If you guessed the most common types of car accident in Arizona based on your travels throughout Phoenix and Mesa were rear-endings, you would be right. According to 2014 car accident statistics released by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), rear-end car accidents are the most common and caused the most injuries of all accidents. Out of the 41,000 rear-end accidents in 2014, 13,000 people reported injuries. While 2015’s data has not yet been released, our Phoenix car accident attorneys are willing to bet rear-end accidents will make up the majority again for that year.
Injuries caused by rear-end accidents are not to be taken lightly. Whiplash, the most common type of injury, impacts the musculoskeletal structures of the neck, back and even the spinal column. Severe cases of whiplash can cause significant spinal cord injuries, which require costly medical remediation.
When the vehicle behind you collides with your own vehicle, everyone in the vehicle can suffer injuries from hitting the dashboard, steering wheel, car frame, or even the front seats. Here are the most severe injuries resulting from a rear-end accident:
- Facial bone fractures, including broken jawbone and cracked or broken teeth
- Skull fractures and other types of traumatic brain injury
- Fractured or broken limbs, fingers or toes
- Crushed limbs resulting in amputations
- Seatbelt burn or internal organ damage from seat belt restriction
- Internal bleeding
- Vehicular ejection
- Road rash
Some rear-end collisions are the result of a driver tailgating others, a habit that creates a breeding ground for accidents. Drivers who tailgate also often speed and create hostile driving environments. This behavior can also result in road rage, sometimes with deadly consequences.
Move Your Car Out Of Traffic
The last thing you want to do after an auto accident is to cause another, which is exactly what could happen if your car is stopped in the middle of the road. So if it is safe (and possible) to do so, move your car out of the way.
Turn on your hazard lights immediately then, checking for traffic all around you, carefully move your car to the side of the road, side street, or parking lot. If you are in front of the other driver, motion for them to follow you.
If you are unable to move your car out of traffic, turn on your hazards, buckle your seat belt, and call 911.
Check For Injuries And Call 911
After being in an accident — even one as minor as a fender bender — adrenaline kicks in. For this reason, you may not initially notice an injury. So before you get out of your car, check in with yourself.
Look in the mirror, move around a little, and make a mental note of how you’re feeling. If you’re hurt, call 911.
If you’re okay, get out of the car and check in with the other driver. If they’re hurt, call 911.
Do Not Accept Fault
There’s a time and place for opinions, but the aftermath of an auto accident is not one of them. All that matters are the facts. These need not be discussed with the other driver, but reserved for your conversations with the police, your insurance company and, need be, your lawyer. That said, make note of any fault the other driver may express.
Look For Eyewitnesses
There are two sides to every story, and auto accidents are no different. While the verifiable details of the accident may support a claim one way or another, sometimes it’s just your word against theirs…unless you have eye witnesses.
After moving your car out of traffic and checking for injuries, on yourself and the other driver, look to see who is looking at you. This may be other drivers, pedestrians, or employees in storefronts with a street view. Ask them if they saw what happened. If so, ask for their full name, addresses, and phone number.
Call The Police And File A Report
Your best defense in the event of a lawsuit is an official police report. Even if yours seems the most minor of fender benders, you never really know what internal damage could be done — to your car or your body — until days after the accident.
In some states, the police will not respond to fender benders. So if they won’t respond to your call, filing the police report will mean going to them (though you may be able to file online). The dispatcher you speak with should be able to tell you the proper procedure.
Exchange Information With The Other Driver
For both the police report and your insurance claim, you’re going to need to know the other driver’s pertinent information, including:
- Full name
- Street address
- Phone number
- Insurance company and policy number
- VIN, make, and model of the car
Many people (yourself included) may instinctually write this information down for the other driver. Instead, exchange the documents (driver’s license and proof of insurance) and write down the other driver’s information yourself. Then double-check the information you’ve copied.
This way you are depending on yourself for accurate information instead of a stranger.
Take Pictures Of Both Cars, Visible Damage Or Not
As relieving as it is to see zero damage to your car after an accident, neglecting to take pictures — of your car and theirs — can cause plenty of damage down the road. What if the other driver were involved in another accident before the insurance adjuster looks at their car? You could be blamed for damage that did not happen in your accident.
Whether you see damage to either car or not, take pictures of both. Include, of course, a close-up of the bumpers impacted, but also pictures from every side/angle.
Make Notes Of Important Details You May Not Remember Later
Once you’ve spoken with everyone you need to about the accident — the other driver, eyewitnesses, and the police — take a moment before you leave to jot down any details that may be important later.
If the police responded at the scene, you may have already covered much of this. If not, make sure to note the time, location, weather and road conditions, and whatever details you can remember about what happened prior to, and during, the accident. This should include both yours and the other driver’s behavior, as well as any other circumstances that may have contributed to the accident.
Call Your Insurance Company
If you’re safely pulled over on a side street or in a parking lot, you may want to go ahead and call your insurance company. However, if you are pulled over on the side of the road, it is important that you find a safe, appropriate place to park before making the call. It is also perfectly acceptable for you to wait and call from home. In fact, this may be preferable as it will give you time to calm down, review your notes, and just generally feel more comfortable on the call.
