The Seven Most Important Steps To Take Immediately After An Auto Accident in Maryland
If you’ve been in a car accident, here are seven steps to take immediately:
- Step # 1 – WRITE DOWN THE OTHER DRIVER’S TAG NUMBER
- Step # 2 – CALL THE POLICE
- Step # 3 – GET OTHER DRIVER’S INFORMATION
- Step # 4 – GET WITNESS INFORMATION
- Step # 5 – SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION
- Step # 6 – CONSULT WITH A LAWYER
- Step # 7 – NOTIFY YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY
Step # 1 – WRITE DOWN THE OTHER DRIVER’S TAG NUMBER
The number one thing to do immediately after a car accident is to write down the other driver’s license tag number. I don’t care if you have to pull lipstick out of your pocketbook and write the number on a Styrofoam cup, scribble it in pen on your arm, or ask the paramedic to write it on his notepad while you’re being loaded into the ambulance. The simple fact is that failure to do this one thing could be fatal to any future claim you may want to pursue against the responsible party.
Here’s why. If you’ve been in a crash, you are going to need to get your property damage fixed as well as be compensated for any injury you’ve sustained. Provided the other driver is at fault, he or she is responsible to take care of those damages. Unfortunately, not every person you come across is honest. In fact, there’s a ton of people in this world that will look you straight in the face and lie to you. Especially if they think their insurance rates are going to go up because they were at fault for the accident. They may give you false information about their insurance company or their home address and phone number.
Remember the police do not respond to every single motor vehicle accident. People are afraid to lie to the police but won’t think twice about lying to you.
Thus, getting the other driver’s tag number insures that if you are given bad information by the defendant you’ll still be able to get the information that you need.
All you simply need to do is run a tag check through the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration or the many online companies that provide this service and you’ll be able to get the correct name, address, insurance company, and insurance policy number of the other driver.
I know what you’re thinking. All you need to do at the scene of the accident is write down the other driver’s information off of his driver’s license. That usually works but not all the time. People frequently change their address and fail to notify the MVA. Maryland law requires an individual to notify the MVA within 30 days of an address change but many people just don’t bother.
Even if you get accurate information from the responsible party’s license, you still won’t have the insurance information. Maryland licenses don’t contain that information. So you have to hope that you’re given the proper insurance details by the defendant. As we’ve discussed, it’s like rolling dice.
The consequence of not being able to get accurate personal and insurance information from the person that just smashed up your vehicle? You’ve now got no one to pay for your messed up vehicle and your mangled body.
Don’t make the mistake of leaving the scene of an auto accident without securing the other driver’s tag number!!!
Step # 2 – CALL THE POLICE
The very next thing I want you to do is to call 911. I know you’re saying to yourself, “Duh Steve, everyone knows to call the police after a car accident.” Well, you’d be surprised. A lot of people “freeze up” after a traumatic event such as a car crash and have a hard time just remaining coherent. They forget to notify the authorities. A number of people also don’t call the police because they’re in a hurry, not seriously injured or their motor vehicle is not totaled, or they think they just don’t need the police.
All of the previous reasons may be valid but let me tell you why you MUST call the police.
In my nearly 20 years of practicing Baltimore injury law, I have seen many people end up not being able to get compensated for their injuries and property damage from a responsible party because they simply had bad or no information about the defendant. You can have the most horrific injury in the world but if you can’t identify the responsible party or their insurance company you will end up with zero.
There are a lot of dishonest people in the world and there’s a good chance the person who just rear-ended you is one of them.
That’s why you need the police to be at the scene of the accident. Not only do the police direct traffic and call Emergency Medical Services if necessary, they also make sure both parties exchange information. A responsible party is less likely to give you inaccurate information when an officer is standing right next to him.
If the accident is more than a fender-bender, the police write a police report. This is crucial because it will contain the other driver’s AND the vehicle owner’s personal and insurance information. A police report is also valuable because the officer will describe how the accident occurred and who was at fault.
If the police fail to write a report they will frequently at least secure the personal and insurance information you need and hand to you that information on a document that has police letterhead as well as the officer’s badge number and phone number.
We pay taxes (way too much by the way) and a portion of that goes to the police. Let the men in blue earn their keep. Neglecting to utilize this free service when you’ve been in a Maryland Car Crash doesn’t make sense and could cost you BIG TIME.
Step # 3 – GET OTHER DRIVER’S INFORMATION
I now want you to safely exit your vehicle and approach the other vehicle. DO NOT GET OUT OF YOUR VEHICLE UNTIL YOU’VE MOVED YOUR CAR OUT OF HARM’S WAY!! Be sure to move the car onto the shoulder, the grassy area, or the side of the road before exiting. Getting out of a motor vehicle that is sitting in the middle lane of a highway or busy intersection, especially at night, will get you killed!!
