We sincerely hope you’ll never be involved in an automotive accident, but unfortunately, statistical odds don’t exactly work in your favor. Car crashes cause millions of injuries and tens of thousands of deaths every year in the United States, with the Texas Department of Transportation reporting 476,875 accidents statewide in 2014 alone: over 1,300 per day, on average. If the worst does occur, and you someday find yourself involved in a crash or collision, the decisions you make in the immediate aftermath can impact the strength of your injury claim. Our Houston car accident lawyers explain how.
What Are the Driver’s Responsibilities Immediately After a Car Crash?
If you are ever involved in a Texas car accident which results in death, personal injury, or property damage, you must:
- Provide your name, address, vehicle registration number, and the name of your insurer to the victim (or, if he or she is too badly hurt, to other vehicle occupants).
- Show your driver’s license to the other motorist, if he or she asks you to do so.
- Offer reasonable medical assistance, like calling 9-1-1.
- It’s common for accident victims not to initially feel pain due to the huge amounts of adrenaline released in an accident. A person who says they feel fine may be seriously hurt. It’s wisest to let medical professionals make the call about whether an accident victim has been injured — including yourself.
Beyond being simple common sense, these actions are required by state law under Texas Transportation Code § 550.023, which summarizes these responsibilities as a driver’s “duty to give information and render aid.”
There are extremely serious consequences for disregarding these duties and prematurely leaving an injury or wrongful death car crash site. A motorist who fails to comply can be criminally charged with an offense called “leaving the scene of an accident” — better known as hit and run.
If you were the victim of a hit and run driver in Texas, you should speak with an experienced accident attorney immediately. In addition to the prosecutor filing criminal charges, you may be able to file a civil (non-criminal) suit against the driver who hit you.
5 Steps to Take After You’ve Been Injured In An Automotive Accident
Once you’ve taken care of the immediate health and safety priorities, it’s time to start dealing with some other considerations.
First, determine if your vehicle is obstructing traffic. If so, you should move your vehicle provided it is safe to do so. Do not risk further injury simply to avoid the temporary inconvenience of a traffic jam.
If you do decide to move your vehicle, try to take photographs of the accident beforehand. Try to get photos from as many different angles as possible, ideally supplemented by video footage. Additionally, don’t forget to document the area around the vehicles, which can also provide key information. Details like matted grass or tire skid marks can tell investigators and crash analysts much about the sequence of events leading up to the accident.
Of course, safety is again (and always) the number one priority. Do not place yourself in harm’s way for the sake of taking a photograph or video.
In addition to photographing the site, there are four phone calls you should make promptly after getting into an injury accident:
- The appropriate police department. You should immediately report major accidents to local law enforcement. You should also get a copy of the police accident report, which, while typically inadmissible as “hearsay” evidence in court, can still be useful during settlement negotiations. Texas Transportation Code § 550.062 requires officers to file within 10 days written reports for accidents resulting in death, injury, or property damage exceeding $1,000.
- Your doctor. You should schedule an appointment with your physician immediately. As we noted a little earlier, adrenaline can mask the pain of a serious injury, and tissue damage might not become apparent for hours or even days following a crash. The sooner you can see a physician after an automotive accident — ideally within 72 hours — the better.
- Your insurance company. You’ll need to report the crash to your insurer. The insurance agent will probably pressure you to give a recorded official statement, to which you do not have to consent at this time. You should also avoid accepting any immediate settlement offers, which are typically insufficient to cover the losses and expenses associated with the injury. Remember, the severity of the injury may not even be apparent at this very early stage.
- An experienced Texas personal injury lawyer. In addition to handling all of the legal work, so that you can focus on resting and being with your loved ones, your attorney will also represent you during settlement negotiations, and protect you from the “bad faith” insurance tactics some unethical insurers use to limit or deny coverage.
Throughout the process, it is crucial that you keep detailed, organized records of all documents and correspondence. It’s a good idea to make scans of physical items, like receipts and prescription slips. Save and copy emails, bank statements, and other virtual records. Record the time and date every time you speak to the insurance company. Get a name from every person you speak to, and jot down the topics of conversation on that occasion.
Rely on Our Experienced Houston Car Accident Attorneys of Queenan Law
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Texas, you may be entitled to compensation. To set up a free legal consultation, call Queenan Law at (888) 522-6500. Our Texas personal injury attorneys handle accident claims in the Houston and Dallas metropolitan areas, including Baytown, Sugar Land, Pearland, Arlington, Fort Worth, Irving, and more.