At The Scene
If involved in an accident, safety always comes first – call the ambulance if someone is hurt, do not move an injured person, and try to warn approaching traffic.
You should also note these important legal tips to safeguard your rights:
Do not admit fault – Even if you think you are at fault, do not say so . There may be factors, which you are unaware of, which contributed to the accident, and it may turn out that the other driver was more at fault than you.
Only make statements to the police – When you speak to the police, tell them only the facts of what happened. Let the officers draw their own conclusion from the facts.
Stay at the scene until the police tell you that you can leave (leaving the scene of an accident can result in driver’s license sanctions and even criminal charges);
Obtain the following information about:
- The other driver : Name, address, driver’s license number, insurance information, and license plate number.
- Witnesses : Name, address, and telephone number, and a brief description of what they saw.
- Police officers : Ask the police officers who investigate the traffic scene to provide you with a business card, with the “incident number,” so that you can obtain an accident report.
- The location : Take notes about where the accident occurred, the road conditions, speed limits, traffic control devices, the weather, and the lighting. Use your cell phone camera to take pictures of the scene and the area.
- The accident : Take notes about how the accident occurred, such as the direction of travel of the vehicles involved in the accident, and what the cars were doing at the time of the collision.
- Immediately seek medical attention , even if you think you are not seriously hurt.
Be aware that if litigation results from the accident, you may have to disclose your notes with those you are suing, or somebody who is suing you.
Immediate Medical Care
Visit a doctor the day of the accident , or as soon as possible. This is important for two reasons:
The “adrenaline rush” from the accident can mask your symptoms — a physical examination may reveal a hidden injury.
If you do not seek medical care as soon as possible, your insurance company or the other driver may argue that your injuries arose from something that happened after the accident.
Do not go to physiotherapy, massage therapy, or acupuncture before visiting your doctor. While these may be beneficial to your recovery, let a medical doctor examine you first before seeking other treatments.
Tell the doctor all your symptoms, even if you think they may not be serious – it is for the doctor to decide what is serious.
- loss of memory;
- blood or fluid in your ear;
- ringing in the ears;
- confusion; or
- any other unusual physical or mental feeling.
Many people hit their heads, or suffer brain injuries in automobile accidents, and do not realize that they are injured. It is best to be safe, by reporting your symptoms so that the doctor can rule out the possibility of a concussion or brain injury.
At the Hospital
If you go to the hospital, you may be approached by an insurance company or ICBC representative. Keep in mind that they are there to protect the insurance company’s rights, not yours! It is best to decline to speak with them, no matter how friendly or helpful they seem to be. Keep the hospital bracelet after you go home.
Reporting The Accident
Report the accident to your insurance company or ICBC promptly, but decline to give a statement until you have consulted a lawyer or are at least aware of the following:
The insurance company representatives have the company’s best interests in mind. Any statement you give can be used against you in court! Insurance companies may try to blame you for the accident as much as possible, to reduce the amount they must pay you. It is best to give any statements through a lawyer experienced in personal injury law and who will ensure that any statements that you make are not detrimental to any claim you may have.
After The Accident
When you go home after the doctor or the accident, it is very important not only for your health and well being, but for any future claim that you do the following:
- If you need to take time off work, make sure that you consult your doctor first.
- Ask family members or friends to observe you for a few weeks and to note any pain you seem to be experiencing, strange behaviour, or disability such as not being able to do house chores or other activities.
- Keep a diary of any symptoms that you may have. As much medical information as possible should be gathered immediately after the accident occurred. As time passes, memories tend to fade and especially memories about pain and discomfort. Recording some basic information about your symptoms helps later when the damages you are entitled to.