What Should You Tell Your Driving-Age Children To Do If They Get Into a Car Accident?
I am a lawyer, with five young adult children, who are all now drivers (scary thought 😊).
Here are some pointers I have given my own children to consider if they are in an accident.
First, Plan Before an Accident
- Equip the car with warning triangles, flares or road lights. Here are some good road triangles: https://www.jjkeller.com/shop/Product/Emergency-Warning-Triangle-3-Pack-Kit
- Make sure there is a real first aid kit in the car. An example of this is: https://meditackits.com
- Make sure all of the insurance and registration information is up to date and in the glove box.
After An Accident
- Do your best to stay calm, make sure you are ok and make sure everyone else in your car is ok. Call 911. If anyone feels neck, back, stomach pain, or headaches, it could be a sign of something insidiously serious. Make sure this is conveyed to first responders.
- Check for smoke, as it could indicate a potential fire. If so, safely leave the vehicle immediately and make sure your passengers can get out safely.
- Unless there is a fire risk, however, do not attempt to get out of your vehicle unless it is safe to do so. Advise your passengers of the same thing.
- If it is safe to exit your vehicle, and you feel uninjured enough to do so, immediately check on any other person involved in the crash. If they need aid, do everything you can to assist them – even if you are angry they ran a red light, etc. Be a good Samaritan.
- Do not move your vehicle, unless it is in a position that is unsafe.
- Call your parents once you are in a safe place.
- Cooperate with police and move your vehicle if they ask you.
- Cooperating with police does not mean admitting fault. If you are feeling well enough to speak to the police, tell them your side of the story period. However, don’t say things like, “I guess maybe I was partially at fault.” Keep your version short and to the point. A car accident can be very scary and traumatizing. Do your best to be polite and be pleasant to police.
- If you are feeling well enough, take photographs and video with your cell phone. Document the position of the cars before they are moved after the accident. Document the damage to all of the vehicles, even if minor (or none). Take photographs and video of any injuries. If you cannot do this, ask others to do so.
- Look around at where the accident occurred. There is often video recording everywhere. Look at the intersection to see if there are cameras, and look at all houses and stores nearby. Take a video of the area with all the nearby houses and businesses so you can remember. If you believe there may be a dispute about how this accident occurred, and you are well enough, ask these homeowners and businesses if they happened to capture the accident on video. If you or someone on your behalf does this, most are willing to help. Be advised, much of this video can be lost (written over) in only a few days, so consider doing this quickly.
- If the accident is serious, perhaps call a lawyer to learn how medical bills get paid, the insurance issues involved and explore whether an injury claim would make sense. Most lawyers handling injury cases will talk to you about these issues free of charge.
Jim Lynch has been a lawyer for 30 years representing those injured in serious accidents. He is the immediate past President of the New Jersey Association for Justice, which is New Jersey’s 2,700 Trial Lawyer Organization. Jim has had some of the largest verdicts in NJ and often teaches other lawyers insurance issues, trial practice and other aspects of litigation.