Having a car accident is the last thing on your mind when you get behind the wheel. However, it does happen, and with startling regularity. In Massachusetts, 360 people died in 343 fatal crashes in just one year. Of those, 146 wrecks involved more than one vehicle, which means there were also crash injuries.
Whether something causes you to wreck and injure a passenger in your car or in another car, or if someone else causes a wreck with subsequent injures, you should follow certain steps if you are able. This is assuming that your injuries are not severe enough to keep you from moving about.
1. Check Yourself and Your Passengers
Slowly move around to make sure you can function without causing more injury. If you get dizzy when you stand, or if you feel pain when you move, it’s best not to move. If you can move, call first responders.
Check the passengers in your vehicle first. Let first responders know if anyone else might need medical help. If it is safe to do so, get out of your vehicle and check on those in other vehicles. Also, let first responders know if anyone else might need medical care—the scene might require more than one ambulance.
2. Procure Contact Information
Ask for the license, insurance, and registration information of other drivers involved in the accident. Give your information to the other drivers. Ask any witnesses to provide their names and phone numbers. You can also ask witnesses what they saw, and take notes. However, the police will also ask the witnesses for a statement and put it in the police report.
3. Take Photos
Take photos of the accident scene. Make sure you take pictures from all angles. Even if you believe you may be at fault, you should still take pictures. There is the possibility that you are not at fault, or that you are only partially at fault. Let your car accident attorney determine fault based on the police report and his or her investigation. If you take close-up photos, be sure that you can tell what is in the photo by standing some distance from the damage. If you want a picture of a bashed-in fender, you should show the whole fender, not just the damaged area.
Also, take pictures of any skid marks or other marks on the road that were caused by your vehicle or other vehicles. Take pictures of property damage, including damage to utility poles, fences, yards, and buildings.
4. Get Medical Care
When the emergency medical technicians arrive, allow them to check you out. After police release you from the scene of the accident, seek medical attention as soon as possible. You could have latent injuries that may not manifest until hours or even a day or two later.
5. Helping Others Injured in the Wreck
If someone else is suffering from injuries because of the accident, do not move that person. Ask the person to stay still until emergency medical technicians arrive. Because people could sue you if you give medical advice and/or attention when you are not a nurse or a doctor, be careful when helping. However, if someone is bleeding profusely, you can advise that person to hold a clean cloth over the wound and put pressure on it.
If it is evident that a person has a back injury or broken bones, never move the person. Advise the person to stay still until EMTs arrive. You could cause additional injury if you move the person. However, if a person’s life is in danger if you don’t move him or her, you can take the chance of moving that person. For example, if the person’s car is on fire, you could move the person or help the person get out of the vehicle since additional injuries are better than being burned to death.
If a loved one has injuries, make sure he or she gets medical care, even if that person does not want it. Some injuries take time to manifest, including soft tissue injuries and brain injuries.
6. Injuries to Look out for After a Car Wreck
Injuries after a wreck can vary significantly, depending on the circumstances. Everything from minor injuries such as cuts, scrapes, and bruises to severe injuries such as traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries are possible. The last thing you want to do is to move someone who could have a spinal cord injury—movement could exacerbate the injury and cause total or partial paralysis that might not have been present if you hadn’t moved the person.
Other injuries could include:
- Strains, sprains, and other soft tissue injuries.
- Simple or compound fractures. A compound fracture is when the broken bone pierces the skin and causes an open wound.
- Head and neck injuries.
- Back and shoulder injuries.
- Internal injuries.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder and/or depression.
In addition to the injuries you receive in the accident, underlying conditions could exacerbate these injuries. For example, if you are immuno-compromised, open wounds could take longer to heal. The longer a wound is open to bacteria, the higher the risk of infection. If you or a loved one injured in an accident has underlying conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other diseases that compromise the immune system, or are on medication or a drug regimen such as chemotherapy that lowers your immunity, always let your attorney know.
Insurance companies use a formula based on several factors, including the average time a wound takes to heal, to come up with a settlement number. You might need additional medical care if your wounds heal slower, and the defendant is responsible for that care. The defendant may also be responsible for physical, psychological, and cognitive therapy expenses.
7. Call a Car Accident Lawyer
Schedule a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney if you or a loved one were injured in a vehicle accident, or if you lost a loved one in an accident. A car accident lawyer can listen to you, determine who caused the accident, explore the viability of your case, and seek damages for your injuries.