An automobile accident can be a traumatic and distressing event in your life. Persons can react with a variety of emotions including anger, shock or panic. In order to avoid damaging any potential legal claims, it is important to remember to remain calm and follow these guidelines:
- Stop and call the police immediately. Too often persons are tempted to handle the accident without the intervention of the police. This can be a costly mistake. Even for minor accidents it is best to have the police come to the scene. If you leave the scene of the accident, even if you believe that there were no injuries or property damage, you may be charged with leaving the scene.
- Write down the names, addresses, telephone numbers and driver's license numbers of all person involved in the accident. Also, it is important to write down the license plate number and the insurance information for each vehicle, including the name of the insurance company and the policy number. Keep a pen and piece of paper handy in your glove compartment at all times, otherwise, you will be scrambling to find paper and pen when an accident happens.
- Do not admit fault in the accident. Drivers have been known to admit fault or apologize for causing an accident that really wasn't his / her fault. Also, do not offer to pay money. This may seriously impair your legal rights and can be a costly mistake in the long run. Certainly you can speak to other persons involved and find out if they need medical attention.
- Do not discuss the accident with anyone except for the police, your insurance agent, and your lawyer.
- Seek medical attention if it is warranted. If you are injured in any way it is best to see a doctor immediately. You may not know the extent of your injuries at the scene of the accident and failure to report injuries immediately may create difficulty in securing payment of your medical bills.
- Call your insurance agent as soon as possible. Your insurance company in most cases will be responsible for payment of your medical bills under the New Jersey No Fault Law. Also, your insurance company may process a claim for property damage on your behalf if you have collision coverage. Finally, if a claim is made against you for property damage or personal injury by any other party involved, your insurance company will in most cases be handling the case for you and assigning an attorney to defend you.
- Call a lawyer. If you are seriously injured or if your claim is complicated by liability issues or serious injuries to another person, you should seriously consider consultation with an attorney. Except for the simplest of property damage claims, an attorney is often needed to explain legal rights under the automobile insurance policy. This includes uninsured and underinsured motorist rights, medical benefit claims, motor vehicle violations, and the statute of limitations that may apply to you and other persons involved in the accident.