Whether you are on vacation in Destin or live in Fort Walton Beach, having an accident is never planned, but you can have a plan in place if you or someone you know is involved in an auto or boating accident so your rights are protected. First and foremost, try to remain calm. While it is quite normal to have a flood of emotions, including anger, most accidents are quite simply a mistake made by another driver which ended with unfortunate results.
- Keep your cool, stay calm. It is NEVER in your best interest to scream, curse or get angry. You do not need to assess fault or blame.
- Think before you speak and watch your actions.
- Do not automatically assume you are at fault, or responsible and make statements to that effect.
- Contact the police or other law enforcement when the accident occurs so that a report may be filed.
- Do not leave the scene of the accident before contacting authorities.
- Never leave the scene of an accident involving injuries – that is a crime.
The first thing you need to do is determine if you are injured. Are you dizzy? Is your vision clear? Are you bleeding? Do you have pain anywhere on your body? If so, try to not move until medical help arrives. Is anyone else injured? If anyone is injured, always call 911 for an ambulance immediately.
If no one is injured, you need to collect information:
Check your automobile for imminent dangers: the smell or sight of gasoline or oil leaking which could lead to fire or explosion. Safely and quickly leave your vehicle and stay as far away from it as possible.
If your car is drivable, you will want to move it out of the lane of traffic to a safe location. If it is not drivable or seems unsafe in anyway, leave it alone and go to a safe location away from the vehicle.
- Exchange pertinent information with the other drivers and any witnesses at the accident scene. You will need to get the other driver(s) full names – as it appears on their driver’s license. Ask them for their home address, home and work phone numbers and record this information. Write down the make, model, color and year of all vehicles involved and their license plate numbers. You’ll need the insurance information from all drivers involved: the name of their insurance company, their policy number, phone number and address of their insurance company. If you have a cell phone with camera, you can also take pictures of their drivers licenses and insurance cards.
- Take photos at the scene if you a camera phone or camera. Take pictures from as many angles as you can do safely.
- While the accident is still fresh in your mind, record the facts of the accident: what street you were driving on, in which direction, the date, time of accident and whether it was daylight, night, foggy, clear or raining. At what intersection did the accident occur or near? What are the details of the accident as you recall them?
When the police, law enforcement and/or emergency medical team arrive, follow all of their instructions carefully.
Answer their questions honestly and completely. If you are not sure, say so. Do not answer a question unless you are sure of the facts.
If the police or emergency medical personnel recommend that you go to a hospital for treatment or assessment, GO. This is not the time to act tough and act like nothing is wrong. Do not argue with the medical personnel or police.
If you do not need medical treatment at the scene, call your physician after you return home and make an appointment to be examined. Sometimes, two or three days can pass before significant or severe injuries manifest — some without obvious symptoms.
Call your insurance company to report the accident. Provide your insurance company the information you collected at the scene. Even though you are speaking to your own insurance company, do not admit fault. Let fault be determined by the all the facts. Inform your insurance company that you are cooperating fully and providing all the information needed. However, DECLINE to give a recorded statement.
If you are contacted by an insurance representative or adjuster, ask for which insurance company he or she works and which driver or person they represent. Write down their name, telephone number, insurance company and the name of the party he or she claims to represent. Tell the representative you will call right back. Then do just that. Hang up and call back! Verify to whom you are speaking and where that person works. If the caller represents another driver’s insurance company, decline to make a statement, period. Advise them that the police are investigating or have investigated the accident and you cannot provide any other information.
When should I see an attorney?
Immediately; most cases often have issues that are time sensitive. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney will provide the legal representation to protect your best interest. Selecting the right attorney can make all the difference in achieving the best results for your case. Remember, some of the best personal injury lawyers may never run a television commercial or have advertisements on billboards or buses, trust your gut instinct after your consultation.
Helpful Hints for Personal Injuries
Cameron D. Simpson is an experienced and dedicated attorney working to protect the rights of people wronged by the acts of others. She provides legal services in Destin and Fort Walton Beach and throughout Florida’s Emerald Coast for individuals needing representation in personal injury, wrongful death, motorcycle, automobile and truck accidents.