This is a thorough guide on what to do when you are in an auto accident in Oregon.
Almost every new client I have that is in an auto accident says the same thing "I've never been through this before." Most people buy auto insurance and the only thing they ever do with it is complain about the fact that they are forced to pay for it. But, being a safe driver doesn't guarantee you won't have an accident, so it's a good idea to be prepared in case you do have one. The following are your responsibilities as a driver:
You don't want to block traffic, but you do want to stop as close to the accident scene as possible. Under no circumstance should you "hit and run." That is a violation that can get your driver's license suspended or revoked. In Oregon, causing damage to a motor vehicle, and then leaving the scene, is a Class A Misdemeanor. It can lead to substantial jail time and a 90 day suspension of your driver's license.
Check if anyone is injured and give them aid if necessary. Try not to move injured people. Most of the time, you want to wait until an ambulance arrives with certified first aid technicians. If anyone is unconscious or killed, you must wait for a police officer to arrive. Leaving the scene is considered a "hit and run" offense.
Give the other party/parties of the accident the following information:
o Phone number.
o License plate number.
o Insurance company name and policy number.
o Driver's license number.
Look for witnesses
Did anyone stop to see if you were OK? Did a pedestrian witness the accident? If so, get their contact information. It could help you later if there is a question of who the liable driver was.
Take pictures of the damage
Make sure to take pictures of damage to your vehicle, the other driver's vehicle, and any other property that may have been damaged.
Contact your insurance company
Whether you were at fault or not, contact your insurance company right away. If you were at fault, this will insure you don't have to deal with the issues that come from the motor vehicle accident alone. If you were not at fault, you need to start an application to get personal injury protection (PIP) benefits for the accident. Even if you don't feel hurt, you should be evaluated by a physician after any auto accident.
Report accident to the DMV
There are certain situations where state law requires you to report an accident to DMV. If your accident meets any of the following conditions, you must complete an Oregon Traffic Accident and Insurance Report:
o More than $1,500 of damage to your vehicle.
o More than $1,500 of damage to any vehicle involved in the accident and towing is required to remove a vehicle from the accident.
o More than $1,500 of damage to any person's property (not a vehicle).
o Injury or death because of the accident.
Call an attorney
You don't have to hire an attorney right way. However, each situation is unique. Liability insurance companies will try to contact you within the first two weeks following an auto accident to get you to settle your claim. You may be offered anywhere between $750 and $5,000. They aren't offering you this money because they are good guys that want to take care of you. They are offering you this money to sell your claim short and protect their shareholders. Don't accept the money and contact an experienced auto accident attorney to get a realistic value of your claim.
The 3 DO NOTS
There are 3 major things you should never do when you are in an auto accident, outside of the leaving without giving information.
First: Do not admit liability. Things like "sorry, I didn't see you there" or "that was my fault" can come back to bite you in the end. There may be a number of reasons why the other driver may be at fault even if you feel that you are. Also, many auto accidents don't have a clearly liable driver. Don't lose out on a claim by admitting liability without knowing the law.
Second: Don't get angry. The liable driver didn't mean to rear end you. You didn't mean to rear end them. You were just in an auto accident and that is why you have been paying premiums your whole life. Getting angry after an auto accident can lead to a road rage incident which can turn a small fender bender into jail time. Calmly exchange information and move on.
Third: Don't agree to settle a claim without insurance. Someone might offer you, for example, $500 bucks to not go through insurance if they are liable for insurance. Do not agree to do this. The reason you have insurance is because auto accidents happen. What if you're not in the vehicle and the person agrees to pay for all the repairs? Sure, that is fine. You clearly aren't hurt and don't need to be evaluated. But, anytime you are in a collision $500, or just paying for repairs, isn't going to cover any future medical expenses you may have. Politely decline and make a claim.
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