One of the most frequently-asked questions that personal injury lawyers are asked is, “What should I do if I’m injured in a car accident?” In truth, the to-do list for if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident is very short and has a specific order – HITT:
- Health and safety first
- Tell your own insurance company
- Talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer
These are the steps to take right away, before you even think about making an injury claim. If you or someone else has been hit in a motor vehicle accident, it’s easy to remember HITT.
Health and Safety First
The most important thing is the health and safety of the people in the area. If anyone involved in the accident is unconscious or has serious or life-threatening injuries, or is involved in illegal activity such as impaired driving, call 911 immediately. If possible, clear vehicles from roadways and intersections to avoid further crashes and injuries. Do not move anyone who was injured in the accident as you may make their injuries worse. In Alberta, you must report the accident to police if anyone was injured, or if any of the vehicles is not drivable, or if damage to all property and vehicles appears to be more than $2,000. If you have any injuries at all, you must see a doctor as soon as possible for assessment and treatment.
Collecting Information at the Scene of a Motor Vehicle Accident
Once the health and safety of everyone at the scene has been secured, the next step is to collect and exchange information. Get the names, insurance, and registration of all drivers involved; if a driver is unable to provide information due to injury, collect it from a passenger in the vehicle. In Alberta, you must report the accident to police if any driver cannot produce a driver’s license, insurance, or registration. Note the number of passengers and their places in each vehicle. Write down the date, time, location, and estimated speeds of vehicles. Note the weather and road conditions, and the makes, models, license plate numbers, and model years of cars involved. Get the names and contact information of any witnesses, and the names, badge numbers, detachment or division, and telephone numbers of attending police officers. If a tow truck attends the scene, be sure to take down the name, company, and contact information of the driver, as well as the address of where the vehicle is being taken. Use your cell phone camera to take pictures of the cars, the scene, the road, injuries, insurance cards, drivers’ licenses, vehicle registrations, and any other important information.
Perhaps even more important than the information you collect and provide is the information you must not provide at the scene:
- Never admit fault or apologize
- Never pay or promise to pay for any damages
- Never agree to “pretend the collision never happened” or “not get insurance involved”
- Never accept any money or discuss any settlement
Tell Your Own Insurance Company
Regardless of who is at fault, you must report the accident to your own insurance company as soon as possible to avoid any coverage issues, and to gain access to any accident benefits you may be entitled to. Provide them with all of the information and details you collected at the scene, preferably in written format.
Talk to an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
Before you talk to anyone else about the accident and your injuries – especially representatives or employees of the insurance company of the driver who hit you – talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer. Though there are no “specialists” in areas of law in Alberta, it’s important to speak to a lawyer who has experience in these complex matters. A family doctor and a heart surgeon both go to medical school, but you wouldn’t go to your family doctor for heart surgery. It’s the same way with lawyers; you wouldn’t go to your real estate or family or corporate lawyer to handle your personal injury claim. And even if you have no intention of making a claim, it’s usually free to have a consultation with a personal injury lawyer and get answers to your questions.
If you’ve been in a motor vehicle accident anywhere in Alberta, we can help. Whether or not you plan on making a claim, the next part of the to-do list is much longer if you don’t have a lawyer’s help. Our consultations are completely free and without obligation, and can be done over the phone or in person. Come to our office, or we’ll come to you. Protect your rights, get answers, and get help by calling us today. We’re available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.