Before You Head Out on the RoadEven before you venture out on the roads, there are several things you should do to prepare yourself for a roadside emergency – or worse, an accident:
- Registration – The first, and for most people the most obvious, is to make sure your driving credentials are in order. Your vehicle must be registered and the registration must be up to date. Vehicle registration requirements vary from state to state, so check the table at the Keeping It Legal section below to make sure you are in compliance.
- Inspection – In some states like Pennsylvania, you must have a current inspection that certifies that your car is safe to drive. However, even if your state doesn’t require a certified state inspection, it is still a good idea to have your mechanic perform periodic routine safety checks on your car. A good time to do this is when you have your oil checked, which typically is done at least twice per year.
- Proof of Insurance – You also need to show proof of financial responsibility. This is a card or document provided by your insurance company that verifies that you and your vehicle are properly insured, in compliance with the state that the car is registered in.
- Driver’s License – Finally, whenever you venture out, make sure that you have your driver’s license with you. This is important to demonstrate that you are in fact a legal driver and will also serve as your identification in the case of an accident or if you are stopped by law enforcement for some reason.
- Emergency Kit – Although it is not required by law, it is also a good idea to carry some sort of emergency safety kit. At a minimum, the kit should contain a flashlight, cables for jumping your battery, a first aid kit, and some type of warning device — such as flares or a reflective triangle — in the event of an accident. Additionally, there are many other supplies and tools that experts recommend. It’s a good idea to do some research and then put together a kit that makes sense for you.
Car Accidents Do HappenMost of the time when you get behind the wheel, your trip will be uneventful, at least in terms of colliding with an obstacle or another car. But if you do have an accident, here is what you should do:
- Assess the Accident Scene — First and foremost, remain calm. Breathe deeply and clear your mind. Next, determine if you are injured and to what extent. If you can move, check on your passengers, if any, and then the occupants of the other vehicle or pedestrians who might have been injured. Call 911 immediately, report your assessment, and request urgent medical assistance.
- Secure the Accident Scene — If your car is driveable, move it to a safe location and suggest that the other driver or drivers do the same. Be aware of traffic in the area and stay well off of the active roadway. If you have not already done so, call 911 and report the accident to the police. Even if the damage seems minor, you should notify the police and file a police report.
- Exchange Information — Seek out the other driver and exchange identification including address, phone number, driver license number, insurance information, vehicle description, license plate number, and email address. Gather this information for everyone involved in the accident including vehicles and pedestrians. Particularly during the information exchange, it is important to remain calm and focused. Make sure you get all of the required contact information. Do not get angry and accuse anyone of anything. Also, do not admit to anything or offer your thoughts on what happened, or why. Simply exchange information and be as businesslike as possible during the process.
- Gather Evidence — You should now document the scene of the accident as thoroughly as possible. Even though the police will do this, you should document the accident as well. If there are witnesses at the accident scene, get their names and contact information, and ask them what they saw. Take down the names and badge numbers of all of the police on the scene, as well as the number of the police report. Using your cell phone or camera, take pictures, from multiple angles, of the involved vehicles showing damage and position, as well as the accident scene itself.
- Notify Your Insurance Company — By this point, you are ready to file your claim. Every insurance company has different ways of doing this. Many companies today offer smart phone apps that make the process very easy. It is important, however, to file your claim as soon as possible once the immediate tasks have been taken care of.
Keeping It Legal – Inspection, Registration, and Insurance Requirements
An annual safety inspection by an authorized mechanic is required for all cars and light trucks. There is no inspection requirement. The Dept. of Transportation inspects a vehicle for safety whenever it is registered or renewed. Police officers can also demand a safety inspection based on reasonable cause. A safety inspection is required when a vehicle is sold or ownership changes, or when an out-of-state vehicle is registered.
Vehicles must be registered annually. The registration fee is $36. Vehicles must be registered annually. The fee ranges from $35.50 to $84 based on the age and weight of the vehicle. Vehicles must be registered annually. The registration fee is $40. Vehicles must be registered every 2 years. The registration fee is $135 for vehicles of 3,700 pounds or less and $187 for vehicles in excess of 3,700 pounds.
No fault state that requires bodily injury coverage of $15K per individual, $30K per accident and physical damage liability coverage of $5K No fault state that requires bodily injury coverage of $15K per individual, $30K per accident and physical damage liability coverage of $5K. Motorists are also required to carry coverage for uninsured and under insurance motorists. No fault state that requires bodily injury coverage of $15K per individual, $30K per accident and physical damage liability coverage of $10K No fault state that requires bodily injury coverage of $30K per individual, $60K per accident and physical damage liability coverage of $15K. No fault insurance may be waived for the policy holder but is mandatory for passengers. Motorists are also required to carry coverage for uninsured and under insurance motorists.
What To Do If You Have Been in an AccidentInsurance companies often try to settle automobile accident claims quickly, as soon as all of the paperwork is completed and the facts are verified. Although at first glance this sounds like a good thing, in some cases it might not be the best course of action. Clearly, getting your car repaired or getting a new one as quickly as possible makes sense — you need transportation. If the other driver was at fault, the other insurance company might tender you a fast settlement offer in hopes of closing out the case. However, particularly in the case of serious accidents, the true extent and impact of injuries might not show up for weeks or even months. If you have already settled, it will be too late to do anything about it. If you are involved in an automobile accident, regardless of the severity, one of the smartest things to do is to contact an attorney for counsel. The attorneys at Donaghue & Labrum are highly experienced in personal injury law. As an accident victim, they can help you to make sure that all of your expenses are paid and that you receive full compensation in accordance with law.