What to do immediately after an accident

Do not panic! Calm down, stop your car completely and turn on the emergency lights. Never run away from the scene of an accident - in the U.S., such an escape may result in additional penalties.

Examine yourself and those involved in the accident (in all vehicles) for injuries. Provide reasonable assistance to the injured if necessary.

Call emergency services (911) and tell them you have been in an accident. Explain to the dispatcher how serious the accident was and if there were any injuries, and state the location of the accident. The emergency worker will send police and medical assistance, if necessary, to the scene of the accident.

While waiting for the police to arrive, start gathering information about the conditions of the accident and about the other driver or drivers if there are more than two cars involved in the accident.

You need to gather information such as:

  1. Drivers' contact information (name, address, phone number and insurance company information);
  2. Information about the weather and road conditions at the time of the accident;
  3. Information about the cars involved in the accident (model and make, license plates and year of manufacture);
  4. contacts of witnesses to the accident.
  5. Try to take as many photos as possible of the accident scene and, if possible, take a video.

Also not superfluous will be to get a written statement of witnesses of the accident. Ask them to describe everything they saw on a piece of paper, putting their signature and date on it.

How to behave with law enforcement officers and medics

If the policemen who arrive at the place will ask you about how the accident happened, try to tell them clearly and accurately your version of what happened. At the same time, do not make any statements about the person who caused the accident. Your words can be used against you in the future. Also, try to answer questions and keep your advice and assumptions out of the conversations between the police and the other participants in the accident.

Make sure that the police officer writes up a report with the names of all the passengers in your car at the time of the accident.

DTP America stressed: even if you feel fine and there are no visible injuries on your body, don't refuse medical attention at the scene or seek it within 14 days of the accident. Some injuries are not immediately visible, but a medical examination may reveal them.
"As U.S. crash statistics show, about 40% of all referrals to medical organizations are made, 4 to 12 weeks after a car accident, when the accident participant is found to have hidden injuries," the company noted.

Car accidents in the U.S. involving immigrants: peculiarities of the process

U.S. laws are the same for all: citizens and immigrants (including illegal immigrants), but there are nuances.

For example, a U.S. resident (green card holder) or tourist can get an American driver's license within 30 days after entering the country. If he did not, he has the right to drive a car with the license of his country (or international driver's license) until the end of the calendar year in which he came to the United States.

There may also be illegals on the roads in the United States. Their situation depends on the state: some regions of the United States give illegal immigrants a license after they have been tested on their driving skills and knowledge of the rules of the road; but most states do not, and illegal immigrants there often drive without a license.
If you have an American license, you are subject to the same laws that apply to all citizens. But if your license is issued in another state, or if you had no right to drive in America at all, the first thing to do is to contact an experienced Русскоговрящий адвокат по ДТП в Америке, so as not to make the situation worse by trying to sort things out yourself, not knowing the laws and language at the proper level.

DTP America points out that actions in such a situation greatly depend on the state, and the immigrant simply cannot know all the nuances of local law to effectively resolve the issue on their own.

When else you definitely need a lawyer

A driver's license mishap is not the only time you need legal help after a car accident.

Whether or not you have an experienced lawyer depends on the amount of payments from the insurance company and the possibility of receiving compensation.

After an accident, you should notify your insurance company about the accident. Also, if you need medical attention, all bills and documents should be saved for future presentation to your insurer. An insurance officer will review your case and offer you a settlement agreement. Do not sign it without discussing the matter with an attorney beforehand.

Insurance agents, for the most part, draft such documents in favor of the company, not the injured driver. And a lawyer will be able to obtain a fair amount of payment.

As practice shows, insurance companies assign the injured person compensation related to surgery and other expenses in a medical facility. Primary medical care for serious cases is mandatory in the United States. But insurance companies greatly underestimate the amount of compensation payments, and it is difficult for an injured person to act alone and prove otherwise.

A separate - and very big - problem is if you are involved in an accident in the U.S. without insurance.

Driving a car in the U.S. is allowed if you must have automobile insurance. However, in some states, you can replace the insurance policy with a minimum of financial responsibility. If a driver is involved in an accident in the U.S. without insurance (for example, he or she was not listed on the policy) and has no other minimum financial responsibility, he or she will face penalties. Its severity depends on the state, but there are general requirements for the types of penalties for drivers who are involved in an accident without insurance:

  • Liability for bodily injury;
  • Liability for property damage.
  • Liability for bodily injury depends on the severity of the accident participants' injuries, and compensation for property damage includes covering the cost of restoring the other driver's damaged property (his or her car, personal belongings inside the car, or external items damaged in the accident). The amount of compensation depends on the specific situation and can range from several thousand to several hundred thousand dollars.

Also for an accident without insurance you may be fined (the amount depends on the state), your driver's license may be suspended, and you may even be arrested (these laws exist in some regions of the United States). You can find data for different states on the DTP America website.

It is noteworthy that lack of insurance can play a cruel joke with you, even if the accident was not your fault. There are two types of auto insurance in America - no-fault insurance and no-fault insurance. And who will be compensated after an accident (including accidents in which one of the drivers had no insurance) depends on the type of insurance in force in the state.

Author's Bio: 

Author Roger Walker is a Board-Eligible Orthopedic surgeon. He continued his training at Orlando Health Medical Center, completing a fellowship in Orthopedic Surgery Sports Medicine.