The consistently rapid development of road networks and alternate forms of road related infrastructure such as expressways, bridgeways etc. have had magnificent consequences in terms of increased connectivity and efficient transportation of people and goods. However, on the other hand, the consequent increase in the number of vehicles on the roads also poses a greater risk when it comes to road accidents. In fact, if one was to look at the global statistics, on an average, around 3700 people succumb to fatalities resulting from road accidents every single day. Needless to say, the matter of road safety is a matter of global concern. So much so, that even the United Nations has a separate committee by the name of ‘United Nations Road Safety Collaboration’ or UNRSC to look into matters pertaining to the same. Earlier, the UNRSC had termed 2011-2020 as the ‘Decade of Action for Road Safety’.
However, in the current day and age, road accidents continue to be inevitable, and as global citizens, it becomes our responsibility to be prepared and be aware of certain steps that we should take if we ever find ourselves to be involved in – or even be a witness to- a road accident.
1. STAY AT THE SCENE AND TRY TO COMPOSE YOURSELF
Of course it’s easier said than done, but it is absolutely imperative to keep calm if you are involved in an accident. Regardless of whether you believe yourself to be at fault or not, you must not flee. In fact, speeding away in the immediate aftermath of the accident will paint you as the person responsible for the situation, even if that might not be the case. Hence, you must remain at the scene of the accident and compose yourself before communicating with, or attempting to help others. It is especially important to be in a calm head space before you communicate with others who may have been involved in- or affected by- the accident. This is because anything that one says under the influence of the momentary adrenaline rush can have unforeseen consequences, specifically in terms of legal liabilities.
2. LOOK OUT FOR THE SAFETY OF THOSE AFFECTED
The first step to take after calming one self down is to enquire about the well-being of others involved in the accident. Ensure that anyone who is severely injured is carefully removed from the way of immediate harm. However, only attempt to physically move an injured person if you are confident of your ability to do so without complicating the situation further. If not, call for an ambulance immediately, and wait for the paramedics to arrive. It is also a good idea to alert the nearest hospital with the details of the injury at the earliest so that they can be prepared.
3. DOCUMENT THE ACCIDENT SITE AND VEHICLE DAMAGE IN A RESPONSIBLE MANNER
Responsibly documenting the scene of the accident and any damages caused to the vehicles of all the parties involved will take you a long way and can serve as crucial evidence, particularly when it comes to claiming your insurance benefits. In the age of smart phones, the most efficient way to do this would be to click accurate pictures of the entire scene, and by making a short video, prior to the involvement of third party by-standers. Preferably, take this step as soon as possible, before any of the vehicles are moved or towed away. You should also make a note of the vehicle numbers and registration details for all the vehicles involved. It also helps to note down the names, and contact details of the affected people and witnesses, if any. In the case of a collision, ensure that you note the license details of the other driver(s).
4. GET IN TOUCH WITH AN ATTORNEY
Most road accidents that take place are shrouded in uncertainties regarding the correct sequence of events. Hence, it is essential that you get in touch with a lawyer who is adequately qualified, and equipped to deal with specialized cases of car accidents and accident related damage claims. In fact, it would be in your best interest to get in touch with a legal advocate prior to contacting your insurance officer or agent. A well-qualified attorney can also diligently guide you through the insurance procedure and redress any qualms or concerns.
5. ENSURE THAT THE LOCAL POLICE ARE CALLED TO THE ACCIDENT SITE AND REGISTER AN OFFICIAL COMPLAINT
Even in the case of a minor collision, it is always a good idea to call the local police to the location of the accident and get an official report filed with them. This proves to be extremely useful in the longer run since, apart from the possibility of a drawn-out court case, a lot of the insurance companies tend to ask to see a copy of these reports when you file for damage claims. Ensure that you note the name and badge number of the concerned officer, and definitely request for a copy of the report for your own reference. Once again, remember to remain calm and neutral when speaking to the police officer.
6. CONTACT ALL RELEVANT INSURANCE PROVIDERS
Once you have completed each of the aforementioned steps, you must immediately get in touch with the concerned insurance providers. In the case of a minor accident with damages restricted to just your vehicle, you only need to contact your car insurance company. However, in case anyone in your party has been severely injured, or in case there is a death, it would also make sense to get in touch with the providers of the persons’ medical insurance and life insurance. In order to lay claim to the maximum compensation available to you, it would be beneficial to consult your attorney, and not accept the settlement granted until the end of all your medical billings, if any.
7. MAINTAIN A SYSTEMATIC RECORD OF ALL PAPERWORK AND MEDICAL EXPENSES
Lastly, once you leave the accident site, make sure that you responsibly and systematically file of all the relevant paperwork at home. This includes the copy of the police report, any details you may have noted at the time, copies of insurance claim forms, medical records and bills etc. To be extra cautious, you can also keep scanned copies of these stored within a password protected folder.