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What to do after an auto accident?

You are driving on the streets of Washington, following the Rules of the Road, when out of nowhere, a car comes flying out of a side street and slams into you causing your car to spin around and come to a stop in the middle of the street.

Auto accidents happen every day in Washington. Injuries sustained in these car wrecks range from soft tissue injuries, to catastrophic and sometimes deadly results. There is on average 500 fatal car accidents in Washington every year.

Most drivers who have just been hit are in a state of shock and knowing what to do next can be confusing and difficult. 

First, assess the situation.  

Are you able to move without extreme pain?  If so, determine if your car is blocking traffic.  Can you drive your car to the shoulder of the road or to a safe place like a nearby parking lot? If you are stationary in the middle of a street, the chances of a second accident from another car are likely, so the quicker you can get your car to a place of safety, the better.

Next, call the police.  

Sometimes the police will ask if there are serious injuries and/or significant property damage and if there is not, they may just tell you to exchange information with the other driver. However, even if there is little to no damage, it is always good practice to call the police to assure that the accident will be reported and documented because most people realize much later what all is at stake. It is critical that you get as much information as possible at the time of the accident. 

Often times, you may not feel any immediate pain.  This could be a result of the shock, but the truth is most soft tissue injuries will only begin appear a few hours or days later.  At the point that this type of injury starts to cause pain, you will likely need to seek medical attention. Who is going to pay for your doctor visit(s)?  

At this point you will realize you needed that police report. You will be much better served if you are able to obtain a police/accident report to give to your insurance company for repairs and doctor visits.

If for some reason the police do not come out be sure to exchange the following information with the other driver(s):

1.       Driver’s License Number and state issued

2.       Phone number and contact information

3.       Insurance Company and policy number

4.       Type of vehicle that hit you and the license plate state and number.

5.       Name of the legal owner of the vehicle that hit you

Lastly, Pull out your cell phone. 

Take pictures of the other driver’s license plate,  driver’s license, and any damage to yours or the other driver’s vehicle(s).

In the State of Washington, it is the law to exchange information whenever involved in a vehicle accident  In fact, it is a criminal act to fail to do so. 

Luckily, most motor vehicle accidents do not result in catastrophic injuries, so keep your cool, know that everyone involved will likely feel stressed and anxious. Try to remember that most accidents are just that, accidents.  

The most important thing to keep in mind, even if it appears that there are no injuries or damage at the time, is to exchange the necessary information. Hopefully you will not need any of the information, but in case you do, you will be thankful you got it.

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Cynthia Macklin has been practicing law in Tacoma Washington for nearly 20 years. She has represented thousands of DUI clients over the years.

If you have a question about your particular case please feel free to call the law office for a free confidential consultation at 253-566-0808.