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What you should do following a car accident

Picture this: You and your spouse are on your way home from a wedding reception at a local country club. You have had a couple of drinks and should feel relaxed, but instead feel tense because visibility is poor as you drive through a heavy rainstorm on unfamiliar roads. An SUV comes toward you out of the gloom and suddenly you find yourself involved in a car accident. What should you do?

First steps to take

No matter who was at fault in the accident, there are certain steps you must take. First, always stop; this is your legal obligation. Determine if there are any injuries, and if so, dial 911 to summon medical help. Next, call the police; they will need to come and make an accident report. The vehicles may be obstructing the roadway, but if possible, wait to move them until the authorities arrive. If safety is a concern, turn on hazard or other car lights or put out flares if you have them.

Gather information

The basic information you need following an auto accident includes the names, addresses and contact information of everyone involved in the accident. Also, note the license plate number and vehicle identification number of any vehicle involved. If there were witnesses, take down their names and contact information as well. You will want to exchange insurance information with the other driver, and you should call your own insurance carrier to report the accident as soon as possible.

Facts to note

Other information will be helpful to have, such as the name of the road you are on, the nearest cross street, the direction you were traveling and the direction the other vehicle was traveling. Describe the weather, visibility and driving conditions. The accident will likely have had an effect on your nerves at the very least, but if you can, jot down how the crash happened. You might even use your mobile phone to make a voice recording of the details and take photos of the accident scene and damaged vehicles.

Call an attorney

Do not engage in a discussion with the other party about who is at fault in the accident. Do not admit responsibility. Even if you feel you were not at fault, remember that since you had a couple of drinks at the wedding reception, you might be facing a DWI charge. Resist the urge to engage in chit-chat with the other driver or with the officer who comes to make a report. You do not have to go into detail about your evening at the wedding reception; just keep to the facts regarding the accident. This could evolve into a complex incident, and it would be in your best interest to call an experienced attorney who can advise you and protect your rights. An attorney can also work with the other insurance company on your behalf in the event you are entitled to receive benefits.