What You Should Do After an Auto Accident

Many Texans are involved in automobile collisions every year. Although most people are aware of the obvious steps to take immediately following an accident (assist the injured, call the police, etc.) we have found they may be too upset to think of many of the less obvious steps which also should be taken.

If you are involved in an automobile collision you should:

Stop immediately, but do not block traffic. Failure to stop after a collision can result in criminal penalties. Turn off your ignition to guard against fire. Stay at the scene of the accident.

Warn oncoming automobiles of any traffic hazards. At night, leave your lights on or set out traffic flares if possible. You may be liable for damages to approaching drivers unless they are properly warned.

Assist anyone who may be injured. Stop any bleeding. Provide other first aid if you can. Call for an ambulance if necessary. Do not move a seriously injured person unless absolutely necessary because movement can increase injuries.

Telephone the police and cooperate fully with the investigating officers. If you are involved in a hit-and-run collision, it is especially important that you notify the police immediately. Write down the names and badge numbers of all investigating officers. Be sure to notice whether the officer is a city police officer (and which city) or a Department of Public Safety officer.

If you believe the driver of the other vehicle may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, tell this to the investigating police officer.

Make written notes of the full names, addresses, home phone numbers, work phone numbers and license plate numbers of all parties involved, including any witnesses to the collision. Also note the date and time of the collision, and the make and model of all vehicles involved. Do not trust your memory. In such a stressful situation, you may not remember important facts. You should always carry a pen and paper in your car.

Measure skid marks and step off distances such as from the curb to the point of impact. If your vehicle is not blocking traffic or creating the potential for another accident, do not move it or any accident debris until you are instructed to do so by the investigating police officer.

Make a rough drawing of the scene of the collision, showing the position of all vehicles and any other details you think may be important.

Exchange automobile insurance information with the other parties. The drivers involved must show their driver’s licenses to each other. Copy all information from the other driver’s license.

Make notes of any statements made by the driver or occupants of the other vehicles as to how the collision occurred.

Before you allow a tow truck driver to pick up your car, be sure to ask the driver how much it will cost and tell the driver where to take your car. Get the name, address and telephone number of the driver and the towing company.

Phone your lawyer as soon as possible and follow your lawyer’s advice. In Texas, a lawsuit for damages arising from an automobile collision must be filed within two years from the date of the collision. However, the sooner your lawyer becomes involved in the matter, the better he or she can advise you and protect your rights.

1.Do not give statements to anyone other than the police officers without first consulting with your lawyer.

2.Report the collision to your insurance agent or insurance company as soon as possible.

3.Take photographs of any damage to your car and of any injuries to yourself.

See your doctor if there is any chance you may be injured. Serious injuries do not always cause immediate pain.

Report the collision to the Texas Department of Public Safety. You must do so if there is an injury, death or property damage in excess of $250.00. You may obtain a report form from any police or sheriff’s office or from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Even if you think you may have been at fault in the collision you should not make any statements admitting fault. You may discover later that the other driver was equally at fault, or more so. Statements you make while emotionally upset may be misunderstood or misquoted later by other parties or bystanders. Spectators at the scene of a collision may be curious. It is best to say nothing at all regarding the cause of the collision.

Keep calm, don’t argue, don’t accuse anyone and don’t admit fault.

Because of the need for advice under these stressful circumstances, our law firm has prepared a wallet-sized card that contains an abbreviated version of the above instructions for those involved in automobile collisions.

Automobile Insurance in Texas

All Texas motorists should carry automobile insurance. Since 1981, it has been the law in Texas that all motorists must carry automobile liability insurance. Effective September 1, 1991, the enforcement provisions of the mandatory insurance law were strengthened.

Texas motorists must now show proof of liability insurance to receive or renew a driver’s license, receive a safety inspection sticker or register a vehicle. The fine for not having insurance has increased from $75 under the old law to between $175 and $350 under the new law. A second offense could mean impoundment of your vehicle and suspension of your driver’s license.

Some people may be confused about the various types of automobile insurance available in Texas, the purpose of each type of insurance, and the costs related to that insurance coverage. The basic types of automobile insurance are:

Liability coverage

This coverage protects you if you drive negligently and cause injury to another person or damage to another vehicle. Texas law requires every automobile owner to carry liability insurance in the minimum amount of $20,000 per person injured. It is usually wise, and normally not much more expensive, to carry more insurance than the minimum limit. If you do not have enough insurance to pay for the damage or injuries you cause, you could be personally responsible for the additional cost of the damage or injuries.

Personal Injury Protection coverage

This is a form of “no-fault” insurance coverage that pays medical bills and lost earnings for you and others in your car, no matter who was at fault in the collision. PIP is available in different amounts, and $10,000 worth of coverage is generally not much more expensive than $2500 in coverage. PIP coverage pays benefits if any member of your family is injured in any automobile, and if any person is injured in your automobile. It is a very worthwhile addition to your basic automobile insurance policy.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage

This coverage will pay for property damage or injuries sustained by you, your family members or occupants of your automobile and caused by drivers who have no liability insurance, or insufficient liability insurance, of their own. In other words, this coverage replaces the other driver’s liability insurance. This coverage is optional, but highly recommended. Without it, you will have no protection if you are involved in a collision with an uninsured driver.

Collision coverage

This pays for property damage to your car if it is involved in a collision, no matter who was at fault in the collision. This insurance will pay for your property damage even if the collision was your own fault. There is a “deductible” amount that you must pay, and your insurance company will pay the remainder.

Comprehensive coverage

This coverage pays for loss or damage to your automobile or its contents in situations not involving collisions. For instance, this insurance applies in cases of hail damage, fire, theft or flood. The question of fault does not apply to comprehensive coverage, but there is a “deductible” amount you must pay.

Automobile insurance rates vary widely depending on the insurance company or agent you choose, the types and amounts of coverage you want, and the kind of car you drive. Our law firm has prepared a brochure that further explains automobile insurance and offers tips on lowering the cost of your insurance. It is available on our Web site or you can call us for a printed version of this free brochure.