According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 40,000 people die on our nation’s roadways and hundreds of thousands are seriously injured every year. Many of these people are victims of someone else’s negligence.
After an incident of this nature, your life can become very complicated very quickly. You likely have questions about your injuries, how to pay your medical bills, and how to get your car repaired. And, you’re probably overwhelmed about talking to police, dealing with insurance adjusters, and filing your claim, never mind that you’re trying to recover from your injuries and get back to work!
No one wants to believe they will ever find themselves in this position, but having some knowledge about what to do if you are in an accident can go a long way toward making the aftermath easier.
That’s why we decided to put a few useful tips and a plan of action together to help you out. But first, let’s answer some frequently asked questions.
Do I have to stop if I am in an auto accident?
Yes. The law says you must always stop. It doesn’t matter if the accident involves a pedestrian, a moving car, a parked car or someone’s property. You can be charged with a “hit and run” if you drive away, even if the accident is not your fault.
The penalties for hit and run are severe. You may be given a large fine and/or sent to jail, depending on the amount of damage. You also could lose your driver’s license.
Try to find the driver if you hit a parked car. If you cannot, the law says you may drive away only after you leave behind a note, to include your name, address and an explanation of the accident and you must notify the police as soon as possible.
You must always call the police if the accident caused an injury or death. An officer who comes to the scene of the Seattle auto accident will make a report. If an officer does not show up, you must make a written report on a form available at the police department or Washington State Patrol office.
If someone is injured, what should I do?
According to the law, you must give reasonable assistance to injured persons. For example, you might need to call an ambulance or give first aid if you know how.
You also need to make every attempt to avoid additional collisions. Try to warn other motorists that an accident has happened. Turning on your car’s hazard lights, lifting the engine hood, or placing flares on the road, are good ways to warn oncoming traffic.
What information should be gathered at the scene of the accident?
Be sure to get as much correct and complete information as you can at the scene of the accident. For that to happen, have an emergency kit ready.
Keep the following items in your glove compartment in the event of a car crash
- a flashlight, disposable camera, emergency flares, set of cones, notepad, pen and batteries. Also carry a card with medical information about allergies and any pre-existing health conditions of which physicians should be aware, and keep a list of emergency contact numbers for law enforcement agencies.
You and the other driver should show each other your driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations. You should always record:
- The other driver’s name, address, date of birth, telephone number, driver’s license number and expiration date, and insurance company.
- The other car’s make, year, model, license plate number and expiration date, and vehicle identification number.
- The names, addresses, telephone numbers and insurance companies of the other car’s legal and registered owners if the driver does not own the car.
- The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any passengers in the other car.
- The names, addresses and telephone numbers of witnesses to the accident. Ask them to stay to talk to the Washington State Patrol or police. If they insist on leaving, ask them to tell you what they saw and write everything down. Try to identify people at the accident scene, even if they will not give their names. For example, if a man who saw the accident drives off, take down his license plate number. Law enforcement officials can trace the owner’s name and address.
- The name and badge number of the law officer who comes to the accident scene. Ask the officer where and when you can get a copy of the accident report.
- A simple diagram of the accident. Draw the positions of both cars before, during and after the accident. If there are skid marks on the road, pace them off. Draw them on the diagram, noting the distance they cover. Mark the positions of any crosswalks, stop signs, traffic lights or street lights. If you have a camera with you, take pictures of the scene.
If possible, take notes on weather and road conditions. If the accident happened after dark, note whether or not street lights were on. Estimate your speed and the other driver’s. Be sure to note the exact time and place the accident happened.
Should I admit guilt if the accident was my fault?
You may think you are to blame, but then learn that the other driver is as much or more at fault than you are. So do not volunteer any information about whose fault the accident was. You should talk to your insurance agent, your Seattle automobile accident lawyer or both before taking the blame. Remember that anything you say to the police or the other driver can be used against you later. Also, do not agree to pay for damages or sign any paper until you check with your insurance company or lawyer.
You must, however, cooperate with the police officer investigating the case.
What happens if I get a ticket?
If you get a ticket, you should sign it. A ticket is not ad admission of your guilt or innocence. Your signature is your agreement to appear in court. You can be arrested if you do not sign the ticket.
After signing the ticket, you might want to talk with your Tacoma motor vehicle accident lawyer before you pay a fine or plead guilty to the charges. It may be possible to attend traffic school instead. Pleading guilty may hurt your chances of collecting damages from the other driver later. Or, you may help the other driver to collect damages from you.
Drunk driving – Driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher (0.02% if you are under 18) is illegal, and penalties for drunk driving in Washington State are severe.
Seat belts – You can be pulled over and ticketed by the police if you or your passengers are not wearing seat belts. Children below a certain height, age or weight must be in approved booster or car seats.
Should I see a doctor after the accident?
A visit with your doctor may be a good idea for both you and your passengers. It’s possible you could be injured and not know it right away. At least call your doctor or another health care provider for help in deciding what your needs may be.
