All auto accident are dangerous and can be deadly. Multi-vehicle pile-ups — accidents that involve multiple vehicles hitting each other and/or piling on top of each other — can be even more dangerous, which is why every driver should know how to get to safety and minimize injuries following a multi-car accident.
Below, we’ll explore nine critical steps to be taken following a multi-vehicle pile-up. For more information on auto accidents, safety tips, or for a free, individualized case evaluation, contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers at 1-516-342-2200.
Get to Safety (Otherwise, Remain in Your Vehicle)
No matter the specifics of your accident, you must focus on getting or staying safe at all costs.
In a multi-car pile-up, damages can be even more severe than in typical car accidents. Cars can continue to move for several seconds after an initial impact, and there might be hazards you aren’t aware of for several seconds to several minutes after your car comes to a stop.
If needed, stay in your vehicle and look out the windows or use the mirrors to see around you. In many cases, you could be safer in your vehicle while the dust settles than if you immediately exit and expose yourself to debris, moving vehicles, and other threats.
However, if everything stops moving around you, try to get yourself to safety. Either exit your vehicle and move off the road or drive your vehicle away from the road if it is still functional and safe to do so.
If you believe you are uninjured, help others who may need assistance getting out of the road as well. The longer vehicles from a multi-vehicle pile-up stay in the road, the greater the likelihood of the accident expanding and other vehicles becoming involved. Getting all the involved cars off the roadway is a top priority, but only if it’s safe to do so and you are uninjured.
Call Emergency Services
Your next step should be to call emergency services right away. Dial 911 and give the operator your approximate or exact location, depending on what you know. If you are unable to call emergency services, tell someone else to do so instead.
The faster emergency services are alerted to the situation, the faster they can arrive at the scene and provide medical attention to those who need it. Emergency services can include firefighters, law enforcement personnel, paramedics, and other staff as necessary.
Note: While speaking with the 911 operator, you should do your best to summarize the situation and follow the operator’s instructions exactly.
Take Photos and Videos
If you are relatively uninjured and are able to do so, try to take photos and videos of the accident scene with your mobile device. Photos and videos can serve as important evidence for any upcoming lawsuit and protect you from accusations of negligence if someone tries to sue you after the fact.
The more photos and videos you can take, the better. Do not touch or move any evidence you see; this can technically count as evidence tampering and could get you into trouble with the law.
Instead, take photos and videos of:
- License plates
- Debris from the vehicles involved and other car damage
- Skidmarks and other parts of the road
- Any injuries sustained
- Anything else you can think of
By videoing and/or photographing the scene, you will make the job of law enforcement easier and also provide your lawyers with important evidence to secure your case.
For more on this and related info, call Schwartzapfel Lawyers now at 1-516-342-2200.
Exchange Insurance Information
In any multi-vehicle pile-up, you’ll need to exchange insurance information with the other drivers involved. If you don’t have copies of your insurance card to give out, use mobile devices to exchange insurance information like providers, numbers, and first and last names.
Exchange insurance information is important, as it allows everyone to know who to contact when filing claims for damages. In most New York car accidents, fault is a non-issue. As a no-fault state, each driver’s insurance company will foot the bill for any damages they may have caused, either by accident or through negligence.
Another reason to exchange insurance info after an accident is because you can get into trouble for not exchanging your insurance information with other drivers. As such, it’s better to err on the side of caution and exchange this information sooner rather than later.
Do NOT Admit Fault
No matter the circumstances of your accident, you should never admit fault when discussing the accident with other drivers, law enforcement personnel, emergency services, or anyone else (outside your lawyer) for that matter.
Even if you believe you are partially or largely at fault for a multi-vehicle pile-up, saying so will not help your case. Also, you may not actually be at fault, as the evidence could reveal something to the contrary. However, if you admit to fault or make it seem like you believe you are guilty, you’ll make your defense lawyer’s job much harder. Additionally, you’ll make it harder on yourself to secure compensation from a potentially negligent driver or party.
