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What to do immediately after a car accident

Being involved in a car accident, even a minor one, can be a traumatic experience. In the immediate aftermath of the accident, people may feel confused and upset. Sugar Land readers may want to keep in mind a few key things they should do -- and not do -- right after a car accident.

The first and most important thing is to remain at the scene. If you leave the scene of an accident too soon, you could be accused of hit and run. If there are injuries or fatalities, leaving the scene of an accident is a serious criminal offense in Texas. There is an important exception to this rule: If you are in a deserted area or an area where you feel unsafe, you should drive to the nearest police station.

You should check on the condition of everyone involved in the accident. If a person has been injured, it is best not to move them until emergency personnel arrive, unless it is necessary to move them for their own safety, for example if there is a risk of fire.

You should call the police right away if anyone is hurt or there is major damage to the vehicles. You should also exchange information with the other drivers. This includes names, addresses, phone numbers and insurance companies. Take down the license plate numbers of each car involved. Finally, talk to all witnesses and get their view of what happened. Write down their contact information.

You should avoid apologizing to anyone, even if you think the accident was your fault. Liability is not always clear in an auto accident and you may be confused and upset by the accident. An apology could be used as an admission of fault in any subsequent legal proceedings.

After the accident, notify your insurance company as soon as possible. Seek medical attention if you feel sore or hurt. Keep a record of your treatment and medical expenses. Be very careful about accepting any settlement offer without consulting an attorney first.

Finally, if you were hurt you may want to consider contacting a personal injury attorney. You may be entitled to compensation, and an attorney can help you evaluate your claim and represent you throughout the process.

Source: FindLaw.com, "After a Car Accident: First Steps," accessed Aug. 11, 2014

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