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What to do immediately after a car accident

Texas car crashes are all too frequent events. Whether a fender-bender or something much more serious, there are several things you should – and should not – do immediately after one. First and foremost, never leave the scene unless and until law enforcement officers give you permission to go. If you leave too early, you could face charges of leaving the scene of an accident or even hit-and-run.

Determine as quickly as possible whether you, any of your passengers or the occupants of any other vehicle received injuries in the crash. If anyone is obviously injured or shows signs of pain or dizziness, call 911 on your cellphone and request emergency medical and police assistance.

Never try to move an injured person out of the vehicle unless (s)he is in immediate danger, such as from a downed power line, a fire or rising flood waters. Movement can exacerbate injuries, particularly those to the neck and back. Wait for the first responders who have specialized training and equipment.

Exchange information

Next, exchange information with all other drivers involved in the wreck. Make sure to get the following information for each one:

  • Name, address and phone number
  • Driver’s license state and number
  • License plate state and number
  • Insurance company name and phone number

Be as calm and cooperative as possible when speaking with the other driver(s), but never, under any circumstances, say or imply that you think you caused the accident, even if that is your initial belief. Not only are you and everyone else shaken up and possibly not thinking clearly, but it is far too soon to start assessing blame. The best anyone, including you, can do at this point is to speculate about what actually happened, so resist any temptation to do so. It is in your own best interests not to give anyone the idea that you are responsible for their injuries and/or property damage.

Speak with witnesses

If any vehicles stopped to help, or if any pedestrians are standing nearby, talk with as many of them as possible. Get their contact information and their version of what happened. You or your attorney may need to contact them later so they can appear as witnesses on your behalf.

Take pictures

Use your cellphone to take photos of every vehicle involved in the wreck, including yours. Make sure to photograph the following for each one:

  • License plate
  • Make and model
  • Apparent new damage
  • Apparent prior damage

Also take photos of the wreck area, especially any nearby traffic signs or signals, barricades and hazardous road conditions such as snow, ice, rain, etc. If the accident happened at night, photograph any nearby street lights, especially if they are off instead of on.

Make a police report

Once law enforcement officers arrive, get each officer’s name and badge number. Truthfully answer any questions they ask you, but again, never indicate in any manner that you think you may have caused the accident. This could be taken as an admission of guilt that could result in officers citing or arresting you, as well as evidence against you should someone sue you.

Ask the officer(s) for the police report number and where and when you can get a copy. Your insurance company will need this, as will your attorney if officers charge you with anything or another driver sues you or your insurance company denies your claim.

Call your insurance company

Finally, call your insurance company and give them as much information as possible, once again admitting no guilt. They likely will want the name(s) and contact information of the other driver(s) and the name and phone number of any insurance company involved.

Sadly, a car crash often is the beginning of a long, complicated and possibly highly unpleasant chain of events that could include insurance disputes, lawsuits and even criminal prosecution. The decisions you make immediately after your accident and the information you gather are your best real-time evidence should you need it in the future.

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