What to Do If You Are Involved in an Auto Accident Out-of-State
More than 6 million vehicle accidents occur annually. Most only involve property damage, but around one third of those accidents involve personal injury. Being involved in a motor vehicle accident, regardless of where the accident happens, can be an unnerving situation. When you are on vacation or traveling and become involved in an auto accident out-of-state, the situation can be especially stressful since you are in unfamiliar surroundings. State laws generally impose legal obligations on everyone involved in an accident, therefore, knowing what to do and how to protect your interests, as well as contacting a local personal injury attorney, can save you from personal and financial hardships down the road.
Steps to Follow After an Auto Accident Out-of-State
Step 1: Stop and Remain at the Accident Scene
If possible, move any vehicles away from traffic and off the roadway to avoid obstruction of traffic and to protect the safety of all involved. Avoid panic and, by all means, remain at the scene. Set up flares or other warning devices if necessary. Turn on your emergency flashers to ensure visibility to others and ensure that further accidents are avoided.
Step 2: Call the Police
Once an accident has occurred you should contact the police. Others may have witnessed your accident and called 911 for assistance, but do make sure the police are contacted. You must be truthful when you speak with them, however, attorney advice is usually to say as little as possible and do not admit or agree that you were at fault — even if you believe that you were responsible. Plus, if you are traveling from out-of-state, remember the laws in each state are different. Fingers may be pointed to the driver from “out of town” so be careful to avoid saying more than is necessary. This means any determination regarding your legal responsibility in the accident should be made by an experienced personal injury attorney licensed in the state where the car accident occurred.
Step 3: Provide Information and Assistance
If the accident only involves damage such as hitting an unattended car, sign, fence, tree or other property near the road, the law usually requires you to notify the owner or operator of that vehicle or property. If you are unable to locate that person, at a minimum you need to leave your name and address on a note in a conspicuous place on the damaged property.
Exchange Information with the Other Driver
If the accident involves a vehicle driven by another person you must exchange information. This includes names and addresses of the drivers, driver’s license numbers, and insurance company name and policy number and vehicle registration information. Wisdom dictates that you get names and addresses of any other vehicle occupants and witnesses to the accident. If the injured person is in a condition such that he/she is unable to exchange the required information, when the police arrive on the scene they will get the necessary information for you.
Do Not Admit Fault or Make Accusations
Keep in mind, the moments following a car accident are stressful and you are likely in shock. Do your best to remain polite and cooperative. Be helpful but resist the urge to apologize or admit fault or show any signs of unintentional guilt. In the immediate aftermath of an accident, who was at fault may be unclear. Leave this determination for a later date when all the facts have been acquired.
Check for Injuries
Check to see if you or anyone else has been injured. Even if you require no emergency medical attention, you could have sustained injury. Some injuries are not immediately obvious and symptoms may could show up even after a few days. In that case, you really will be unable to know for sure whether you have suffered any physical harm until several days after the accident.
Do Not Leave the Scene of the Accident
Leaving the scene of an accident without stopping, exchanging information and rendering aid when needed is considered a crime commonly called “hit-and run.” Leaving the scene of an accident which results in death or injury is often classified as a felony. When only property damage is caused to a vehicle driven by another, the crime is generally a serious misdemeanor.
Even if you are scared to stay at the scene because, for example, you have no insurance, you will only make matters worse by fleeing. Citations for having no insurance usually involve fines only. Conviction for hit-and-run can result in jail time, substantially higher fines, and suspension of your driver’s license. Avoid making make a bad situation worse. Remain at the scene, exchange information and provide assistance.
Step 4: Report and Document
Even if no police are involved following an accident, you are generally required to file an accident report with the police if damage exceeds a certain amount. You should also file the police report for insurance purposes so that your version of events is documented. Notify your insurance company as soon as possible even if the accident was not your fault. If the accident happened in a rental car, be sure to also report the accident to your rental car company.
Use Your Cell Phone to Take Photographs
Be sure to use your cell phone to take pictures of the accident scene and surrounding area, any and all property damage (vehicles, other items, etc.) and, when possible, any injuries sustained by you or others involved. If it’s a car accident, take a photo that includes the other car’s license plate, and also a photo of any debris, such as broken glass, that resulted from the impact, before it is moved to the side of the road.
Seek Medical Evaluation
A personal injury lawyer will recommend that you seek medical attention right away even if you are on vacation or traveling for business. As mentioned, injuries from vehicle accidents often take several days to become obvious. Once you return home you will want to see your doctor or get a medical evaluation with your doctor or health care provider. If you have suffered injuries that have affected your daily life, document changes in writing including lost work days and, specifically, how routine activities have become difficult. This will become important in the event you decide to pursue legal action by filing a lawsuit.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Consider consulting an attorney particularly if the accident resulted in significant damage or any injury. If the accident occurred when you were traveling in another state you will need to hire a lawyer in the state where the accident happened.
Location Matters – Hiring an Out-of-State Lawyer
Although you may know attorneys in your hometown, you will need to seek reliable advice from an attorney that is licensed in the state where the where the accident happened and can protect your interests to the full extent of the law.
For example, if you were in an accident while traveling in Philadelphia, the local laws in Pennsylvania will control and determine legal liability in your case. This mean the lawyer you hire must be licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania and can file your personal injury case in a Pennsylvania court. That attorney’s reputation and experience is important and can make a big difference in the outcome of your case, so be sure to choose someone who is highly regarded within the Philadelphia legal community and understands the special circumstances that may affect your case.
Our roadways become more crowded every year. Technology has provided increased distractions for drivers. Accidents are bound to happen. Responding responsibly by following the above guidelines will help ensure your personal and legal interests are protected.
Call Alfred Abel Law Offices for an Experienced Philadelphia Car Accident Attorney
If you are involved in an auto accident out-of-state that results in an injury or property damage, your best course of action is to contact an attorney as soon as possible. An experienced car accident personal injury lawyer at Alfred Abel Law Offices will guide you through the insurance maze as well as help to diminish any liability on your part, to protect your assets, and to obtain the compensation you deserve for injuries and other damages suffered. For a consultation, contact us today.