Vehicle accidents are some of the most common cases we handle here at KJC. It’s incredible how quickly a seemingly cut and dry fender-bender can turn into a legal nightmare. In light of this, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to navigating the aftermath of a car accident in Massachusetts.
1. Get to safety, but stay at the scene.
The most important thing you can do if you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident is remain at the scene. Use your emergency hazard lights and, if possible, pull your vehicle out of the roadway, but stay close. Leaving the scene of an accident (also known as a “hit-and-run”) is a serious offense in most states, including Massachusetts. For Bay Staters, leaving the scene of personal injury resulting in death is a felony that carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 1 year. Whatever other circumstances are at play, you’re better off staying at the scene and cooperating with authorities.
2. Check for injuries and alert emergency services.
The next step is to establish if anyone was injured in the collision. Start with yourself and your passengers before moving on to any other people who were involved. Many life-threatening conditions don’t present with severe symptoms until it’s too late, so call 911 if you so much as suspect that there may be injuries. Be prepared to provide the dispatcher with the city, street name, the cross street, mile marker, or house number you’re closest to, and any other nearby traffic signs or signals.
While awaiting the arrival of emergency services, do not provide medical care unless you’ve been trained to do so. In the event of a serious car accident, children should not be removed from car seats except by first responders as the seat can help stabilize back and neck injuries. Do your best to remain calm and comfort any passengers who might be agitated.
3. Call the police if they haven’t already arrived.
Even if no one was injured, an official police report is usually required to process an insurance claim. Officers can also help direct traffic around the scene and investigate the potential cause of the accident. If you’re in doubt about whether police presence is required, it’s better to err on the side of caution and call the local police department’s non-emergency number.
If the accident is very minor and there are other emergencies in the area, officers may not be available to come to the scene. In this case, you should file a report in person at the nearest police station as soon as possible.
4. Exchange insurance and contact information.
Determine if it’s safe to interact with the other driver(s). If there is any sign of road rage during or after the car accident, use extra caution. In addition, be sure to secure and/or hide valuables before exiting your vehicle. Remain calm and polite, and take down the other driver’s contact and insurance information. Don’t forget to verify the spelling of their name!
Remember to watch what you say.
Do not admit fault to anyone at the crash scene, even if you’re sure the fault lies with you. This is a good rule of thumb to avoid opening yourself up to additional damages. Also, avoid making promises or any kind of deal with cash. Other drivers may seem cooperative and congenial in your initial interactions, but that can change quickly and your words and actions may be used against you.
5. Gather evidence.
After an accident, the police report will serve as a critical piece of evidence, but it’s always advisable to document as much of the scene as possible for your own records. Note the other cars’ makes and models, as well as any other identifying information like paint colors and license plate numbers. Ensure you have the correct spelling of the other parties’ names, including any police officers attending the scene.
If possible, take pictures of any damage to your vehicle from multiple angles and ensure you document any injuries to yourself or your passenger(s) as best you can. It can help to use a coin or key to give dents, scratches, or bruises a sense of scale. Be sure to also get photos of road conditions, potholes, skid marks, and any road signals and signs.
6. Notify your car insurance company.
Let your car insurance company know what happened as soon as possible. Most insurance providers have a number to call or a form in their app that triggers coverage. Many apps also allow you to upload the photos and information you collect at the scene, which can expedite the claims process. If you end up on the phone with a representative, ask plenty of questions if you need clarification on what is expected of you and what documents they need. As when interacting with people at the accident scene, avoid claiming or assigning fault.
if you feel like your car insurance company is wrongfully denying your claim, or you may have criminal liability for the accident, the next step is even more important.
7. Contact a lawyer.
If your accident involves serious injuries or major property damage, don’t sign anything that comes from an insurance company or another driver’s attorney without talking to a lawyer. Even after a minor accident, an attorney can help you answer important questions like whether you need to file an insurance claim, as well as make sure you don’t say anything that might lead to bigger problems down the road.
An attorney can also help you figure out if you need to bring a “bad faith” claim against your insurance company. This is a legal case that can be brought against an insurance company that attempts to cop out on its duties to its client, like refusing to process or pay a legitimate claim in a reasonable amount of time. There’s a long list of rights and protections you have against bad faith insurance practices, but these laws also have specific detailed procedural requirements that must be followed, or you may lose a valid claim. An experienced attorney is critical in these cases.
8. Report the incident to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.
The State of Massachusetts requires a person who was operating a motor vehicle involved to complete the Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report form when a crash results in death, injury, or more than $1000 in property damage. This form needs to be submitted within five days after the incident, as long as the vehicle operator is well enough to do so.
9. Keep careful records.
If you or one of your passengers is seriously injured in a vehicle accident, it’s critical to track everything that happens after the initial incident. This includes making notes of who you have phone conversations with and the topic of the call. Keep physical copies of paperwork related to medical treatment and car repairs, and note the dates when forms were submitted. Be sure not to delete any emails you exchange with anyone about the accident. It can also be helpful to use a journal to document your injuries and how they impact your daily life.
Let KJC help you get the restitution you deserve.
If you are involved in a car accident and suspect negligence on the part of the other driver or misconduct by your insurance company, contact KJC Law Firm for a free consultation. You need time to make decisions about your medical treatment, so let our team of expert personal injury attorneys prepare an expert case against the driver that injured you. We want you to collect the maximum amount that you are entitled to from the driver’s insurance company as reimbursement for medical expenses and as compensation for pain and suffering. Our firm has more than 125 years of collective experience litigating major cases. We have the resources to investigate your claim, hire the necessary experts, and get you the compensation that you deserve.