When you approach the other vehicle, you want to calmly ask the driver if you can get his or her driver’s license and insurance information. Yes, I know that the police have been called. But what if the police don’t show (not uncommon in Baltimore City) or the other driver speeds off before the police arrive? The at fault driver might be driving uninsured or on a suspended license and may want to “get out of Dodge”. Or the other driver just might be in a hurry and not want to wait around (in non serious Maryland auto collisions the police can take over 30 minutes to show up).
You also want to personally get the defendant’s information because in the craziness of the moment you might forget to take down the tag number. No matter what, it’s always good to be safe.
Therefore, make sure you copy the name, address, date of birth, and license number off the driver’s license. Then ask to see the other driver’s insurance card. Get the name of the insurance company and the policy number. Then thank the defendant and go back to your car and wait for the police.
Oh, also write down a description of the at fault driver. If you’re unable to resolve your auto accident claim with the insurance company you someday might have to have the defendant served with court papers. Your process server will thank you.
If, at any time, the defendant gets nasty and refuses to give up information just back off and wait for help to come. Whether the police arrive or not, you’ll be okay because you’ve taken my advice and written down the tag number.
Step # 4 – GET WITNESS INFORMATION
You’re probably now standing next to your car waiting for the police to arrive thinking you’ve got everything under control. YOU ARE NOT DONE!!!!! You now need to act fast and get contact information from any witnesses to the collision.
A witnesses account of the accident is so vital to proving your case especially if the other driver is disputing your version of what happened.
Witnesses don’t know either party involved in a Baltimore Car Accident and thus have no reason to tell anything but the truth. On the contrary, insurance companies, judges, and juries recognize that parties to an accident have reasons to “bend” the truth especially if they’re concerned about their insurance rates being raised if they are found at fault.
Insurance companies, judges, and juries usually base their decisions regarding whose at fault not by what the parties say but rather what the witnesses say!!!
Witnesses are often the “tie-breaker” in disputed accidents that involve lane changes, failure to yield, stop signs, and traffic lights.
So, if the other party is at fault and you neglect to get any witness account of what happened, especially in the above mentioned type cases, your ability to prove you were not responsible is in serious trouble.
Therefore, YOU MUST go over to any witnesses right after the Maryland Car Wreck and ask if they mind remaining on the scene for a couple of minutes so you and the police can get their story of what occurred. Most witnesses will be happy to stay and cooperate. However, remember that people have busy lives and not everyone will be willing to wait.
Thus, it is better that you take down the contact information from ALL witnesses as soon as they identify themselves as having seen the accident.
Remember, unless it’s a serious accident, the police don’t arrive right away and sometimes they don’t arrive at all. It is up to you to make sure the information is obtained.
Be sure you get the name, address, and as many phone numbers as possible from all witnesses (home, cell, work). Get an e-mail address and find out where they work. Try to get the name and phone number of a relative or close friend in case you have trouble locating them.
I know that may seem extreme but in my 20 years as a Personal Injury Lawyer I’ve seen many witnesses disappear. Do yourself a big favor and get as much information as you can.
Getting accurate and detailed information from witnesses at the scene of an accident is crucial and could be the difference in proving your case when the other driver denies fault.
Step # 5 – SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION
If you’ve followed my advice regarding the necessary steps to take after a Maryland Auto Accident, you probably will need time to catch your breath.
Have you settled down a little bit yet? Great. Now, the fact that you were able to get out of your car and complete the steps I recommended is a good indicator that you likely did not suffer a catastrophic injury (I have seen instances in the past where an accident victim went undiagnosed with a severe injury such as a neck fracture or internal injuries but that is rare). Nonetheless, you still may be injured.
If you are experiencing ANY type of bodily pain you need to notify the police officer right away. The officer will request that an ambulance be sent to the scene. The officer will also include the fact that you were injured in the police report, provided one is written. If the police fail to show, I advise you to let the other driver know that you are hurt and then to go directly to the nearest emergency room or medical clinic.
Even if the pain is minimal, it is imperative that you get checked out as soon as possible. You do not know how serious the injury is. As I stated earlier, some people walk around after an auto accident with severe injuries and don’t know it. Some injuries can start out with minimal pain but get progressively worse. Don’t play around with your health!
Just as important, you also need to seek medical attention if you are injured so that the injury can be documented. Insurance companies play HARDBALL and will not pay a penny unless you can prove you were injured. The proof you need is contained in the medical records from your hospital or doctor visit.
Rich insurance companies DEMAND that any medical problem you sustain as a result of a Baltimore Auto Accident be documented. If you’ve been injured but don’t get timely medical attention, as far as the greedy insurance companies are concerned, it’s as if it never happened.
Don’t throw away your right to recover for any injuries you’ve suffered in a Maryland Car Collision. Get medical treatment IMMEDIATELY!!!!!
Step # 6 – CONSULT WITH A LAWYER
I know it appears a little self serving for me to advise you to speak with an attorney after you’ve been in a Maryland Motor Vehicle Crash but there’s good reason.
