What Do You Do After A Car Accident In New Orleans?
Learning what to do after a car accident before one actually occurs can help keep a bad day from getting worse.
Get to Safety
Right after an accident, the first concern is whether there is any danger of additional injury. Vehicles stopped in the roadway may be in danger of being hit again by other motorists.
If a vehicle cannot be safely moved off a roadway, the passengers should evacuate the vehicle and get well away from the road. Use warning devices such as hazard lights, flares, and cones to alert others of the situation. Call 911.
Check for Injuries
Is anyone injured? Is emergency medical assistance needed? If injuries appear to need immediate medical treatment, call 911 and know it will be important to identify your location if you call from a cell phone. Relying on the cell signal alone will only provide general information for location within a certain distance of the nearest cell tower.
If the exact location cannot be given, try to provide the name of the roadway, the nearest mile marker, and any other identifying information that might assist the 911 operator in pinpointing the location. When minutes may matter, being prepared can save lives.
Whether or Not to Call the Police
In Louisiana, the accident reporting laws do not require the police to be contacted after every crash. Drivers are only required to report accidents if any of the following circumstances resulted:
- Any person sustains an injury
- If there is a fatality
- Property damage over $500
If no one claims to be injured and property damage appears minimal, notifying the police may not be necessary. As of August 2021, a driver is no longer required to submit an accident report to the state within 24 hours.
Before the recent change, the driver of any vehicle had to submit a written report about the accident to the Department of Public Safety and Corrections if the accident resulted in injury or death or $100 in property damage. Failure to provide the report could result in a jail sentence and fine.
Even when notifying the police is not legally required it is still recommended in most cases because there will be an official report of the incident. The police will conduct an investigation and collect information that can be very useful in any later legal proceedings. The observations and opinions of the police are generally considered to be objective and credible evidence.
Exchange License, Registration, and Insurance Information
Any driver involved in a crash must provide contact information to anyone who was injured or experienced property damage from the accident. The information should include:
- Name and address of vehicle driver (copy of driver’s license if available)
- Vehicle registration and license plate
- Auto insurance carrier and policy number
Taking pictures of the information provides an accurate record that can be easily transmitted.
When You Can Leave the Accident Scene
Louisiana law allows drivers involved in accidents to leave the scene once they have provided identifying information and assisted anyone needing immediate aid.
Any driver who is involved in or causes an accident and fails to stop and provide their name, address, and vehicle license number, and give reasonable assistance to anyone needing it is guilty of hit-and-run driving. Penalties for hit-and-run driving include fines and jail time and get more severe for the driver who leaves a serious injury accident.
Be Mindful of Future Legal Proceedings When Giving Information
After an accident, a driver may be speaking with the other persons involved, the police, and insurance companies. Keep in mind that what is said may later be used against the speaker. Stay calm and take the time to think before responding to questions or volunteering information.
One of the most important determinations that will be made is who is responsible for causing the accident. Liability will be apportioned among the drivers after an evaluation of the evidence. Saying ‘sorry’ or apologizing after an accident might later be interpreted as an admission of wrongdoing. Do not accept or admit fault.
The extent of a person’s injuries may not be immediately known at an accident scene or even a few days later when talking with an insurance company. It is better to indicate injuries are not yet fully known even if no injuries are suspected. For a person who says too quickly that they were not injured, a personal injury claim can be more difficult to prove.
Prepare a Record of the Accident
Personally documenting an accident can help preserve and protect the rights of any person who may have liability for causing the crash or may have been injured as a result.
- Take pictures of the crash scene and all the damage done.
- Get names and contact information of other persons involved, witnesses, and responding officers.
- Write down everything that happened while the memory of the events is fresh to assist with later recall.
See a Doctor
Some injuries may not show up immediately after a car accident, and a person may not realize they have been injured right away. A doctor will know how to check for injuries that are common in car crashes and can advise about the types of symptoms to watch for. Insurance will usually cover the cost of a medical examination after an accident, and seeing a doctor early is beneficial for linking the car accident to any claimed injuries.
Notify Your Auto Insurance Carrier
Auto insurance policies usually do not require accidents to be reported within a specific period of time. But the language of the applicable policy should be reviewed to know exactly what is required. An insured’s compliance with policy provisions is usually a condition necessary for an insurance company to provide coverage.
Remember, insurance is a business. Companies make money by closing claims quickly with minimum payments. Don’t give them reasons to avoid paying claims. Try to provide only the information that is requested. Be truthful but concise. Stick to the facts of what happened. Do not speculate or offer opinions. Do not agree to anything without sufficient time to fully consider the consequences.
No one ever plans on getting in a car accident. Accidents are an unfortunate risk of driving. Knowing what to do when you get into a car accident in New Orleans can help everyone involved get through a bad experience with the least amount of suffering.
If you have been involved in a car accident in New Orleans, please contact the Charbonnet Law Firm, LLC online, or call our office at (504) 294-5094.