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Simply Legal: Five Things You Need to Know if You Have an Auto Accident

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By Robert Spinak, Esq.

With over 15,000 auto accidents a day in the United States, injuring more than 3 million people a year, it’s surprising that so few individuals know what to do if they have a car crash. Sure, most people know enough to get information from any other person involved and to call their insurance company to report the incident. However, other important steps are often left out, severely limiting any claim for damage or injury. Getting the right information from the other party and what and when to report to your insurance company is commonly botched.

It’s not complicated,” and can usually be broken down into five easy steps that can save you a lot of aggravation in pursuing any claim or protecting your interests.

  1. Gather Information. Sounds simple, but you must get the right information from the other driver. From the other Driver’s License get the state issuing the license, license number, expiration date and any restrictions. From the Vehicle Registration, get the state issuing the registration, expiration date, and the full name and address of registrant. From the Insurance Documents get the date of issuance and expiration, name, address and phone number of insurance company, and the phone number and name of the agent. From the Vehicle get the license plate number and date next inspection is due. And, importantly, record the names, addresses and phone numbers of any other people in your vehicle and/or the other vehicle and/or witnesses. Also, if at all possible take photos of the cars involved and the conditions that caused the accident, including any traffic signals and/or signs in the immediate area.
  1. Report Accident to Authorities via 911 (if appropriate). If damage is more than $500 or there is any personal injury, especially if you or anyone else involved has aches, pains or visible bruising or head trauma, it is mandatory that you report the accident to police and have an accident report filed.
  1. Medical Precautions. If you have any aches, pains or bruises, go to a hospital or your regular physician as soon as possible. Remember that some of the worst consequences of an auto accident don’t show up for hours or a day or two after the accident. Also, it is important that anyone involved who experienced any head trauma with or without aches, pains or bruising should be seen by a medical person as soon as possible.
  1. Insurance Matters. Call your agent as soon as possible and certainly within 24 hours, providing the information requested. If it’s after hours and you cannot reach your agent, call the insurance company directly, but even if you call the insurance company directly, also contact your agent at the earliest time possible.
  1. Legal Advice. Call a lawyer. You don’t know if you’ll need one or not and recollections are best soon after the accident rather than later.

Keep this article in your glove compartment as a handy guide in case you have an accident.

Robert Spinak Esq. maintains a law office in White Plains. He can be reached at 914-358-9647 (office) or 914-708-9848 (cell). 

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