Your automobile insurance may pay your health care bills.
Do I have to notify anyone of the accident?
You must first notify the police after the accident.
Then, report the accident to your insurance company. Your agent will need to tell you what forms you should fill out and to help you make other necessary reports on the accident.
Then, you and the other driver must report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles within l0 days if:
- the damage to either car is more than $500; or
- anyone is injured or killed in the accident.
Get an SR-l Report of Traffic Accident form from your local DMV office, police or insurance company.
If I am injured or my car is damaged, who pays the bills?
That depends on who is at fault, whether you and the other driver have insurance and what kind of insurance you have. There are two major types of insurance: “liability” and “collision.”
Liability – If you are to blame for an accident, your liability insurance will pay the other driver for property damage and personal injuries up to your policy’s limits.
If you are not at fault, the other driver’s liability insurance pays for your car damage and/or personal injuries.
If you loan your car to someone who has an accident, your insurance pays for the damages, just as it would if you had been driving.
Collision – No matter who is at fault, your collision insurance pays for damages to your car (not your medical expenses), minus the policy deductible. Most insurance companies do not offer collision coverage for very old cars.
You may have other insurance too. Your health insurance, for example, may pay your medical bills. Also, your automobile insurance may have medical payments coverage. If so, it will pay the cost of your medical treatment. This coverage can be used in place of your other health insurance or in addition to it.
What if the other driver is not insured?
If the other driver caused the accident and is not insured, your own policy will pay for your personal injuries if you have “uninsured motorist” or “medical payments” coverage. If the other driver’s insurance is not enough to pay for all of your damages, your own insurance may pay the difference-if you have “underinsured motorist” coverage.
If you do not have these kinds of insurance or if your damages are more than the policy’s limit, you can sue the other driver. However, even if you win the case, you cannot be sure that the other driver has the money to pay.
If you have collision insurance, it will pay for damage to your car, no matter who is at fault.
Can I be sued?
Yes. Immediately after an accident, you should contact your insurance agent and/or your lawyer.
How do I make a claim for my injuries?
You may be entitled to compensation for your personal injuries, pain and suffering, car damage and other expenses, such as lost wages or the cost of a nurse needed after the accident if the other driver was at fault. You should make a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. But, if you are not satisfied with the amount they offer, you may want to sue.
Do not delay if you plan to sue. There are time limits for filing various types of claims, usually three years after the accident, but sometimes less.
Most accidents involve automobiles, motorcycles, slip and fall incidents, and defective products. Bernard Law Group also handles cases of wrongful death in Washington. Those are cases in which a person has died due to the fault of another.
The amount of the fee is a prearranged percentage of the recovery. There is no retainer fee, no fee for the initial consultation and no fee for helping clients settle a claim for damage to their vehicle. All fee arrangements are made in writing. Many expenses are incurred in the handling of a personal injury case. Those expenses include such items as the investigation, obtaining medical records and doctor reports, and court filing fees. Our office advances all expenses on behalf of the client.
What is the procedure for handling a case?
Bernard Law Group has the resources to fight any insurance company or large corporation. We work on a contingency fee basis. A contingency fee means we only obtain a fee if we make a recovery. If we do not win the case or make a recovery our clients owe us no fees or costs.
With decades of experience and a highly trained staff of trial attorneys, paralegals and investigators, we at Bernard Law Group have the expertise and ample resources to successfully research, investigate and litigate all of our clients’ Seattle personal injury claims no matter what. We obtain the best results possible for our clients. We can help you immediately. All email and form submissions will be responded to by a qualified member of our firm within 24 hours.
Things to Remember While Driving
Protect Yourself And Others:
- Drive defensively.
- Don’t drive after drinking.
- Make sure you and your passengers wear seatbelts.
- Have adequate insurance coverage.
If An Accident Happens:
- Help or get help for injured people.
- Warn other motorists (use flares, hazard lights).
- Call 911 to contact the police or Washington State Patrol if an injury or death occurs.
- Take notes on the accident and write down information about the other driver and car, witnesses, passengers, accident location and more.
- Cooperate fully with law officers, but speak with your insurance agent and/or Washington car accident lawyer before accepting any blame.
After An Accident:
- Call or see your physician.
- Report the accident to your insurance company.
- Make a claim with your insurance company and/or the other driver’s to pay for your injuries and losses.
- Contact Bernard Law Group at 1-800-418-8282 if you want to make a claim.
Get Professional Help After an Accident Based in Bellevue, Olympia, and Spokane
The guidance of an experienced lawyer can be invaluable in the aftermath of an accident, especially one that involves injuries. If you or a loved one has been involved in such an incident, please contact the Bernard Law Group to obtain comprehensive information about your legal rights and options.
IF YOU, OR A LOVED ONE, HAVE BEEN SERIOUSLY INJURED IN A CAR ACCIDENT IN WASHINGTON – CALL TODAY FOR A FREE CONSULTATION!