Winter weather is estimated to cause more than 2% of New Jersey’s traffic fatalities, and young drivers are especially at risk. Federal Highway Administration data indicates that nearly a quarter of weather-related auto accidents occur in snowy, icy, or slushy conditions, resulting in more than 1,300 annual deaths in the U.S.
To protect yourself and those who travel with you, take extra care when you’re on the roads this winter. Make sure you are prepared for changing road conditions and stay alert to give yourself the best chance of avoiding potential accidents.
When an Accident Happens
Unfortunately, accidents can happen despite our best efforts. Depending on the severity of the accident, there are generally 8 things you should do following a motor vehicle accident.
- Protect your safety and that of others involved
- Exchange contact information
- Talk to witnesses
- Call the police
- Document evidence
- Get medical care
- Call your insurance company
- Call an experienced auto accident attorney
1. Protect your safety and that of others involved.
Do your best to get yourself and others who may need assistance out of the way of further harm from passing vehicles or other dangers in the area. If appropriate, call 911 for emergency medical assistance.
If you are in an accident that causes serious injury to others, you have a legal obligation to assist them if needed. The New Jersey Code stipulates that leaving an injured party who is physically helpless or otherwise unable to care for themselves at the scene of an accident or leaving the scene of an accident that causes serious bodily injury is a third-degree crime, punishable by up to five years in prison. On the other hand, New Jersey “good Samaritan” laws protect those who offer medical assistance in emergency situations from being sued for harm they may inadvertently cause in the process, as long as their actions aren’t grossly negligent.
Exchange contact information.
If all parties are able, exchange contact and insurance information at the scene. If this isn’t possible, record as much information as you can about other involved parties and vehicles. Getting the make, model, color, and license plate number of the other vehicle can be useful, as well as a physical description of the driver and any passengers.
Talk to witnesses.
If there are any witnesses at the scene, do your best to get their contact information as well. If they’re willing, you could record their statements on your cell phone, using either video or voice memo, while their memory is fresh. Getting accurate statements and contact information from witnesses will best enable you to recover full compensation for any injuries or property damage.
Call the police.
Whether and when this needs to be done depends on the nature of the accident. In the case of serious injury, you’ll have already called 911 by this stage. Otherwise, New Jersey law requires drivers to report any traffic accident that causes injury or at least $500 in property damage and to notify local police “by the quickest means of communication.”
In non-emergency situations, it’s often prudent to secure witness statements and contact information before you pause to call the police. In the cases of very minor accidents, they may not send an officer to the scene but instead require you to file a written accident report.
Take photos of the vehicles involved, the accident scene, and any visible injuries that you or others in your vehicle suffered. Document the road and weather conditions, traffic controls, damage to the vehicle and/or its contents, and anything else that may have contributed to the incident. If you suspect another involved driver was intoxicated, record the evidence that raises this suspicion. For example, you might snap a photo of a vodka bottle that rolled into the roadway or make a note of the other driver’s dilated pupils and erratic behavior.
Get medical care.
Even if you don’t have any obvious injuries after the accident, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to look for any hidden injuries that might have occurred. Some types of injury may not seem significant at first but grow worse in the days following an accident.
Receiving prompt care is the best way to safeguard your health, as well as your ability to fully recover for your accident-related losses. Throughout your recovery, follow your care plan and document your progress as well as the limitations you experience, such as inability to attend work or school, physical or psychological pain, or reduced mobility.
Call your insurance company.
Report the accident to your insurance provider. They might provide a list of doctors and/or immediate benefits to help you get the care you need. They will conduct their own factfinding regarding the accident to determine their payment obligations. They might also offer a repair estimate, but be sure to get at least two alternative estimates from trusted repair shops before you accept it. When you get your vehicle repaired, save documentation of the repairs made and their costs.
Call an experienced auto accident attorney.
If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, working with an experienced attorney is the best way to ensure you receive full compensation for your losses. Attorneys routinely work with insurers, medical professionals, and expert witnesses so they can present the best possible cases for their clients. Many auto accident attorneys provide contingency fee agreements, which allow you to pursue your case at no upfront cost.
The Mark Law firm is experienced at pursuing New Jersey auto accident claims. For more information about personal injury law in New Jersey, see our blog.
 NJ Rev Stat § 2C:12-1.2
 NJ Rev Stat § 2C:12-1.1
 NJ Rev Stat § 2A:62A-1 (2013)
 NJ Rev Stat § 39:4-130 (2013)