Important Things to Know if You Are Involved in A New Jersey Motor Vehicle Crash.
On average, there are about 17,009 car crashes every day in the United States.
On average, about 280,000 car crashes happen in New Jersey on a yearly basis. That's an awful lot of crashes.
Hopefully, you won't be involved in any such crash, but it's always a good idea to be prepared. That's the reason I have put together this guide on what I consider to be the most important things that people should know and be aware of in the event they happen to be involved in a New Jersey vehicle crash.
You might want to keep this guide handy, like keeping it in your car, where you can easily access it in the event you ever need it. Being involved even in a minor crash can be a very traumatic and scary experience. People don't usually think very quickly when they are under a lot of stress, and if you aren't aware of the material in this guide, you could easily make some important mistakes at the scene of the accident.
If you are the driver of the car, you want to protect not only your own rights, but also the rights of any of your passengers. You also want to make sure you are aware of your legal responsibilities. We don't want you to make any critical mistakes that could come back and haunt you in the future.
We hope that you are never involved in an automobile crash, but if it ever happens to you, we hope that the knowledge you gain from studying this guide will be very positive and very helpful to you.
If you ever have any questions about any of the information in this guide, you may always feel free to call us.
The Initial Shock
A car crash is a totally unexpected traumatic event, and perhaps the most common immediate reaction is the total shock and disbelief that something like this could have happened to you. Many people may also experience immediate pain, which might be quite severe. Seriously injured people could also be severely bleeding, and some people could even lose consciousness.
The decisions you make and the actions you take right after a motor vehicle crash could seriously affect your future and the future of all of the other people involved in the crash.
You aren't going to be able to help other people unless you yourself are safe and sound. If it's possible, move your vehicle out of harm's way – get your vehicle off the road and onto the shoulder or some other area where you won't be at risk of another vehicle striking you or your vehicle. If you can't get your vehicle to a safe location, get yourself and your passengers out of there, and go to as safe a place as you can. Don't risk being involved in another collision. If you have moved your car, try to make sure to remember where in the roadway the crash occurred so that you can be as accurate as possible when you describe the crash to any investigating officers.
Hopefully, any other drivers involved in the accident will be honest and forthright people and be cooperative in any discussions they have with you. Every once in a while, however, another driver might try to take off. I wouldn't suggest that you try to chase anyone, so if you can do so, at the very least write down the license plate numbers of any vehicles involved, and the makes and models of the vehicles involved.
Is Everyone Safe and Sound?
If you are okay and able to do so, check how all other people involved in the crash are doing. Your best bet, from a legal point of view, is not to make any admissions or statements about who is to blame for the accident. Even if you believe the accident was totally your fault, it's probably best not to admit that you caused the accident. If someone else is clearly at fault, it's probably not the best idea to get into an argument with that person about why he caused the accident. If you are dealing with an honorable person, they just might themselves apologize and accept full responsibility for the accident. Try your best to keep your cool, and don't be anybody's foo.
Observe if anyone is clearly injured, and if so, see if you can help them move to a safe and secure location. If they are bleeding, offer whatever first aid measures you can, and get other people who can help involved. You might find that one of the people involved in the accident or perhaps a bystander has first aid experience, and that person will be helpful.
If someone has trouble moving, don't do anything stupid, but if possible, see if you or someone else can move them to safety without jeopardizing your own safety or the safety of someone else who is trying to help. You don't have to be a hero and jeopardize your own safety. Don't put yourself in any immediate danger. Wait for help from the professionals.
Contact the Police and Emergency Medical Personnel.
Make sure that you or someone else calls 911 and ask for the police and medical people to get to the scene as quickly as possible.
They will do their job and provide medical care to any injured people, and they will direct traffic or close the roadway as may be appropriate.
The police and medical personnel will speak to the people involved in the crash and any witnesses, and they will ultimately prepare detailed reports which will be available to those involved in the crash. These reports can be very helpful in the future, especially if there is a lawsuit involved as a result of injuries sustained by people involved in the accident.
If you speak to the person on the other end of the 911 call, keep in mind that those calls are recorded, and those recordings could be helpful or harmful to you in the future. It's probably a good idea not to discuss anything about who is responsible for the accident. It's also a good idea to remain on the line with the 911 operator until help arrives so you can keep them updated as to any changes in anyone's medical condition or any other important developments.
Sometimes people that cause accidents have been drinking too much or using drugs. The police will perform appropriate tests if they believe that anyone that may have caused the accident was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Do your best to keep your cool when you speak with the police and medical personnel at the scene. Some people may be obviously injured and need immediate transport to a hospital. Other people may in fact have neck injuries, back injuries, or other soft tissue injuries, but they might not realize their need for immediate medical attention. They might be so emotionally involved after the accident, that they don't realize that they are actually injured.
I would advise that it's always best to get an evaluation by the medical team at the scene of the crash. It's the smart thing to do. Let the emergency medical people give you an examination – they are trained to realize that people may not comprehend to what extent, if any, they are injured. It is well known that often times neck and back injuries don't cause pain until maybe a day or two after the accident. Sometimes people may not experience pain until even a week or more after the accident.
YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN'T DISCUSS WHO IS TO BLAME FOR THE CRASH.
