According to research by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it is estimated that fatal and nonfatal car accident injuries will have cost the world's economy $1.8 trillion from 2015 to 2030. Given that people are distracted now more than ever (eating fast food, texting, talking on the phone, etc) it is important to be prepared in the event that you are involved in an accident. Being prepared will potentially keep you from losing a lot of money, and, most importantly, it may keep you and others safe and alive. In this article, we'll discuss 9 important steps to take following a car accident in New Mexico.
If you have questions about liability in a car accident of which you were a part, call or text our car accident lawyers in Santa Fe, New Mexico today at (505) 386-2807. You can also fill out our online contact form, and we will get in touch with you to set up a free initial consultation.
1. Stay on the Scene
Don't leave the scene of the accident, even if it is a minor one. Leaving the scene of an accident could bring about criminal charges. Leaving the scene could also make it more likely for you to be found at fault even if the other driver is more to blame for the incident. Depending on the situation, try to leave the involved vehicles where they are until the authorities arrive and determine what happened with an official report. Doing this could provide evidence of how the accident occurred if there is a dispute. In the event that it is unsafe to leave your vehicle where it is (for example, it's blocking a lane of traffic, potentially putting other people or yourself at risk) and your vehicle is operable, try moving it somewhere safe out of traffic, like the shoulder of the road or a nearby parking lot.
If possible, try to leave the scene intact as much as you safely can. Here are several tips that may help you determine when it is safe to move your vehicle after an accident:
Your vehicle is blocking a lane of traffic, potentially putting others in danger
Someone involved in the accident is severely injured and moving the vehicle could further harm him or her
The accident, liability, and cause are indisputable, meaning it's clear who is liable (for example, the other driver hit you from behind, leaving damage on the vehicles) and what caused the accident
Don't move the vehicle(s) if moving it could cause more harm, exacerbate anyone's injuries, there is too much accident debris in the road, or the vehicle(s) are totaled or otherwise inoperable.
Accident Lawyer Tip: It is a good idea to turn on your hazard lights to prevent further accidents.
2. Ensure That Everyone Involved Is Safe
Acting quickly could save lives. If you notice that someone has been hurt in the accident, try not to move them. Call 911 immediately. It is often difficult to know how serious an injury is directly after a car accident. Minutes can be crucial at this time, so don't delay calling emergency services or getting medical care after the event if injuries are not life-threatening.
3. Call the Authorities to Draft an Official Report
Make sure you call the authorities even if no one sustained injuries. The insurance company may need a police report, and having one officially drafted may help any case you have down the road. Even if you believe the damage is minimal, you should have a report drafted. Tell the responding office what happened, and be sure to let him or her know if you were injured in the accident. If you don't know if you were hurt, then it is okay to answer his or her questions with, “I don't know.” Do not try guessing about the details of what happened. Most officers wear body cameras with audio, so act as though what you are saying is being recorded. Any evidence gathered at the scene may be used for or against your case in the future. Be cautious when saying things like, “it wasn't your fault” or “I should have paid more attention.” These statements may be used by the insurance company to negate the other driver's fault, pinning more of it on you.
4. Write down the information of the other driver(s) involved.
Initially, the license plate is the most important piece of information to obtain. This could be helpful if the driver decides to flee the scene before the authorities arrive. Additionally, write down the other drivers' names, addresses, phone numbers, and insurance information. Usually, a police officer arriving at the scene will take care of gathering all of the needed information, however, it's a good idea to gather it yourself. Take photos of the other driver's license plate, driver's license, and insurance card. Additionally, obtain information from potential witnesses. These could be the passengers in your vehicle, other occupants of vehicles, bystanders at nearby locations, or pedestrians. Ask them about their account of the accident, and if they will provide their information and eyewitness statement
5. Safely Take Pictures of the Scene of the Accident.
Pictures of visible automobile damage, as well as any visible injuries you may have, should be taken. This evidence will be beneficial to your insurance claim. It is also important to keep a record of these pictures for your auto accident lawyer. If it is safe to do so, get multiple photos of the scene, including property damage, damage to guardrails or signs, marks on the ground or road, etc. If safe and possible, consider taking a photo of the scene while standing 10 feet away to get a better view of the accident. Show the damage from multiple angles. When taking photographs be aware of traffic, and keep your safety and the safety of others in mind.
6. Practice good social media etiquette.
Never talk about the accident or post pictures on social media. It is good practice to not share information concerning an ongoing investigation on the internet. Making public statements about the crash could result in battling the insurance company for your claim. Set your accounts to private, and don't accept friend requests from people whom you don't know. Remember that everything you post can be saved by others, including the insurance adjuster, once you hit the share button.
7. Never Take Blame for the Accident, or Admit Fault.
Admission of fault or politely taking the blame could result in the insurance company denying your claim. It is important to consult with a car accident lawyer after an auto accident. They know the law and can protect your rights, and make sure that you are fully compensated.
You are obligated to report the accident to your insurance company, but you do not have to do this instantly on the scene of the accident. If you believe you should talk to a lawyer, you should do so as quickly as possible. Your lawyer will help you communicate and negotiate with the insurance companies and understand what steps to take to ensure you are made whole again. To understand more about how to communicate with insurance companies after a car accident in New Mexico, check out our blog on the topic.
8. Be Assessed By a Medical Practitioner.
Remember that the force of the accident could cause injuries that may not be obvious until days after the accident has occurred. Timing is CRUCIAL in preventing serious complications. Your health and safety are first priority after a car accident, and making sure you are uninjured is a big part of that. Even if you “feel fine,” these types of accident injuries can show up days after the accident. It's always best to see a doctor just to be on the safe side. Additionally, depending on your injuries and other facts of the case, the medical report following an accident may be a vital piece of evidence.
Call an Accident Lawyer Today
Wrecking your vehicle, and managing the potential pain caused by that is a lot to handle, without worrying about your insurance claim and the hassle that may go along with that. If you are experiencing unfair treatment from the insurance adjusters, call or text our car accident lawyers in Santa Fe, New Mexico today at (505) 386-2807 and get a free consultation. We will work hard to protect your rights, and get you what you deserve.