criminal charge for fleeing the scene.
Contact Authorities & Tend to the Injured
Even if the injuries or damage are not extremely severe, it is best to contact law enforcement and/or emergency medical responders as soon as possible. If you are injured you should remain calm and wait for the paramedics. You may assist with making others who are injured more comfortable and attempt to aid them physically if trained to do so. Be careful not to move those who potentially have injuries to the neck or back regions, as that may worsen their condition.
Gather Relevant Information
If you are not injured, now is the time to begin analyzing and documenting the many details of the accident scene. Gather the name, contact information, driver's license number and license plate number of other drivers that were involved. In addition, gather basic information about passengers that were involved. Avoid making any statements acknowledging responsibility of fault at the scene—this will not benefit you. Speak to witnesses that may have been on the scene to obtain their account of the incident. Take pictures of vehicle damages, the conditions at the scene, and any visible injuries. Take notes of your estimated speed at the time, weather conditions or other details that you recall. Ask the police for a copy of the accident report or where to obtain one later.
Retain Information & Contact Insurer
Call your auto insurance provider when possible to notify them of the accident and the details. This may also be a good time to review the details of your policy, such as coverage limits, deductible(s) and other relevant information. Maintain a centrally-located file with all related information about the accident. If you undergo medical treatment, retain any bills, diagnosis reports, medications prescribed etc. If you are physically unable to work or participate in routine activities, make detailed notes that you can refer to later on.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
If there were moderate to severe injuries or property damage you will want to consult with a lawyer that is experienced in auto accident cases. Avoid accepting or responding to any settlement offers from other insurance companies prior to meeting with an attorney. In most cases, the lawyer will accept your case on a contingency basis, meaning that you do not have to pay “out of pocket” legal fees until you receive compensation such as from a settlement or verdict in the matter. An experienced injury attorney will advocate for your best interests and work to be sure you are treated fairly in accordance with the law.
Above all, after a car accident, you want to make sure you and any other persons are safe. From that point forward, you can take other steps that will help secure compensation for you if your vehicle was damaged and/or you sustained any bodily injuries. If the latter is true, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to learn about your rights.