You have been careful, going out seldom and always wearing your mask and distancing from others when you are away from the house. But what happens if you are in a car accident? What happens if the other driver is not following masking and distancing protocols?
Print out this handy step-by-step guide and keep it in your glove compartment. Following these steps will ensure that you have all of the information you need for the insurance company and possible lawsuit, and also mitigate the possibility of contagion.
Things you will need in your car at all times to protect yourself:
- Your mask
- Extra paper masks
- Latex gloves or sanitary wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- A smartphone or camera, for taking a picture and recording notes
- Your license and registration
Step #1 – Call 911.
When you call, be sure to first report whether you need medical attention, or if you believe someone else might. State your location and describe the vehicles involved. State also if there are any other aspects of the scene that are dangerous, such as utility pole damage, if an electric wire is down, if anything is on fire, or any other hazard.
Step #2 – Put your mask on and gather your insurance card and registration.
It’s a good idea to keep hand sanitizer and latex gloves or sanitary wipes in your car. If it is a minor accident with no injuries and just some damage to the vehicles involved, you and the other driver will simply exchange information and move on.
If possible, communicate with others at the scene from six feet away. You and the other driver can exchange insurance and contact information verbally, but if you must see or give documents, keep two arms’ length away and take documents from others with gloves on or with sanitary wipes only. If others handle your documents, use gloves or sanitary wipes to take them back.
Do NOT apologize to the other driver or say anything about the accident to the other driver. DO take note of anything the other driver says, and how the other driver appears. Is the driver intoxicated? Does it seem like the other driver could have been distracted by a cigarette, child, or dog in the car? Did you notice the other driver weaving, running a stop sign or red light, or speeding? Take note of all you observe and all you remember happening just prior to the accident.
Step #3 – If the other driver is not wearing a mask, stay in your car with the windows up until the authorities arrive if you can.
This is a must. The other driver may approach your car, and if not wearing a mask, refuse to roll the window down or get out if it is safe to remain in your car. Many carriers of the coronavirus are asymptomatic, but shed the virus and infect others for two weeks or more after becoming infected. Someone may look fine and be highly contagious.
Step #4 – Take pictures of the scene and the cars involved with your phone, if you are able.
Maintain distance especially from those who are not wearing a mask. Refrain from touching anything. Take note of the time of day, weather, road conditions, and traffic conditions. Take pictures of all damage done.
Step #5 – Get witness contact information if you are able, maintaining a six-foot distance.
Here’s where your extra paper masks will come in handy. If witnesses are reluctant to wear masks when you ask them to, you can tell them that you may have been exposed to the coronavirus and that the masks are for their safety as well as yours.
If you are not comfortable with having this conversation with witnesses, you can take down the license plate numbers of potential witnesses and their description, and point them out to police so the police can approach them and ask them what happened.
Step #6 – Get the names and badge numbers of police at the scene, and the report number (if any).
If there is no report number, ask the officer for the procedure and timeline for obtaining his or her report. Take note if any tickets are issued to the other driver.
Step #7 – Contact your insurance company to file a claim.
Often this can be done online. Check with your auto insurance company.
Step #8 – Keep track of expenses.
Your insurance company will likely require you to meet with a claims adjuster to assess the damage to your car. But you will have to keep track of other expenses such as medical bills and lost wages.
When you meet with the claims adjuster, observe masking and social distancing protocols.
Step #9 – Call an experienced personal injury and auto accident attorney if the insurance settlement you are offered is too low.
Most states have a two-year limit on the time a victim of a car accident can file a lawsuit. Find out what the statute of limitations is in your state, or better yet, talk with an attorney as soon as you can after your accident.
A serious car accident can change the course of your life in an instant. In a fender-bender, you might only need to deal with damage to your car. But if you are injured, you are entitled to be compensated for your medical expenses, lost wages, and for serious injuries, compensation for loss of enjoyment of life.
Follow these steps and not only will you preserve your rights to compensation, but you will mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19.
About the Author
Veronica Baxter is a legal assistant and blogger living and working in the great city of Philadelphia. She frequently works with Craig A. Altman, Esq., a car accident lawyer in Media, PA.