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Steps to Take if You're Involved in a Car Accident While Traveling

Articles & Publications

June 12, 2024

Car accidents are stressful, but being involved in one while you are out of town adds an extra layer of complexity and anxiety. On top of that, more accidents typically happen on Delaware roads during the Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends than any holiday. Whether you are traveling for business, pleasure, or visiting family this summer, understanding how to handle a car accident away from home is crucial. This guide outlines clear, practical steps for drivers to follow if they are involved in a road accident while out of town.

1. Ensure Safety and Call 911

The first step after any car accident is to ensure the safety of everyone involved. If you can, move to a safe location away from traffic. When you are not familiar with the area and the roads, take extra care to be aware of your surroundings and any risks, especially at night. Call 911 to summon police and paramedics. In an emergency situation, you do not have time to figure out where the nearest appropriate hospital is - an ambulance will get you there. Also, the police report is a vital document when filing insurance claims and will serve as an official record of the incident.

2. Seek Medical Attention

Even if you do not think you have been hurt, some injuries, like whiplash, may not be immediately apparent. It is important to get checked by medical professionals either at the scene, at an emergency room, or by a local physician promptly after the accident. Documenting your injuries thoroughly can be critical for insurance purposes and potential personal injury claims. When you are out of town, it can be difficult to know where to go for medical attention. Your health insurance provider may have a list of providers in the area, the emergency personnel at the scene of the accident may be able to offer recommendations, or you may find an urgent care or other provider by searching online.

3. Exchange Information but Limit Conversation

Exchange names, addresses, driver’s license numbers, vehicle registration, and insurance information with the other driver(s). However, limit your conversation about the accident. Admitting fault or discussing details can complicate legal and insurance proceedings. You should also get contact information from witnesses, as their statements could be crucial in resolving disputes about the accident, and they will be much more difficult to find when you are back home dealing with the aftermath of the accident.

4. Document Everything

Take comprehensive photos of the accident scene, including all vehicles involved, visible damages, road conditions, traffic signs, and any injuries you sustained. This visual evidence can be invaluable in insurance claims and legal matters. Your smartphone is a great tool for gathering evidence after a car accident, either as photos or notes.

5. Notify Your Insurance Company

Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Many insurers have specific timeframes within which you must notify them of an accident. Be honest and provide all the necessary details, including if the accident happened in another state, but avoid admitting fault or speculating about the accident's cause. Typically, insurance companies will try to reduce the amount that they pay out to you after an accident so it is important not to state anything that might affect your right to compensation from your auto insurance policy.

6. Keep Detailed Records

Start a file for your accident where you keep all related documents. This should include a copy of the police report, all medical reports and bills, correspondence with insurance companies, and any receipts for expenses incurred due to the accident, such as towing or rental cars.

7. Contact a Local Attorney

Laws and regulations regarding car accidents vary by state, so it is advisable to consult a car accident lawyer in the state where the accident occurred. They can guide you through the local legal process, help you understand your rights, and represent you in dealings with insurance companies and in court if necessary. At Morris James, we have offices across the state in Delaware. Whether in Wilmington or visiting the Delaware beaches, one of our car accident attorneys is nearby equipped with knowledge of where your accident occurred, the authorities who handle the accident, and the Delaware laws that apply to your case.

Additional Considerations for Out of State Drivers

For out-of-state drivers, there are a few additional considerations to keep in mind that can help mitigate the stress of a car accident and ensure that you handle the situation as efficiently and effectively as possible.

  • Understanding State Laws: Each state has different laws regarding fault, insurance claims, and personal injury lawsuits. If you are involved in a car accident in Delaware, you will need the advice of a Delaware car accident attorney familiar with the local laws where your accident happened.
  • Insurance Coverage: Review your auto insurance policy before traveling to understand what coverage you have in other states. Some policies may have limitations or different procedures for accidents happening out of state.
  • Rental Cars: If you are driving a rental car, promptly inform the rental company of the accident. They will have specific procedures for you to follow. Additionally, understand the coverage provided by your personal auto insurance, credit card, or any insurance you purchased from the rental company.
  • Time Limits: Be aware of the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim in the state where the accident occurred. This is the deadline for initiating legal proceedings, and missing it can bar you from seeking compensation for your injuries. In Delaware, the statute of limitations for a car accident is 2 years from the date of the accident.
  • Health Insurance: If you receive medical treatment out of state, make sure the providers accept your health insurance. Otherwise, you might be facing significant out-of-pocket costs.

Being involved in a car accident while you are out of town can be especially disorienting, but taking these steps can help protect your health, rights, and financial well-being. Remember, the aftermath of an accident is fraught with legal and insurance complexities, especially when it happens away from home. Consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer who understands the local laws where the accident occurred can provide peace of mind and ensure you are taking all the right steps toward recovery and compensation.

If you are a driver, whether from Delaware or out of state, and find yourself in a car accident in Delaware, following this guide will help you manage the situation more effectively. Stay calm, stay informed, and seek reliable legal advice from a reputable Delaware car accident lawyer like the attorneys at Morris James to protect yourself and your legal right to compensation.

At Morris James, our attorneys have been standing up for victims since we opened our doors in 1932. If you have questions about car accidents in Delaware, you may find answers in our Car Accident FAQs, or you can contact us online or call us at 302.655.2599 to speak to one of our experienced car accident attorneys.

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