Michigan car crashes happen all too often. If you become involved in one, there are several things you should – and should not – do immediately afterward. The most important thing you should do is stay where you are until law enforcement officers arrive and give you permission to leave. Leaving too soon could put you at risk for officers charging you with leaving the scene and/or hit-and-run, both of which are crimes.
The first thing you should do is determine if anyone is injured. If so, call 911 on your cellphone, give your location and request the operator to send immediate medical and law enforcement assistance. Do not attempt to move any injured or unconscious person unless a hazard exists such as a fire, a downed power line or rising flood waters. Moving an injured person can worsen their injuries, especially if the injuries are to their neck or back.
Exchange driver information
Talk with all other drivers, giving them and getting from them the following information:
- Name, phone number and address
- Driver’s license number and state
- License plate number and state
- Insurance carrier name and phone number
When speaking with the other driver(s), be polite and courteous, but say nothing that implies you might be at fault in the accident. In other words, do not apologize for any wrongdoing you think you may have committed. You do not know that for sure at this point, so do not set yourself up for someone saying later that you admitted you caused the accident.
Talk to witnesses
Speak with anyone who witnessed the accident, such as nearby pedestrians or the drivers and passengers of any car(s) that stopped to render assistance. Get their contact information and their impression of what actually happened. You and/or your attorney may need to get in touch with them later so they can appear as witnesses.
If your cellphone takes pictures, use it to take photos of every vehicle involved in the accident, including your own. Be sure to photograph all of the following relating to each vehicle:
- Its license plate
- Its make and model
- Any signs of new damage
- Any signs of pre-existing damage
In addition, take photos of the surrounding area, paying particular attention to nearby traffic signals or signs, hazardous road conditions, etc.
Make a police report
When officers arrive, jot down each officer’s name and badge number. Answer their questions truthfully, but again, admit no guilt, overtly or impliedly. If you do, the officers could interpret this as an admission against interest and arrest you. Be sure to ask them when and where you can obtain a copy of the accident report and its number. Your insurance company will need it. Your attorney will, too, should someone sue you or you have problems with your insurance company paying your claim.
Call your insurance company
Finally, report the accident to your insurance company, including your initial assessment of injuries and property damage. Tell them that law enforcement officers are investigating the details, and give them the police report number the officers gave you.
Contact an attorney
Given that an auto accident often is the first in a potentially long and complicated chain of events, you should consider consulting an attorney as soon as possible. Then if one of the other drivers or an insurance company calls you, you can refer them to your attorney rather than speaking with them yourself. Never give a statement, oral or written, to an insurance company or sign a release or settlement without first speaking with your attorney.
While all this may seem like a lot to do after a car wreck, the decisions you make at the scene and in the days afterward, plus the information you give and receive, can affect you for many months or even years to come. Make sure they affect you positively, not negatively.