6 steps drivers should take after motor vehicle accidents in Oregon

After any car accident, it is essential for drivers to ensure their safety, notify authorities, exchange information and preserve evidence of the crash.

In 2013, a reported 49,510 car accidents occurred throughout Oregon, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation. This figure represents an average of about 135 crashes per day. This high accident rate illustrates why it is crucial for drivers in Portland to be prepared for a crash by understanding what to do afterward.

An accident can be an overwhelming experience, so it's not surprising that drivers often don't know what to do after surviving one. Unfortunately, innocent errors in reporting and otherwise handling a crash can prove harmful later. To avoid missteps, drivers should be sure to do the following things after any kind of accident.

1. Clear the scene

According to The Huffington Post, if an accident doesn't render a car inoperable, a driver's first action should be moving the vehicle out of traffic. Many people think they need to leave the car exactly where it stopped after the accident to preserve any evidence of the incident. However, preventing additional accidents or traffic flow issues takes precedence over protecting evidence.

2. Contact authorities

Next, drivers should secure medical attention for themselves or any passengers and notify police of the accident. Some drivers may be tempted to skip officially reporting an accident, especially if it was minor and apparently didn't cause injuries. However, the potential for delayed-onset injuries and the challenges of reaching a financial agreement with another driver make contacting authorities advisable. Otherwise, drivers and any other accident victims could be left without recourse. Also, Oregon law requires persons involved in a motor vehicle accident to file a report with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

3. Collect information

After reporting the accident, drivers should collect all of the information that they may need to contact the other driver, file an insurance claim or complete the police report. This information includes:

  • The other driver's name, address and contact information
  • The other driver's insurance information
  • The make, model and license plate number of the other vehicle

According to U.S. News, it also is advisable for drivers to collect contact information for any people who were present to witness the accident. An account from an impartial third party may be influential if drivers eventually need to make an insurance claim for property damage or injuries.

4. Document the scene

Drivers should also take time to preserve their memories of the accident and record its physical aftermath. To avoid confusion later, drivers can write down what they recall of the moments leading up to the accident and the collision itself. Drivers should also consider photographing the involved vehicles, the point where the accident occurred and any physical evidence, such as skid marks.

5. Notify insurers

Finally, drivers should notify their own insurance providers of the accident. During this process, drivers should be careful to avoid making any statements that admit fault or deny the existence of injuries. Since Oregon requires every driver to carry Personal Injury Protection, drivers who sustain injuries may end up making claims against their own insurance policies. Careless statements about the accident may undermine an eventual claim.

6. Seek professional input

If an accident has resulted in injuries, drivers may also benefit from seeking legal advice. Navigating the insurance claim process can be difficult, and mistakes can be costly. Additionally, in Oregon, injury victims may be able to choose between making claims against their own insurance or the at-fault driver's insurance company. An auto accident attorney may be able to help a victim identify the most advantageous option and seek an appropriate settlement.