It is likely that whatever you say to the police, the medical personnel, or anyone else at the scene of the accident can and will be used against you. Sharp lawyers can turn a person's words around, and make it sound like they said exactly the opposite of what they really meant.
You won't necessarily know who is to blame for the accident, because there are so many perspectives involved, and you may only know what happened in the flash of a split second, without knowing all of the other details and the things that led up to that split second crash. Don't blame yourself, and don't blame someone else. Wait until all the facts come out in the police report and in any other investigative reports before you jump to any conclusions.
There's another reason you don't want to discuss responsibility or blame for an accident before you know all of the facts. Insurance companies and their representatives are notorious for trying to use people's statements to the police or emergency personnel against them at a later date. Also, if you have been injured and try to file a lawsuit at a later date to obtain fair compensation for your injuries, if you made a previous statement that the crash was your fault, you might be totally prevented from getting any monetary compensation for your injuries.
Get People's Names and Contact Information
Try to get contact information for all people involved in the crash, and any witnesses that appear at the scene. You can even get this information while you are waiting for the police and medical team to get there. If you can do so, also get the following information from any drivers involved in the accident.
a) their full name and address and their driver's license information,
b) their insurance information – company and policy number. You can take pictures of driver's licenses, insurance cards, and anything else you believe is important to preserve.
c) the make and model of their vehicle. You will need this information for your insurance company.
Another good idea is to take pictures of the crash scene, and you can pretty much do that with any smartphone. You should also take pictures of the license plate numbers and license plate vehicles involved in the crash. Be as thorough and as detailed as you can be with the pictures you take. If you can, also take some videos of the area and the crash scene from all different points of view. You can describe the area and what you are doing as you take the videos.
If possible, you might even be able to get a video recording of any witnesses to the crash, Let them speak in as much detail as they like to describe exactly what happened from their perspective.
Many areas these days have video surveillance cameras. Look around and see if you notice any cameras in nearby stores or other areas and make notes of that for future reference. If there was a video camera in a store, you could stop in and speak with people inside and ask that they preserve any videos taken around the time of the crash. You want to make sure those videos don't get wiped out.
Finally, once you have collected this information, do not share it with anyone without first speaking with an attorney.
Should You Call a Lawyer to Help You?
Once you get yourself together and feel up to it, I would recommend that you call a competent personal injury lawyer so that you can be made fully aware of all of your legal rights and responsibilities. It may even be a good idea to call this lawyer before you call your insurance, because that lawyer will help make sure that all of your rights are protected from this point forward, and the lawyer may also help you determine the best way to contact and deal with your insurance carrier.
If you have been injured, and the crash was caused by a careless driver, the lawyer may be able to help you get fair compensation for your injuries if you are a victim of a negligent driver, you may be entitled to compensation.
Investigate the facts and circumstances of your accident to find evidence of negligence or wrongful conduct on the part of other drivers, government entities, auto manufacturers, or others.
Insurance companies are not really your friend. Once you get a good attorney to represent you, you can focus primarily on your health – recovering as quickly as possible from the injuries you suffered, while your lawyer deals with the insurance companies and takes care of the legal issues for you.
You really shouldn't discuss the accident or your injuries with anyone other than your attorney. Talking to other people about how the accident happened and what injuries you sustained can easily come back to haunt you in the future.
Keep in mind that when you speak with your attorney there is a lawyer-client privilege. This means that everything you tell your lawyer is strictly and totally confidential. When you speak with medical people that examine or treat you, those conversations are also confidential. And the same confidentiality applies to communications between you and your spouse.
Get the Proper Medical Treatment
Your primary concern should be to get the proper medical care and help yourself to recover as quickly as you possibly can. That of course involves following the advice of your medical treatment team. It takes most people quite a while to fully recover, and it can be a long step by step process. You will need to be patient and trust in what your medical providers tell you to do.
Your lawyer may ask you to keep a pain and treatment diary – this should be done on a daily basis, and this could turn out to be a very valuable tool for you if your case winds up going to a trial.
You also should keep written records when you speak with representatives from the insurance company, when you get medical treatment, and also keep track of the types of normal daily activities you can and cannot do as you go through your recovery process.
Also, you never know when you might have some unexpected aches and pains as time progresses, and it's important to keep written track of that, and how long your pain lasts. Also track your medication, what you take, when you take it, how much you take, and whether or not it helps you. Please also make notes of any side effects from any medication. Of course, you should immediately let your doctor know about any unexpected problems.
Don't Broadcast Your Problems Over the Internet
It might not be easy, but you really should keep off Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. – meaning don't talk about your accident or injuries on the internet or even in emails.
Beware of The Statute of Limitations
What if you have been injured, and you want to file a lawsuit for fair compensation for your injuries, your monetary losses, your medical bills, and your pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life? Be fully aware that there is a time limit for filing such a lawsuit, and if you miss the deadline, this could create a big problem for you. If you haven't filed a lawsuit in New Jersey within two years of the date of your accident, you will almost certainly lose your right to sue for your damages.
Please make sure that you protect yourself. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle crash or any other type of accident, please contact a competent lawyer who can protect your legal rights and get you the compensation you deserve.
We wish you all the best.