What to Do If Involved in a Motor Vehicle Accident
Motor vehicle accidents can be trying experiences. They may involve vehicles such as motorcycles, trucks/SUVs, semi trucks and cars. The legal issues are often varied too.
For example, if you are involved in a car accident, there are important issues stemming from the type of car insurance you purchased. In no-fault states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, you will have medical benefits coverage under you car insurance policy that covers medical bills for you and your family. Your health insurance will only cover you or your family after the medical benefits under the car insurance policy are exhausted. Moreover, you would have selected a lawsuit option under your policy. In Pennsylvania, you selected either full tort or limited tort. In New Jersey, you had to select the lawsuit limitation or zero limitation. Oddly enough, your selection of a lawsuit option affects whether you may bring a personal injury claim against the person who caused the accident. There are exceptions, however. For example, you will be deemed to have selected the full tort option in Pennsylvania if the accident is caused by an intoxicated driver, whether from alcohol or medication.
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident with a tractor-trailer, there are state and federal regulations governing the operation of the vehicle including the number of hours the operator is permitted to drive daily. Here is a brief listing of some of the federal regulations: Title 49 CFR Part 391 – Qualifications of Drivers, Title 49 CFR Part 392 – Driving of Commercial Motor Vehicles, Title 49 CFR Part 393 – Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation, Title 49 CFR Part 395 – Hours of Service of Drivers and Title 49 CFR Part 396 – Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance.
In addition, most current day trucks including tractor-trailers have data recording devices or “black boxes” that may obtain critical information about your accident. This data needs to be preserved immediately. If the data is favorable to you or your family, the owner of the tractor-trailer may well be disinterested in its preservation. The data can be easily written over once the tractor is put back on the road.
Here is a checklist of what steps you should take after being involved in a motor vehicle accident.
* Call police immediately at 911 if you or anyone is hurt and/or if there is damage to vehicles or property. It is important that a police report be filed of record.
* Keep calm. Make no statements to anyone about the accident, or who might have been at fault. Do not answer questions about the accident for anyone except the police or medical personnel.
* If possible, write down the date, time and place of the accident. Or do so as soon as you can afterwards.
* If possible, exchange driver’s license and vehicle registration and insurance information with other parties involved.
* If possible, get names and addresses of witnesses.
* Write down the name, badge number and jurisdiction (i.e., Philadelphia, Cherry Hill) of the police officer taking your accident report.
* If possible, take photographs of the scene and vehicles involved.
* Describe the accident to the police as simply as possible. Do not assess or accept blame.
* If another party’s insurance company or investigator asks you to sign any papers or provide a written or recorded statement, do not do so without first consulting with an attorney.
Finally, keep in mind that you should make objective decisions about fault for the accident including who is responsible for paying to have the vehicles repaired. Important decisions may also be needed regarding medical care. Try to keep your emotions from clouding your judgment.