What to Do After a Car Accident in New Jersey?

Hopefully, you will never get into an automotive accident.  Unfortunately, the statistics aren’t exactly favorable.  According to the New Jersey Department of Transportation, over 280,000 crashes occurred in 2013 alone, or about 767 accidents each day.  If the worst does happen, it helps to be prepared.  In this article, car accident lawyer Joseph Lombardo will explain the steps drivers should (and shouldn’t) take after getting into a crash or collision with another vehicle.  Taking the right steps is critical if you plan to file a personal injury claim – and if you want to avoid getting arrested.

Leaving the Scene of an Accident: Hit and Run Charges

After you’ve been in an automotive accident, you should always prioritize safety above everything else.  If you’re in the path of oncoming traffic, move to safety as quickly as possible.  If your vehicle is obstructing the road, move the vehicle only if and when it is safe to do so.  It is better to cause a temporary traffic jam than to put yourself or others in physical danger.

If you must move your vehicle, take pictures first (provided it is safe to do so).  Try to get pictures from every angle possible.

If anyone has been injured by the accident – including other drivers, vehicle occupants, or cyclists and pedestrians – you are required by law to get medical help immediately.  Under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-129(c), a driver who is involved in an accident which causes a wrongful death or injury is required to:

  • Share his or her name and address.
  • Exhibit his or her driver’s license and vehicle registration.
  • Provide “reasonable assistance, including the carrying of that person to a hospital or a physician for medical or surgical treatment, if it is apparent that the treatment is necessary or is requested by the injured person.”
    • Keep in mind that people who are seriously injured may go into shock.  A person who is in a state of shock will not be able to feel the true extent of his or her injuries, and may say they feel fine.  If you have any doubts whatsoever about the other person’s condition, you should play it safe and call an ambulance.  Let the EMTs handle the medical decisions.

If you fail to follow these rules, you can be criminally charged with leaving the scene of an accident, more commonly known as hit and run.

upset woman looking at accident

What Not to Tell Your Insurer After a Car Accident in NJ

Make no mistake: it’s important that you notify your insurance company after you’ve been involved in an automotive accident.  However, at the same time, you also want to avoid sharing information which could come back to haunt you should you decide to file a personal injury claim in the future.

When you call your insurance company, the adjuster will probably ask you for a recorded statement.  You do not have to give your consent to this request.  Instead, tell the adjuster that you prefer to speak to your attorney before you agree to make an official statement.

If the adjuster attempts to pressure you into changing your mind, or resorts to using bullying or intimidation tactics at any point during your conversation, you should be on high alert.  These are red flags for bad faith insurance, or misconduct by the insurance company.  Other warning signs that your insurance company is attempting to deal in bad faith include unreasonable delays, failure to return your calls, or updating your policy (e.g. increasing your premium) without notifying you.

You should also avoid making any comments about the severity of your injuries.  Do not make remarks like “I’m not injured,” or “I feel fine,” because you may regret them later.

After a car accident, your adrenaline is pumping hard.  Once the adrenaline rush subsides and normal sensation returns, you may begin to feel aches and pains you hadn’t noticed immediately after the accident.  Whiplash, a common injury in automotive accidents, is especially notorious for delayed onset.  It’s entirely possible you simply don’t feel how badly you are really hurt. You cannot know the real extent of your injuries until you see a physician.

Your insurance adjuster isn’t the only person you need to be careful about speaking to.  No matter how cold or strange it might feel, you must resist the urge to apologize to the other driver.  Saying you’re sorry implies an element of guilt, or fault, which could be used against you in future legal proceedings.

Car accidents are blurs of chaos which happen in the blink of an eye.  Even if you sincerely believe you were the party at fault, it’s possible that, in the confusion of the crash, you got a detail wrong.  Don’t risk making any statements, no matter how minor, which could undermine the strength of your claim.

Call a New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer Today

If you were in a car accident in New Jersey, personal injury lawyer Joseph Lombardo may be able to help you recover compensation for your pain, suffering, medical bills, and other losses.  To set up a free and confidential legal consultation, call Lombardo Law at (609) 445-4300 today.

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