The immediate steps that you take after an accident can have a huge impact on whether your car insurance claim is successful with your or the at-fault party’s insurance company and the amount of compensation you ultimately receive. There are several things you should do at the scene of a car accident in Chicago and throughout Illinois to protect your safety and your right to compensation.
Understanding the Importance of Your Actions at the Scene
Before diving into the specific steps you should take at the scene of an accident, it’s important to understand why these actions are so crucial. First and foremost, your safety is always the top priority. If you or anyone else involved in the accident is seriously injured, seek medical attention immediately.
Even if no one appears to be hurt, it’s a good idea to get checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent and seeking medical care can help ensure that you receive proper treatment and document your injuries for potential compensation.
Aside from safety, taking certain actions at the scene of an accident can significantly impact your car accident claim and potential compensation from your own insurance company and the other driver’s. Insurance companies will begin investigating an accident almost immediately after it occurs, so providing accurate and thorough information at the scene is crucial. This includes documenting the accident, exchanging information with other drivers, and cooperating with law enforcement.
Important Steps to Take
The publication Rules of the Road, issued by the State of Illinois, presents a concise summary of these steps:
- If it is possible, safely move your vehicle to the side of the road and park it in a well-lit public area that does not block traffic.
- Provide assistance to any injured individual as required or upon request.
- Call 9-1-1 immediately and wait for the arrival of the police.
- If needed, utilize emergency flashers and flares to alert oncoming vehicles.
- Compile a comprehensive list of all individuals who were involved, making sure to gather their names, addresses, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers, and vehicle registration plates.
Safety First: Pull Over to a Safe Place
After an accident, your first priority should be to ensure the safety of yourself and your passengers. If your vehicle is still in working condition, promptly move it off the road. In the event that your vehicle is not operational, activate your hazard lights and wait for assistance.
Do Not Leave the Scene of a Crash
Illinois law requires you to pull over after an accident occurs. The Illinois Rules of the Road guide published by the Illinois Secretary of State states that if you leave the scene of a crash, you may be subject to fines and criminal charges.
Signal the Accident
To prevent further collisions, it’s important to take precautions and alert other drivers of the accident scene. If available, use a reflective triangle, traffic cones or road flares, and remember to activate your emergency lights.
Taking these measures will help ensure safety and minimize the risk of additional accidents.
Assist Those in Need of Help
Next, assess whether anyone at the scene of the car accident has sustained injuries and requires immediate medical attention, including:
- Your passengers
- The other driver
- The other driver’s passengers
- Any bystanders
If someone is injured, it is important to keep them immobilized and in a safe position, if possible. Immediately call emergency services and request an ambulance.
After an accident, it’s crucial to promptly dial 9-1-1. This guarantees the filing of a police report and ensures that all parties involved receive the necessary medical assistance.
File an Accident Report
Even if no one was injured and police officers do not respond to the accident, you should still file an accident report. If it was a minor fender bender and you’re not sure you will file a claim, it is still required by law to report accidents.
The Illinois Rules of the Road handbook states that a driver has 30 minutes to report a crash once it happens. If the driver is injured and cannot make the report, their passenger can make it. You must also make a report to the Illinois Department of Transportation within 10 days of the car accident.
Avoid Fines and Jail Time
Drivers who neglect to report a car collision may face penalties of up to $2,500 in fines and a maximum jail term of one year.
Exchange all relevant information with the other driver to identify each other and to file an auto insurance claim. Try to get the following information:
- Phone number
- Driver’s license number
- License plate number
- Make and model of vehicle
- Vehicle owner’s name
- Insurance company and insurance policy number from their insurance card
Exchanging important information such as insurance information is critical to your ability to seek compensation for your injuries and losses.
Limit What You Say
It’s important that you only communicate the necessary information to the other driver and the police officer responding to the scene of the car crash.
Do not apologize or admit fault. Even if you think you might have caused the car crash, do not say so. The insurance company could use that against you.
If asked whether you are hurt or injured, say only that you don’t know or that you will have to wait for a medical evaluation.
Keep all this in mind later when you speak to an insurance professional and do not agree to give a recorded statement unless counseled to do so by your car accident lawyer.
Talk to Eyewitnesses
If there were other people who saw the auto accident and stopped, ask for their names and contact information. They could help later if there is a dispute about what happened.
You can also ask them to make a written statement describing what they saw. This information can be helpful for your personal injury lawyer later when they negotiate on your behalf.
Take Photos of the Scene
If possible, take photos at the accident scene. Do not move your vehicle from the auto accident scene until you have taken photos. The crash scene may be cleaned up quickly, so it’s important to preserve evidence. If you have a camera or a smartphone, document the following:
- The damage to all vehicles involved
- The positions of the vehicles before they’re moved
- The road conditions and any traffic signs or signals nearby
- The weather conditions at the time of the crash
- Your injuries (regardless of whether they are major or minor)
- Anything that may have contributed to the car accident
Get pictures from different angles so that you can show how the accident occurred. If you’re not able to take photos, ask someone else at the scene to do it for you.
Note Details About the Scene
Create a written summary of the events leading up to the accident as soon as possible. Provide all details you can remember including your speed and travel direction.
Additionally, look around and take note of any traffic cameras or nearby businesses that may have recorded the accident. This can be helpful to your car accident lawyer when they deal with the insurance company during the car accident claims process.
What Should I Do if the Other Driver Does Not Stop at the Scene of the Accident?
If you’re in a hit and run accident, it’s important to get as much information about the other driver as possible. Try to get:
- A description of the other car
- Their license plate number
- A driver description
- Any witness statements
If you are unable to get this information, don’t pursue the driver. This could be dangerous. Instead, try to recall as many specifics as you can about the driver and their vehicle.
If you manage to capture a photo of the other vehicle or its license plate, this can help in identifying the driver. Additionally, you should still contact the police and file a report as they may be able to provide further help in locating the other driver.
If you have uninsured motorist coverage, it’s possible for you to file a claim with your own insurance policy.
Get Medical Attention
If you sustain any injuries, it is crucial to quickly seek medical attention. Even if you think your injuries are minor, it is wise to be evaluated by a healthcare professional. Certain injuries, such as concussions and whiplash, may not exhibit immediate symptoms but can still carry serious consequences and result in long-term medical expenses.
The other driver’s insurance company might attempt to downplay the severity of your injuries or dispute their connection to the accident. This underscores the significance of seeking a prompt medical evaluation following the incident. By doing so, you will have a documented record of your injuries and establish a baseline for any future treatment required.
Contact The Kryder Law Group, LLC Accident and Injury Lawyers for More Help
After taking all possible actions at the scene of the accident, it’s a good idea to seek the assistance of a car accident lawyer who can provide support. The highly skilled personal injury team at The Kryder Law Group, LLC Accident and Injury Lawyers is ready to examine the evidence you collected at the crash site, assess the details in the police report, and thoroughly review all documentation of your damages. Our goal is to determine the compensation you may be entitled to for your serious injuries. We will handle all communications with the insurance company and negotiate a fair settlement for your car accident claim.
Contact our law firm today for a free consultation and get your questions about the personal injury claims process or the insurance claim process answered by an experienced car accident lawyer.