Accidents will happen. All drivers face the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident. Even the best driver may someday be involved in an accident, which means that everyone should know their legal rights and duties in the event of an accident.
Stop Your Car
Stop immediately at the scene of the accident, or as close as possible to it. No matter how slight the collision, you must stop or you might subject yourself to criminal prosecution. When you stop, avoid obstructing traffic as much as possible. Return to the scene and remain there until you have finished speaking to a law enforcement officer.
Give Aid to the Injured
Montana law requires that any person involved in an accident must render reasonable assistance, including the arrangement of transportation of the injured to a physician or hospital for medical treatment if necessary or if requested by the injured person. Do not attempt to provide medical aid, unless you are trained in rendering emergency medical attention, because you might further injure the person rather than fixing the issue. The minimum law requirements are that you make arrangements for transporting the person to a physician or hospital.
Duty to Give Information
The law requires that you give your name, address, and vehicle registration number to all persons involved in the accident. If requested, you as the driver must show your driver's license to the other person involved in the accident. If you strike an unattended vehicle, attempt to locate the operator or owner of the vehicle, or leave a written notice in a conspicuous place on the vehicle. Be sure to give your name, address, and the circumstances of the accident, and, if you aren't the owner of the vehicle, give the name and address of the owner of the vehicle that you were driving. If you strike property upon, or adjacent to, a highway then you must attempt to locate and notify the owner or person in charge of the property. Give the owner or person in charge your name, address, and vehicle number. If requested, show your drivers license. The best policy is to give no more information that what the law requires. Do not comment on the cause of the accident and do not admit fault, even if you think you were in the wrong. You may later discover that the other driver was equally, or more, to blame in the accident. You have the right to consult a lawyer before making any statements.
Call the Police, County Sheriff, or Highway Patrol
Law enforcement officers are trained to handle situations involving accidents. Let the officer take over when you arrive. They are able to handle any emergency and investigate the accident. Their report of the investigation may be helpful to you later if you are sued or if you decide to sue someone else. The law requires that you give notice, by the quickest means of communication, of any accident resulting in injury to, or death of, any persons to the local police department. You must also give notice to the police department if there is property damage which may equal or exceed $500. If the accident occurs outside of the city limits, then notify the nearest county sheriff or the highway patrol. If no police investigation occurs and the accident results in injury, death, or property damage to any one person in excess of $1,000, you as the driver must file a written report concerning the accident with the Department of Justice within ten days after the accident. Your local police can assist you on how to properly file this report.
Obtain Protective Information
Just as the law requires you to give certain information to other parties, you are entitle to receive the same information from other persons involved in the accident, and you should request that information. Additionally, try to find the names and addresses of any persons who may have witnessed the accident. Witnesses may be important later if legal action becomes necessary. Also, make notes of the important aspects of the collision to help you remember them. The police will usually measure skid marks. If this is not done then you should measure them and make a sketch of their location and the location of any debris or other items. Such precautions may prove important in the event that legal questions should arise.
See Your Doctor
If you have any doubt at all about your own condition, see your doctor immediately or go to the nearest emergency room for an examination and ask your passengers to do the same. Follow your doctor's instructions to the letter.
Consult Your Lawyer
You should find out about your rights before making any decisions arising from an accident. A lawyer can advise you and protect your rights. You should consider getting a lawyer's advice before giving any interviews or statements to investigators or adjusters, before signing any medical release, and before settling a claim or admitting fault
Inform Your Insurance Company Immediately
Failure to notify your insurance company of an accident may result in your not being covered by your insurance company. You may also be entitled to damages from the other party involved. Awarding money damages is the law's method of putting the wrongfully injured person as closely as possible into a position equal to that before he or she was injured. If you are in the right, you may be entitle to recover money for the following:
- The nature, extent, and duration of your physical injuries
- Pain and suffering resulting from these injuries
- Disability, both temporary and permanent
- Reasonable medical expenses resulting from the accident, including ambulance fees, doctor's bills, hospital bills, physical therapy, prescriptions, etc.
- Loss of income, past and future
- Value of damage to your car and other personal property
- Change in lifestyle. A lawyer can explain these damages as they apply to your personal circumstances.