What to do to limit legal hassles.
If you are involved in an automobile accident while you are driving, there are several steps you must take in order to protect yourself from resulting legal problems.
The first rule to remember is, whatever else you do after an accident, don't leave the scene without stopping. Penalties for "hit-and-run" are severe.
The second rule is to forget rule one if you are bumped from behind on a deserted road. In recent years, a growing number of motorists have been assaulted, robbed and raped after getting out of their cars in these circumstances. If you are alone on an empty stretch of road or on a deserted city street, especially if it's late at night, don't get out of the car. Instead, drive to the nearest police station and report the accident there. If you can't get to a police station or you don't know where to find it, head for the nearest place where there are other people around, like an all night restaurant or service station. Honk your horn and flash your lights; someone who plans on hurting you won't want that much attention called to him.
If you're in a heavily travelled area and there are other people around, get your vehicle out of the flow of traffic so you don't run the risk of further damage or injury. Get medical assistance for anyone who may have been injured in the accident. If a victim is unconscious or complains of neck or back pains, it is best not to move them, but you should give whatever first aid you can and stop serious bleeding until trained emergency medical personnel arrive.
Be sure to obtain the following information from any other driver involved in the accident: the driver's license number; the year and make of other cars involved in the accident; the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all drivers, passengers and other witnesses to the accident; and, if the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, the owner's name, address and telephone number.
Be sure to file a police report for any accident which involves physical injury or death, or any property damage. If the police come to the scene of the accident, the police officer's name and badge number, as well as the location of the police station where you can obtain a copy of the accident report.
Notify your insurance agent about the accident. You may also wish to consult with an attorney in regard to any claims you may have against the other driver or drivers.
Don't make any rash statements about who was at fault in the accident. Even if you feel that the accident was your fault, there may be circumstances of which you are unaware which will lessen your responsibility. Admitting guilt at the scene of the accident to the others involved or to witnesses or the police may jeopardize your legal rights later on.
Similarly, if you are approached by the other driver's insurance company with a quick offer to settle your claim, be very cautious about accepting such an offer. Some serious injuries may not become apparent until weeks or even months after the accident has occurred, and settling your claim too quickly may make it difficult to collect for those injuries later on. Get the advice of an experienced attorney if you have any questions or concerns about your rights and responsibilities after an automobile accident.
Copyright 1999 ProSe Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.
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