Motor Vehicle Accidents Information Center
Car Accident Checklist -
What to do After a NJ Car Accident
You're in a hurry. You're on your way to work, your daughter's soccer practice or son's hockey game, you may be a bit distracted or preoccupied (but not on your cell phone, right?!) and WHAM, you're rear-ended at a light. Or someone making a left turn cuts in front of you because they thought (erroneously of course) that they could "just" make it. Or, heaven forbid, an impaired driver blows the light and t-bones your car. Now what? Have you ever considered what to do next? Believe it or not, what you do after a motor vehicle accident, both in the immediate aftermath and during the weeks and perhaps even months that follow, will have consequences and may impact you for a long, long time.
Because every accident has its own set of circumstances and unique facts, it's impossible to provide a checklist that addresses all possible situations and outcomes. This is why. In addition to the information provided here, you should seriously consider seeking the advice and assistance of personal injury attorney experienced in the area of motor vehicle accidents. Following are some things you should do if you're involved in a motor vehicle accident (MVA).
- Breathe. What I mean is, if you are able to mentally process what has just happened to you, then you are probably capable of taking a deep breath and pulling your truck or car over if it isn't already off the roadway. Do not, under any circumstances, leave the scene of an accident either on foot or by driving away. Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime.
- Before you or any of your passengers get out of the car, check to make sure, as best you can, that no one is seriously injured. When you are certain you can get out of the car without causing further injury to yourself, do so carefully. Remember, just because your world has screeched to a halt doesn't mean that it has for others.
- Make the scene of the accident as safe as possible. Set out flares; remove large pieces of debris from the roadway if safe to do so. If your hazard lights work, use them. If your hood hasn't been damaged, raise it. Remember, the best way to ensure the scene of your accident doesn't become a crash scene for someone else is to give as much warning to other drivers as possible.
- Check on the condition of the driver/passengers of the other car(s). DO NOT attempt to move anyone who appears to be seriously injured.
- If it appears someone has suffered an injury, call for help.
- Exchange information with the other driver including license and registration and complete insurance data.
- Do not attempt to assure the other driver you are unhurt. I don't suggest you embellish about the extent of any pain or injury you may have suffered; however, it is not your job to make the other driver feel better about the accident, especially if he or she is at fault. You may have suffered an injury of which you aren't even fully aware (e.g., whiplash injuries often have delayed onset). If you treat the possibility that you might have been injured dismissively, you may have difficulty convincing the other side that you were indeed hurt in this accident. Your credibility may be questioned and, as a result, your recovery may be reduced or perhaps even denied completely.
- Get the names and contact information of anyone who claims to have "heard or seen what happened".
- Write down all information about the circumstances surrounding the accident including time of day, whether it was light or dark, overcast or clear, the position of the sun, the condition of the road, the speed you were driving at time of accident and what you estimate the speed of the other driver was at the time. If you record these facts while they are fresh, you won't have to worry about your memory fading or getting things confused later. Should your insurance claim be disputed (perhaps even requiring litigation), this information will go a long way to helping you prove your case.
- Do. Not. Admit. Fault. I can't stress this enough. If "I'm sorry, my bad" or words similar to those pass your lips to the other driver, the police or the insurance claims adjustor, you'll have an uphill battle trying to establish that the other driver was more at fault than you, a factor which is, by the way, essential for maximum recovery under New Jersey's comparative negligence legislation.
- If the police have been called, cooperate with them but do not volunteer information you are not asked to provide. Being "right" or "clever" or "knowledgeable" about the situation will not serve you. Oh, and get the business cards of the police officers on the scene and be sure to ask for the incident/report number.
- If you believe you have suffered serious injury such as internal injury or a concussion, for example, seek medical attention immediately. Even if you think you're okay, it is wise to be examined by a physician as soon as possible. Again, delayed onset injuries are a common occurrence from MVAs.
- If no police report is filed but there was property damage, you must report the accident to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
- Notify your insurance company.
- Keep all bills, receipts and correspondence you receive.
- And, finally, if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, you are well-served to seek legal assistance, especially if you incur significant medical expenses, lose time from work and your doctor anticipates a lengthy recovery period requiring ongoing treatment. I am a personal injury attorney with extensive experience in motor vehicle accident recovery and litigation. Remember that insurance companies, even your insurance company, don’t work for you but for their shareholders instead. Their job is to pay out as little as possible. Mine? To get you the monetary compensation for injuries, medical expenses, lost wages and other damages to which you are rightfully entitled.
NJ Motor Vehicle Accident Information Center
- 10 of the Most Common Causes of NJ Motor Vehicle Accidents
- Compensation for NJ Car Accident Personal Injury Claims
- How to Avoid Wrecking your NJ car Insurance Claims
- NJ Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists
- New Jersey No-Fault Insurance Explained
- Car Accident Checklist - What to do After a NJ Car Accident
- Motor Vehicle Accident Frequently Asked Questions