You remember how it felt – grasping for words to describe what happened. While you slowly realize you were in a car wreck, two questions race through your mind: “What do I need to do?” and “What information do I need to get for my insurance carrier?”
Under Texas law, you have certain duties following a car wreck. By following the law, you obtain some of the basic information required to file a claim with your insurance carrier. However, if you collect additional information at the scene of the accident, it may help your insurance carrier to understand what happened in car wreck and evaluate your claim quicker.
Keep Calm After a Car Wreck
First and foremost, stay calm. Being in a car wreck is stressful, and emotions can run high for everyone. You may be angry, or you may feel the need to pacify the other driver if he starts yelling at you.
Be polite, but do not apologize or tell anyone the accident was your fault, even if you think it was. Read documents before you sign them, even if someone tries to summarize what a document does or means.
Minimize Traffic Interference
Whether or not anyone has been injured, immediately stop the vehicle without obstructing more traffic than necessary.
If no one has been injured, the accident occurs in a metropolitan area, and each vehicle can be normally and safely driven, each driver should move their vehicle to minimize interfering with freeway traffic.
—See Accident Involving Personal Injury or Death —Tex. Transp. Code §§555.021(b)
—See Accident Involving Damage to Vehicle —Tex. Transp. Code §555.022(a)-(b)
Check for Injuries After Your Car Wreck
Pursuant to Texas Law, you have a duty to check to see if you, any of your passengers, or anyone in the other vehicle has been hurt and if they need medical attention. If it is apparent that treatment is necessary or if an injured person requests treatment, you must render reasonable assistance, including transporting or making arrangements for transporting the person to a physician or hospital for medical treatment (i.e., calling an ambulance).
—See Accident Involving Personal Injury or Death —Tex. Transp. Code §550.021(a)(3)
—See Duty to Give Information and Render Aid —Tex. Transp. Code §555.023(3)
Call 9-1-1 After a Car Wreck
Even if the car wreck is minor, insurance carriers recommend reporting an auto accident to law enforcement because it can help establish who is at fault.
The Texas Department of Transportation recommends reporting an auto accident to law enforcement if someone is injured, a vehicle cannot be driven, you suspect a driver is intoxicated, one of the drivers does not have insurance, or one of the drivers leaves the scene.
—See Collisions —Texas Department of Transportation.com
If someone is injured or if a vehicle cannot be normally and safely driven, you are required to report an auto accident to law enforcement.
—See Immediate Report of an Accident —Tex. Transp. Code § 550.026(a)
Exchange the following information with the driver of the other vehicle or a passenger of the other vehicle, and any person that has been injured as a result of the accident:
- Name of the vehicle’s driver;
- Address of the vehicle’s driver;
- Auto insurance carrier and policy number of the vehicle’s driver; and
- Vehicle’s identification number (VIN).
Ask to see the driver’s license of the other driver and show him your driver’s license.
If the vehicle involved in the accident does not belong to the driver, provide and/or obtain the name and address of the vehicle’s owner.
—See Duty to Give Information and Render Aid —Tex. Transp. Code §555.023(1)-(2)
Be sure to Record:
- All the information you obtained when you exchanged information;
- Vehicle descriptions (make, model, year);
- Vehicle license plate numbers;
- Names and contact information of eyewitnesses;
- The location or address of the accident; and
- The police officer’s name and badge number.
Remember to take photos of all vehicles involved and the accident scene.
Inform Your Insurance Carrier
Inform your insurance carrier that you have been involved in an accident as soon as possible.
It should be noted that this is not an exhaustive list of all legal duties required following an auto accident or all the information an insurance carrier may need from you to file a claim, but rather a brief overview of some duties and common requests. Please speak with your attorney if you have questions about your legal requirements following an auto accident or filing a claim.
–Authored by William “Bill” Benda, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Civil Litigation Division
1101 Broadway, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3303
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479