7 Things Not to Do After a Car Crash
Nationally, there were an estimated 40,000 deaths and 4.5 million serious injuries in car accidents in 2018, which saw a 1 percent decline from 2017 statistics. In Texas, there were 3,639 deaths and 12,161 injuries, and residents experienced a year-over-year decline of 5.84%. While these numbers are good news for drivers, the number of deaths and accidents still reflect the high likelihood that you, loved ones or friends will be involved in auto accidents. Here are seven things not to do after a car crash that help drivers avoid any legal or financial liabilities.
1. Do Not Leave the Accident Scene
A great tip from the Seerden Law Firm website is never to leave the scene of an auto accident, whether you don’t have insurance or can’t locate a driver after clipping a side mirror. With the number of cameras and witnesses likely to see you, you will be blamed even if you were not liable as you are not there to dispute the other driver or evidence.
Under the Texas law, Failure to Give Information or Render Aid, all drivers in accidents must stop when there is property damage, personal injury or death. Even a minor accident could lead to a misdemeanor charge. As of 2013, Texas increased penalties to a felony if a fatality occurs, which rivals the penalties for intoxicated manslaughter.
While the goal of this statute is to reduce drunk drivers on the roads and save lives, there are some legal exemptions. A driver must know he or she was involved in a crash. A driver may not realize there was property damage. If a driver had a tire blowout while driving, he would not be required to call 911 if he believed no property damage occurred.
While there are exemptions, it is always best to stop and make inquiries because, at the least, you should maintain proper driver etiquette. Be courteous and see if the other driver needs help. Even if no property damage occurs, the other driver may be shaken up, and it helps to hear another offer assistance or to call someone else to the scene.
2. Do Not Remain in the Flow of Traffic
Drivers tend to go into fight or flight mode when unexpected things happen, so it is not uncommon to jump out of the car to ask about the other driver or start documenting the scene. It is safer to move your vehicle out of the flow of traffic. You can take your smartphone and document the accident and positioning from inside your vehicle. Then, move both automobiles to the side of the road, well out of the way of the closest traffic before you get out and document the scene, check on the other driver and call 911.
3. Don’t Accept Legal Responsibility
Never accept liability for the accident. You should also not apologize as it can legally be an acknowledgment of responsibility. Let the police father the evidence, take statements and make a professional opinion about what caused the accident. Never start any sentence with, “I think,” or “it’s possible.” Make factual statements and, if you are not sure or feel hesitant to answer, let an officer know you are uncertain of the situation.
4. Don’t Forget to Call the Police
Don’t forget to call the police to the accident scene. Even if the other driver wants to avoid calling the police, you should still call 911 to report an accident because most injuries become worse over time and drivers can deny responsibility, which would leave you financially culpable for their losses. You will have missed the only opportunity for an officer to investigate and gather factual evidence. Once you forego the legal process, it is your word against the other driver, so it will be difficult to prove one way or the other. You will also avoid the legal implications from Failure to Give Information Or Render Aid law.
5. Don’t Forget to Document the Scene
Accidents tend to be emotionally draining on some drivers, so you may not react as you usually would under less trying circumstances. One thing you will not want to forget is to document the scene so that you have the evidence to legally and financially protect yourself in case the other driver’s statement denies responsibility. If you believe you are liable, it is also possible the other driver has some responsibility for the accident. Take photos from the driver’s seat to show vehicle positioning before moving to the side of the road and documenting the scene more thoroughly, including property damage and driver well-being. Photographs will help reconstruct the accident and prove who is liable.
6. Do Not Assume When It Comes to Injuries
Lots of drivers who experience minor injuries on the scene later find that they received more severe injuries when their aches become more noticeable and require medical intervention. When small injuries go untreated, they potentially will become debilitating. If you have any symptoms, it is best to get a check-up to avoid long-term complications.
7. Don’t Forget Legal Representation If Found Liable
If you find that you are facing legal or financial culpability, most especially if a person received a severe injury or death, never try to handle it on your own. Call our office to utilize our expertise so that you are represented legally. Car crash evidence and witness statements often need to be re-evaluated when they do not fit the gathered evidence.
Drivers should be aware that the statute of limitations for property damage, personal injury or wrongful death under Texas statute 16.003a(b) is two years, so a driver who does not document the scene could easily forget crucial details in that period. Providing the evidence you have will protect you and allow the professionals to handle a lawsuit.
A person is killed every two hours and 25 minutes in car accidents. If you are one of those injured every two minutes and seven seconds in auto accidents in Texas, following these seven tips will protect you from unjustified legal charges or unfounded financial responsibility.