What to Do if You Get in a Car Accident During the Coronavirus Pandemic
In this age of pandemic and state-wide lockdown, fewer people are on the road, so fewer people are getting into car accidents. But because fewer people are out, the accidents that do happen have involved higher speeds and more serious injuries. And, the number of accidents per vehicle mile is actually up, so if you do find yourself on the road, you have a better chance than usual of getting in an accident, and that accident is more likely to be serious. Getting in a car accident in Palm Beach County was bad enough when the only injuries you had to worry about were the ones you suffered in the crash. But now, with coronavirus spreading, you could be in just as much danger after the crash, because you have to interact with strangers who could be carrying the virus. As drivers, we all have some idea of the right things to do after an accident but let us look at what you should do after an accident during the pandemic.
Stay calm—and stay away from others.
You might think that the first call you make should be to a South Florida car accident attorney. While that is a good call to make, it can wait. The first thing you must do is stay calm and assess the situation. Do this before you even get out of your car. Examine yourself for any injuries; if you have any serious injuries, stay in your car and call 911 right away if you can reach your cell phone. If you do not have any serious injuries (that you can identify), get out of your car, and take account of the scene. But before you get out of your car, put on a face mask—if you have one. Many states are now mandating that people wear masks whenever they are in places where they may encounter other people. You should bring a face mask with you on any trip in your car if you live in one of these states, even if you are only planning on going to an ATM or a drive-thru, just in case.
If anyone else is injured, do not attempt to give them first aid. This would require you to get closer than 6 feet away from them, against the recommendation of the CDC. Instead, call 911 and wait for paramedics to arrive. Paramedics are trained medical professionals who will know how best to help an injured person, and they are more likely to be equipped with personal protective equipment to keep themselves safe from potential exposure to the virus.
If nobody appears to be injured, call 911 and ask for the police to come to the scene. But be aware that in some jurisdictions, police are no longer coming to the scene of non-injury crashes, so as to reduce the number of people that each police officer interacts with on a given shift. If the police do not come to the scene, it will be up to you to collect as much evidence as you possibly can, so that you can file a police report, an insurance claim, or a lawsuit later.
If you have your cell phone, take as many pictures and videos of the scene as you can, including all damage to your car. Look for people nearby who may have seen the crash and ask (from a distance) if they saw anything. If they did, get their contact information—your insurance company (or your lawyer) will want as many witnesses favorable to you as you can find. You do not need to approach them for very long right now; just get enough information that will allow you to get in touch with them again.
Exchange information—from a distance.
You will also need to exchange information with the driver of the other car, but this does not need to be a physical exchange of documents. You can exchange information and maintain social distance. Have the other driver send you a text with a picture of their driver’s license and insurance card. You should do the same for them. This way, you have all the information that you would have typically copied down hastily (and possibly misplaced) after getting in a car accident in Palm Beach County, but it is saved on your phone. This method also ensures that whatever information the other driver gives you is correct—you have actual copies of their documents (including their address, driver’s license number, and license plate number) and their actual cell phone number.
Get Medical Treatment.
With everything going on, it might be tempting to stay away from a hospital and let any minor injuries you have to heal on their own. This could be a costly mistake in the long run. If you are
injured, get treatment. Your injuries may be worse than you think. Also, your medical records are some of the best evidence of the injuries that you suffered, but they are less valuable if the treatment is sought weeks or months after the crash. If too much time has passed, the insurance company may think that you suffered those injuries doing something else and are now just blaming the accident to get their money. If you feel unsafe going to a hospital in person, try a local urgent care facility or send your primary care physician an email outlining what happened to you and asking for his or her opinion. That way, you have a contemporaneous record of the injuries that you suffered, and a doctor’s advice.
Finally, Call a Lawyer.
After you have taken care of yourself, call a good South Florida car accident attorney. Even during the pandemic, there are deadlines to file a lawsuit, and the courts are still open. Attorneys are still available to consult with by phone or video. You do not want to lose your chance at recovering for your injuries because you waited too long; call right away.