In short: To maximize your chances of legal success, you should never admit fault unless your lawyer tells you to do so.
Always Get Checked by Emergency Service Personnel
As soon as emergency service personnel arrive at the scene of the multi-vehicle pile-up, get yourself examined no matter what. Auto accidents can cause a number of stealthy or invisible injuries, including but not limited to:
- Broken bones
- Strains, sprains, and/or ligament tears
- Internal injuries and/or organ damage
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) like concussions
- Spinal damage
- And more
In the aftermath of any serious auto accident, your body may produce adrenaline and other hormones to minimize your discomfort and pain. It’s part of your natural fight-or-flight response.
Medical staff know what to look for and can identify any injuries you may not be aware of. The sooner they do this, the better. If left unchecked, certain so-called invisible injuries can become worse over time, leading to long-term health complications or more severe injuries down the road.
Speak to the Authorities
You’ll also likely need to provide your statement to the authorities. The police may ask you what happened. In answering, you should be as straightforward and matter-of-fact as possible. Give them your version of events as truthfully as you can (without, as mentioned, in any way admitting to fault).
For example, if you bumped into the rear end of a vehicle in front of you because they stopped suddenly, say just that. Don’t add a statement like, “I wasn’t able to stop in time, so I caused the accident.” Later evidence may reveal that there was no way you could have stopped in time, removing any burden of fault from your shoulders.
Determine Where You Can Get the Police Report
Next, you should ask the attending law enforcement personnel where you can get a copy of the police report once it is completed and filed. As police reports can serve as valuable evidence, your lawyers may wish to use yours to strengthen your case. Note here: The same holds true whether you are pressing for compensation or defending yourself from negligence charges.
The police report will include the official statements and recommendations of everyone involved in the accident, as well as observations of evidence that can be helpful when comparing other evidence later on. In most cases, your accident’s police report will be available at the local precinct’s office.
Contact Legal Professionals
After being medically stabilized — either at the scene of the accident or in a hospital or medical facility — you should contact legal professionals right away.
Knowledgeable auto accident attorneys like Schwartzapfel Lawyers have extensive experience handling New York auto accidents just like yours, including complex multi-vehicle pile-ups. Well-qualified auto accident attorneys can provide numerous forms of assistance, including:
- Getting evidence while you recover. They can do a lot of the legwork by gathering the evidence your case needs to succeed, whether you are defending yourself or trying to prove negligence.
- Offering sound legal counsel. For example, they can tell you whether you have grounds for a lawsuit (given that New York is a no-fault state and has a high bar for negligence lawsuits against at-fault drivers).
- Presenting evidence in court and coaching you through the legal process from start to finish. Your lawyers can tell you what to expect should you choose to file a lawsuit, or how to defend yourself properly from accusations of negligence.
The bottom line: The sooner you contact your lawyers, the better. Getting them in on the case earlier gives them more time to prepare for whatever legal action(s) you decide to take or have to respond to.
Don’t wait! Protect your financial future today to shore up your tomorrow. Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers now for a free case evaluation at 1-516-342-2200.
Contact Your Insurance Provider
Last but not least, don’t forget to contact your insurance provider. This is important because in New York State, you must notify your insurer within a month of any accident date; failure to comply will result in severe penalties.
Note, too, that the longer you take to speak with your insurance provider, the more likely it is that they will fine you or raise your premiums, regardless of whether you were at fault for the accident in question.
Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers Today
In the aftermath of a multi-vehicle pile-up, taking the right steps forward will allow you to minimize your injuries while keeping you protected financially and legally. And so, if you want to defend yourself from a lawsuit or sue for damages against an at-fault party, you should hire knowledgeable auto accident attorneys right away.
As experienced New York auto accident lawyers with more than 150 years of combined practice, Schwartzapfel Lawyers is ready and able to assist with your upcoming lawsuit. Contact us today for a free consultation online or at 1-516-342-2200.