Friday, 31 January 2014

The First Steps After An Accident; Some Traditional & Some Not-So-Traditional Steps To Consider.

Ok, so you got smashed in a car accident. Now what?

As a private investigator I investigate motor vehicle accidents, (on behalf of the injured). As of September 2013, I also joined the ranks of the injured. The facts in my accident transcend the bizarre so I strongly doubt that you will have to deal with similar circumstances.  There are; however, some universal first steps one should take following an accident.

I got hit with a severe impact & I instantly knew it had caused significant damage to both my vehicle & to me. I’m a considerate person by nature so I cleared my vehicle out of the heavy afternoon traffic & pulled over – as did the other guy. It is so frustrating when people are involved in a minor accident yet refuse to move their vehicle. Ever been stuck for hours on Hwy 1, genuinely concerned about “those poor people” in the accident, only to finally pass the “scene” to realize it’s a minor fender-bender? Irritating. Of course, it’s not that I wish they’d been more injured; I just wish they’d been more considerate. But I digress.

After taking stalk & ensuring that I wasn’t too injured to exit the vehicle, I gathered my wallet, insurance papers, anything I thought might assist with documenting the situation since my phone was dead, (recorder, disposable camera), & my keys.  It’s a good idea to take the keys out of the ignition & lock your doors while you’re dealing with an accident. As unbelievable as it may seem, both victims & good Samaritans have had their valuables stolen from accident scenes.

As obsolete as keeping a disposable camera in your vehicle may seem; it’s still worth doing. As was the case with mine, cell phones can be unpredictable & die.

My case was a bit unusual from the start because the other driver displayed signs of impairment even before I exited my, (obviously totaled), car. Because of this and the severity of the accident, I called 911 - from his cell phone. Hopefully, if you find yourself in an mva, witnesses might actually stop, which wasn’t the case with my situation, so his cell phone was my only option. At least I didn’t have to fight him for it. 

While waiting for police, we exchanged information, including insurance documents & driver’s licenses. According to The Motor Vehicle Act, anyone involved in a motor vehicle accident must remain on-scene; render assistance, & exchange registration and license information, (with everyone involved). The Act states that if the damage exceeds $1,000, ($600 for motorcycles), the accident must be reported to ICBC within 24 hours, (48 hours in rural areas). It’s usually best to err on the side of caution & report the accident to Police, who may or may not attend the scene. Never leave the scene without exchanging info or calling Police. Even if there is no other driver, (i.e.: single car accident), don’t leave without calling Police first. If you do so, ICBC may conclude that you left because you’d been drinking which could void your insurance and cause them to come after you for any money they pay out.

 ICBC lists the following first steps one should take after being involved in an accident:

  1. Obtain the names, addresses, phone numbers and driver’s license numbers of all parties involved in the accident, regardless of who is at fault for the accident and how minor the accident is;
  2. Have a look at the insurance of each of the motor vehicles involved in the accident so as to get the names of the registered owner and the insurance details;
  3. Look at the other parties’ driver’s license to avoid being given false information;
  4. Write down the plate numbers, including Province, of all the vehicles involved in the accident by looking at the license plates and registration;
  5. If a motor vehicle involved in the accident is registered outside British Columbia make sure you get the name of the insurance company;
  6. Find out the names and contact information of any witnesses;
  7. Take some pictures of the vehicles and their resting positions; and
  8. Take some notes about how the accident happened and draw a sketch of the accident scene.

So, what happens if you are a lone driver, (especially a female), & you are involved in an accident in a rural area or late at night? I have taught my daughters to never leave the safety of their vehicle in such situations.

If the vehicle is drivable: I have advised them to continue driving & immediately call 911 & advise them of the situation, (of course, ensure that the doors & windows are closed & locked). I have advised them that if their phone is dead or they have no service to drive to the nearest Police department if they know where it is. If not, then to head into a busy, well-lit, area or gas station. Lay on the horn to get people’s attention. If the other driver has bad intentions, there is a good chance this would scare him off.

If the vehicle is not drivable: make sure the windows & doors are closed tightly & locked; engage the hazard lights, (& signals, & high beams…) & call Police immediately. If your cell phone is dead or there is no service coverage, lay on the horn, especially if other vehicles pass by in the hopes they will stop or at least call Police.

Someone with bad intentions may likely be scared off & anyone else may likely just see it for the safety precaution it is. Of course, I am not advising other people or their kids to do this; these are simply things I have taught my children to do, (as well as keeping pepper spray handy).

It is sad to have to tell them to not rely on the assistance of strangers - especially since I have raised them to always be of assistance to other – but the reality is, (for whatever reason,) people don’t always come to the aid of others. Their safety, & that of yours & your loved-ones’, is paramount & as long as you make it clear that you were not trying to avoid reporting the accident, everything else can be sorted out later.

In my case, the Police arrived on scene & were great throughout. After conducting a search of the other driver’s vehicle, they arrested him. This guy turned out to be the worst-of-the-worst type of offender & needed to be stopped that day. Fate works in mysterious ways.

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