Please understand that I am only requesting that you CONSULT with a lawyer. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hire that attorney. I believe there are numerous reasons why you should retain counsel after an auto accident but the decision is ultimately yours to make. However, you are doing yourself and your case a huge disservice if you fail to at least speak to a lawyer who concentrates on Maryland Auto Accident cases after your accident.
Why am I so passionate about making sure you consult with an attorney? It’s actually very simple. You undoubtedly have many questions about what you need to do as a result of the accident. Unless you’re an auto accident lawyer yourself or live with someone who is, you’re not going to know the answers to these questions.
What kinds of questions? Here’s just a few of the numerous questions I’m asked by clients and potential clients who have recently been in a auto collision:
- I’ve been contacted by the other driver’s insurance company. Should I speak with them?
- Should I contact my insurance company even if I wasn’t at fault?
- Should I take pictures of my vehicle?
- The other driver’s insurance company refuses to pay the tow and storage fees for my damaged vehicle. What do I do?
- The other driver’s insurance company wants me to give a recorded statement. Should I?
- My insurance company sent me PIP forms. What are these and should I fill them out?
- The other insurance company won’t approve a rental car. What should I do?
- The other driver doesn’t have insurance and he was at fault. What do I do now?
As you can see, a lot of issues pop up after a Maryland Motor Vehicle Collision. Most accident victims just don’t have a clue as to what to do when faced with these issues. It’s plain foolish to attempt to tackle these problems without at least consulting with a lawyer that is very familiar with auto accident claims.
Look, attorneys who practice other areas of the law generally don’t know the correct answers to many of the above questions, let alone the average Joe. So do yourself a big favor directly after a Maryland Car Wreck. Call an attorney who handles auto accident cases and ask lots of questions!!
A good motor vehicle accident lawyer will give you the advice you seek following a car accident. The attorney should not charge you for the advice. Getting the answers to your questions could be extremely helpful in successfully resolving your accident claim.
Step # 7 – NOTIFY YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY
Whew!! I’ve certainly handed out a lot of tasks for you to do immediately after a Maryland Automobile Accident. Trust me, you’ll be glad you followed my advice.
I’ve got one more thing for you to do. After you’ve hung up from talking to your lawyer pick the phone back up and dial your insurance carrier.
“But it wasn’t my fault Steve. Why does my insurance company need to know about the accident?” Good question. Actually, there are several reasons why you need to put your insurance company on notice:
- SPEED. No, not the speed of your car. The speed of YOUR insurance carrier to take care of your immediate needs should the at fault insurance company decide to investigate or deny your claim.There’s no guarantee that the other insurance carrier is going to see the accident the same way you do. The other driver may give a different version of what happened (actually other driver’s lie quite frequently about the events of an accident) or the other driver may not even cooperate with his or her own insurer. All the while, your car is sitting in front of your house or in the tow yard NOT REPAIRED.The quicker you notify your carrier the quicker it can authorize the repair of the vehicle and a rental car (provided you have collision coverage on your policy). There, now your life doesn’t have to be put on hold because the other insurer is investigating.
- PIP OR MEDPAY. If your insurance coverage includes Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or Medical Payments (Med Pay) then the sooner you alert your insurer about the Maryland Motor Vehicle Crash, the sooner you’ll likely be able to get medical attention.Yes it’s true that some medical providers will begin treating your injuries once they confirm from your lawyer that you have a valid injury claim. However, an increasing number of Maryland doctors and physical therapists want a PIP claim number from the victim’s insurer before they’ll treat.Once you notify your carrier that you wish to make a PIP or Med Pay claim, it will forward the application forms to you or your lawyer to complete and return. Don’t forget that in Maryland you have one year from the date of your accident to submit your PIP form to your insurance company. If you don’t file the application within one year you are disqualified from making a PIP claim.
- UNINSURED DRIVERS. A 2006 study by the Insurance Research Council revealed that the estimated percentage of uninsured motorists in Maryland is 12%. That’s approximately one in eight drivers.If the other driver involved in your accident is uninsured, your only recourse (other than suing the other driver which is usually senseless because if they can’t afford insurance they likely don’t have two pennies to rub together) is to make an uninsured motorist (UM) claim with your carrier. Maryland law requires insurance companies to provide UM benefits to all drivers so even if all you have is liability coverage you still have UM coverage.The faster you put your insurer on notice that you’ve been in a Baltimore auto accident, the faster your insurance company can process your UM claim should the defendant not have insurance.
- Finally, be a good policyholder if you’ve been in an accident. Contact your insurer at once and give it all the relevant information pertaining to the collision. This allows the carrier to set up a claim and to investigate quickly which could save you valuable time and aggravation while pursuing your case.
Attorney Steve Heisler
Steve Heisler decided in 1996 that he was going to focus his law practice exclusively on injury cases. Since then, he has been representing injured people against insurance companies, disreputable medical practitioners and Big Pharma, and doing it with compassion, honesty and level-headed rationality. [ Attorney Bio ]