Being involved in a motor vehicle accident is not something most of us really expect to have happen on any given day. Consequently, when it does happen, most of us don’t know what we are supposed to do. Unfortunately, not knowing what to do, and then doing nothing, or the wrong thing, can result in a lot of headaches after the fact.
All accidents are investigated in one way or another, depending on their seriousness. Where death or serious injury occurs, naturally, the investigations are more thorough. The process of determining who is liable for the various damages resulting from an accident begins immediately at the accident site. For this reason, it is important for anyone involved in an accident to know what to do in the moments immediately afterward.
From a liability standpoint, one involved in an accident stands to be considered either the victim or the villain. Sometimes it is clear who is at fault, but many times it is not clear. In either event, the collection or preservation of evidence is of the utmost importance. Once the scene of an accident is cleared, the only recollection of that scene exists in reports, photos, eye witness accounts, and similar documentation.
According to state law, there are, first and foremost, obligations for people involved in accidents. Specifically, an accident victim should first contact law enforcement and cannot leave the scene before law enforcement arrives. In addition, a victim must render assistance to injured persons. This does not mean medical assistance unless the person rendering assistance is qualified to do so. The rendering of assistance is more likely to involve facilitating transportation to a medical facility when no other transportation is available.
In addition to the above, victims are obligated to provide information, not only to law enforcement officers, but to the other accident victims. This information includes name, address, and vehicle registration information, and it applies even if the accident involved one vehicle and an unattended vehicle or other property. In those situations, the victim has the obligation to ascertain the identity of the owner of the property and provide information as otherwise required.
Once these legal obligations are met, those involved should note the physical evidence at the crash scene, taking notes or pictures as appropriate. They should also try to ascertain whether the law enforcement personnel on the scene are being thorough in their investigation. If that is not occurring, the victim should be even more aware of evidence that might be recorded for future use. Most importantly, from a liability standpoint, the vehicle operators should never say anything that might serve to admit fault for the accident.
The attorneys at Tipp & Buley have represented clients in numerous vehicle accident cases. Our attorneys have over 55 years of combined experience litigating cases in Western Montana. If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident and need representation, please call our Missoula law office at 406-389-4215 or visit us online.