Visit The Doctor
While most fender benders do not result in physical injury, many of them do. But the signs and symptoms may not show up right away. These are not to be ignored. In the days following an auto accident, be mindful of how you’re feeling. If you notice any irregularity, see a doctor immediately and follow their recommendations.
Contact An Auto Accident Attorney
As straightforward as a fender bender may seem, you never know how these things can unfold. It is always in your best interest to seek the advice of an attorney experienced in personal injury and auto accident law. Skousen, Gulbrandsen & Patience can help.
Some rear-end accidents are a scam. Dishonest drivers maneuver innocent drivers into accidents that look like the fault of the innocent driver. The fraudulent driver will then make claims against your insurance to get large settlements. This kind of fraud is highly illegal, but difficult to prove without an attorney. Evidence from the accident scene, as well as other investigative discovery, can help auto accident victims prove that their rear-end accident was a part of a scam operation. See our take on negligent drivers causing insurance scam or fraud.
Speed matters and can worsen the severity of rear-end injuries. If you were the victim of an accident at high speeds, take advantage of the resources our Mesa and Phoenix auto accident lawyers have to investigate the accident scene. We can help determine the causes leading up to the collision.
No matter who was at fault in your rear-end accident, help make the roadways safer for other motorists by following these steps immediately following the collision:
- Keep calm and turn on your hazard lights.
- Move your vehicle out of the flow of traffic if possible. If you know you have suffered any form of car accident injury, signal for help or call emergency medical services if you are able.
- Do not acknowledge fault for the accident. Wait until traffic officials arrive on scene to investigate the accident causes and severity of damage. Let them determine who was at-fault, and then relay their findings to your insurance company.
- Eyewitnesses are a huge asset in proving driver negligence. If anyone comes to your aid, be sure to get their full name, contact number and address for follow-up from the police, your insurance company and personal injury lawyer.
- File an official police report with the reporting officer on scene.
- Get the other driver’s information. The most important documentation you need includes their full name, current residence address, a good contact number, the name of their insurance company, as well as the policy number, and their vehicle’s make and model. It also helps to have their license plate number and VIN for tracking purposes.
- Record your own details of the event either with an audio recording device or hand-written notes.
- Get a doctor to evaluate any and all injuries from your car accident.
- Enlist the help of an auto accident attorney, even if it’s just a free initial consultation where they can evaluate if you have a plausible injury claim.
Get your vehicle out of the flow of traffic
Whenever your vehicle is in a collision, no matter how minor it felt, you need to move your vehicle away from the flow of traffic, so you can inspect your vehicle. Don’t hold up traffic unless you are unable to move your vehicle (ARS-28-674).
Auto collision damage is not always visible on the exterior. Hidden damage can occur in your vehicle axis, wheel base, door, hood, or trunk hitches. These will not be seen until a mechanic can closely inspect your vehicle.
Call local non-emergency law enforcement
Every accident requires law enforcement documentation of the accident (ARS-28-667). Police reports are legal documents that can help protect you in the event that the other driver decides to file an extensive (and fraudulent!) claim against you. Here are some tips on getting a police report even if no officer shows up to the accident scene.
Document the damage (visible or not)
Today, most drivers carry a cell phone with them. Take photos of the point of contact from all angles even if there is no visible damage. Doing so will protect you in the event the other driver gets in another accident on the way home and tries to make you liable for their second accident. Be sure to take images of both vehicles.
It’s also helpful to take pictures of the other driver’s license and insurance information. Handwriting can sometimes be difficult to read, but photos of these documents are easy to see and make sure you don’t copy down the information wrong. This will help eliminate missing or fraudulent contact information.
Inform your auto insurance company
You have a legal responsibility to inform your auto insurance company after a car accident. This is especially important after a police report was filed. Your auto insurance company will handle any and all contact with the other driver to help protect your driving insurance coverage.
Not all insurance company claims adjusters will be ethical though. Take the extra step in meeting with auto accident law attorney in the state in which the accident took place. Taking advantage of any free initial consultations will protect your rights in case the insurance company has ulterior motives. If you do not know of any personal injury lawyers with auto accident services, try a Google search of “car accident lawyer near me” to start your research.
Visit the Doctor When Appropriate
You and your passengers may not experience or notice any immediate physical injuries. The force of any auto collision can cause undetected damage. If you notice any new soreness or health difficulties in the days following the accident, see a medical professional. They can help assess your injuries and document them for your benefit. Their examination will serve as evidence should you need to file any injury claims.
Avoid Discussing the Accident on Social Media
Social media is a legal liability for any who decide to pursue an injury claim. If you claim to be injured and your social media activity suggests otherwise, it can and will be used against you. You also want to avoid discussing the accident until a settlement takes place if one is expected. Writing or venting about the car accident in a slanderous way can hurt any injury claim you’re looking to pursue.
If you are looking for accredited, experienced personal injury lawyers in or around Mesa, AZ, contact Skousen, Gulbrandsen & Patience PLC. Our firm has helped car accident victims throughout Arizona for more than 50 years. We offer hassle-free consultations to help you determine the strength of your injury claim. Take comfort in our no recovery, no fee service terms and conditions. Schedule your free initial consult with our team online or by phone: 480.833.8800