What You Should Do If Involved In An Accident
If you are ever involved in an automobile accident, you should remain calm/don’t apologize/ and call the police. The act of remaining calm is very difficult when involved in a car accident as it can be such a traumatic event, but getting upset is only going to compound the problem and cloud your thinking, thus causing you to make potential mistakes in the gathering of evidence at the scene. Staying calm will allow you to remember important information later, after the scare of the accident is over, when you need that information to process your claim.
I know when many of you read the second rule “don’t apologize,” you probably wondered how I could be so callous, but remember, I have practiced in the past as an insurance defense attorney and for the last 22 years as a plaintiff’s attorney and it has been my experience that the immediate goodwill you might feel at the time of the apology is far outweighed later by the actual liability facts of the case. When an accident happens, it is our tendency as decent human beings to want to apologize for the mere fact that we were involved in the accident with someone else, and oftentimes the apology has no bearing on whether we actually believe we have any fault in the situation. The other party’s insurance company, and if the case goes to court, the insurance defense attorney will love to have your apology as an admission of fault to prove liability for the accident against you. Furthermore, Florida is a comparative fault state, meaning fault can be found to lie with more than one person in an accident even if one party might have the higher percentage of fault, thus potentially diminishing your damage claim by the percentage of fault attributed to you. So don’t let your mere act of kindness become a sword used by the other party against you to attack your claim when it might not have been your fault at all. Let the experts determine fault based on the evidence gathered after the accident, it is a much more reliable way to determine liability than a kind statement made at the scene.
Calling the police to the scene to investigate the accident seems like such a simple suggestion, that you wouldn’t think I would need to mention it. However, it is not as simple as it seems. First, law enforcement might try to discourage you from having them come to the scene, especially if it does not appear anyone is terribly injured, but insist that they do so. The police are experienced in investigating accidents and will gather evidence that you might not even think of that could be crucial to your case. They will also take a statement from the parties involved, and thereafter make a determination of fault, thus helping you or your counsel later in the proof of your case.
Additionally, if the other party begs you to not call the police and agrees to give you their insurance information or just pay for the damages themselves, don’t go down this path. Call the police and let them handle the matter. There have been too many cases that we have handled where the person gave incorrect or false insurance and identifying information at the scene which later could not be found or verified, or they changed the statement they gave to our client and gave one to their insurance company that accused our client of fault. As the old adage says, “the road to ruin is paved with good intentions”. Do not feel badly about calling the police to investigate even if the other party begs you not to do so, if you don’t you will likely be the one to pay for that act of kindness later.
Additionally, use your cell phone as your best tool to gather evidence at the scene. Take pictures of everything. The damage to both vehicles, the scene of the accident, documenting the condition of the area where the accident happened, the location of the vehicles and any debris left on the roadway after the collision. Take a picture of the tag of the other vehicle in case the vehicle tries to leave the scene before law enforcement gets there and take pictures of all witnesses’ vehicle tags. Also take a picture of the other party as well as their driver’s license and insurance information in case they leave before law enforcement arrives.
Document all witnesses at the scene too, obtaining their contact information as oftentimes they leave the scene before law enforcement arrives, or they just don’t get interviewed by the police and therefore their potential valuable information is lost forever.
Following the accident, seek medical attention at a walk in clinic or with your general practitioner, unless your condition is serious enough to go to the emergency room and then we recommend you do that immediately. If you would like a copy of our Glove Box Accident Guide which covers all this information and can hold your insurance card and vehicle registration together in the same packet so it is easily accessible if you’re ever involved in an accident, please feel free to contact us and we will gladly send you as many as you wish for future reference.