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5 key steps for Tennessee drivers to take after a motor vehicle accident

Drivers in Tennessee should know what to do after a car accident in order to protect their safety and their legal rights.

In 2014, over 176,000 motor vehicle accidents occurred in Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. At least 30,000 of these crashes happened here in Shelby County. Sadly, in 44,000 of the accidents that were reported statewide, drivers, passengers or other road users were left injured.

Given this high number of crashes and serious outcomes, it is crucial for drivers to know what to do after experiencing an accident. In the wake of serious car crashes in particular, taking the following steps may help drivers avoid needless injuries or legal complications.

1. Put safety first

After an accident, The Huffington Post advises drivers to focus first on ensuring the safety of anyone involved. Drivers should move their vehicles out of traffic, if doing so is possible, to avoid causing secondary accidents. Drivers who are fit to perform first aid should do so. Drivers should also call 911 to report any injuries that merit emergency medical attention.

2. Notify necessary authorities

Next, drivers should report the accident to local law enforcement authorities and to their auto insurance providers. Some drivers may be hesitant to report accidents due to fears that doing so will adversely affect their insurance rates or driving records. However, reporting every accident is advisable for the following reasons:

  • Drivers who don’t report accidents to their insurance providers in a timely fashion may be barred from making claims later.
  • Without an official police report, documenting the accident circumstances and making a successful insurance claim may be challenging.
  • Under Tennessee law, drivers must file an official report of any accidents that cause injury, death or significant property damage.

Drivers should remember that they have no way to legally enforce any deals regarding compensation that they make with other motorists. Additionally, these arrangements can be risky because car accident injuries may not be immediately evident and therefore may not be addressed.

3. Collect important information

After reporting the accident, drivers should collect information that will be needed during an insurance claim. This includes the other driver’s contact and insurance information, along with vehicle information, such as the make, model, license plate and VIN. Even afteraccidents with uninsured motorists, drivers should gather as much information as possible in case they need to make claims against their own policies. According to U.S. News, drivers also should write down contact information for other parties who were involved in the accident or witnessed it.

4. Document the scene

Before leaving the scene of the accident, drivers should gather as much evidence as possible. Drivers can photograph the damage to each vehicle, the specific spot where the collision occurred and any other evidence, such as tire marks. Drivers may also want to take a moment to record their memories of the accident and the surrounding circumstances. This helps ensure that drivers won’t forget any important details later.

5. Consider legal help

People who have suffered significant car accident injuries may want to consider the additional step of consulting with an attorney. In Tennessee, victims of negligence-related injuries may be entitled to various forms of compensation. These include damages for lost wages, medical costs and less tangible losses. An attorney may be able to evaluate the potential worth of a person’s claim and provide advice on pursuing appropriate recourse.