If you’ve been involved in an accident, try to stay calm. This is not easy, as your emotions will be heightened, and it can be hard to figure out where to start. Here are the 6 most important things to do in the event of a motor vehicle incident:
Stop Driving and Move Over
If you are the driver in any incident, you must stop, move over and stay on-scene. Move your car out of traffic, ideally to a safe place. Cooperate with any emergency personnel, law enforcement, and the other parties involved. Failure to remain at the scene of an accident (hit-and-run) is a criminal offense.
If you are the cyclist or pedestrian, move out of the roadway if possible. If you suspect you are seriously injured, however, do not attempt to move. Ask the driver or passersby to turn on their hazard lights and indicate to surrounding traffic that there is a serious situation in the road. Do not let the driver leave the scene, for the reasons mentioned above.
Make Sure Everyone is Safe
If possible, move the vehicles out of the line of traffic to a safe place. Otherwise, make sure your car is in Park, turned off, and hazard lights are flashing.
If it is safe to get out of your vehicle, you can assess the damage from a safe location. Remember that if you are on a busy roadway, you need to be well away from moving traffic. Other drivers are not expecting you to be in or near the road, and getting out of your car can put you in danger of being hit by yet another car.
Call Emergency Services
In an accident involving a vehicle, pedestrian or cyclist, it is very possible that someone will have been injured. Call 911 to dispatch police, firefighters, and an ambulance to the scene. DO NOT MOVE someone you believe to be seriously injured. Even if nobody is hurt, it is still important to call the police; an official police accident report (including witness statements) can be beneficial to you when making any insurance claims. Make sure that the police get your statement, too.
Police, Fire, and Ambulance will all be called to the scene in the event of a serious accident. However, if the accident appears to be minor, you should call the police. Insurance companies recommend calling the police if the damage appears to total more than $2000, however, that’s not always easy to recognize, immediately. Having an official record of the accident scene can help you later, when you make your claim. Police can help determine fault, interview witnesses, and assess the situation if you suspect an impaired driving situation.
If anyone is injured (or if you suspect someone might be), call an ambulance. An emergency medical professional should be on-scene to provide assessment and treatment. DO NOT MOVE someone you believe to be injured.
Gather Information and Document the Situation
Exchange information with the other parties involved, including:
- Names and contact information (of the other driver(s), as well as any passengers)
- Driver’s license and license plate numbers
- Insurance information (including policy numbers)
Record as much information as you can, including:
- Photographs of the scene, road conditions, and damages, if possible
- Audio of any interactions/altercations with the other parties
- Vehicle descriptions, time/date/location of accident (even a short description is helpful)
- Names and contact information of any witnesses
- Offer any information that might implicate you (even if you believe you are at fault). This includes apologizing, which can be taken as an admission of guilt, later. The insurance assessors and police will investigate to determine who is at fault.
- Sign anything except a police report (if it is accurate).
Stay Calm & Quiet
With the exception of exchanging information, it’s important to let the details of the accident speak for themselves. Our emotions can lead us to either apologize for an incident, or get disproportionately angry –neither of these is helpful in a collision. In a legal dispute, any apologies you make at the scene can be taken as an admission of guilt. Even if you believe you are at fault, do not say anything. Any investigation will prove what happened. Similarly, getting upset is not going to work in your favour. Stay calm, polite, and cooperative after an accident. Do not sign any sort of statement at the site of an accident, as it can be taken as evidence, later, as well.
Contact Your Insurance
Whether or not you are at fault, and whether or not you intend to make a claim, you should contact the insurance company immediately. The sooner you contact ICBC, the sooner they can start your claim. Dial-a-claim, ICBC’s easy online claim reporting system, is the best way to get started. If you are involved in a collision with a non-BC driver, make sure to collect their insurance information, as well. Should you determine that the damage does not warrant filing a claim, you do not need to proceed, but once you have contacted ICBC, there is, at least, a record of the incident. It can be tempting to just deal directly with the other parties involved (and avoid insurance), but it can be very difficult to follow up on these agreements.
Get Legal Advice
Call a lawyer experienced in handling auto, bicycle and pedestrian personal injury cases, like the professionals at Recovery Law Corporation. We can advise you on how to best pursue any claims or benefits you might be entitled to and can protect you against inaccurate or fraudulent charges against you.