What to Do After a Wisconsin Car Accident
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation estimates there are about 130,000 car crashes per year statewide. While the odds of you getting in a Wisconsin car crash in any given year are small (about 2%), over the course of your lifetime, the probability increases greatly. In fact, you may be in multiple car accidents during your life. As such, it is important to be prepared should an accident occur. This post addresses the initial steps you should take in a Wisconsin auto accident.
1. Safety First
Immediately following a collision, your foremost concern should be your safety and the safety of your passengers and other drivers.
• Stop your car near the accident scene, ideally at a place along the side of the road that does not obstruct traffic.
• Assess injuries for yourself, your passengers, occupants of other cars and any other people involved.
• Wisconsin law requires you to provide assistance to any injured person, including ensuring they are transported to medical care if necessary.
• Call 911 to report the accident and request an ambulance if needed.
In case of serious injury to yourself or another driver or passenger, do not concern yourself with anything below. Caring for physical injuries and emergencies is your #1 priority.
2. Exchange Information with Other Drivers Involved in the Car Crash
Even if the accident is not serious, Wisconsin law requires you to assess the accident scene and exchange information with the other driver(s) or pedestrian(s) involved. At minimum, you and the other people involved in the crash must exchange the following:
- Vehicle registration number
Though not legally mandated, it is a good idea to also exchange the following:
- Phone number
- Email address
- Make and model of the vehicle
- License plate number
- Vehicle identification number (VIN)
- Insurance name and policy number
This information will be useful in the future as you attempt to process and resolve all claims.
3. Contact Police Following the Car Collision
Unless the collision is extremely minor, you must immediately report the accident to the local police, sheriff or traffic department where the accident occurred. This is accomplished by calling 911 or the local law enforcement directly. An accident report must be made in any of the following circumstances :
- A person is injured;
- A person has died;
- There is damage to a vehicle or property of $1,000 or more; or
- There is damage to government property, other than a vehicle, of $200 or more
Typically, Wisconsin law enforcement officers will write-up an accident report describing the relevant details of the crash, including identifying information of the persons involved and whether injuries were sustained. If law enforcement is not involved or otherwise fails to complete an accident report, then within 10 days of the collision, you must file a written report of the accident with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
4. Gather Evidence at the Car Accident Scene
In order to preserve evidence and protect your Wisconsin legal rights, you should gather as much information as possible at the scene of the accident. This is assuming you are not injured. Useful information includes the following:
- Witness Information: Obtain names and contact information from all witnesses. Get as much information as possible: address, telephone number, email address, date of birth. Ideally, have these witnesses write down a brief statement of what they witnessed and have them sign and date it.
- Officer Information: Obtain the name, law enforcement agency, and badge number of the officer investigating the accident.
- Photos & Videos: Use your cell phone, tablet or other electronic device to take photographs and videos of the scene. This includes photos of the vehicles involved, the surrounding landscape, the road conditions and nearby traffic signals or road markings.
- Notes & Diagrams: Write down relevant information. This may include the date and time, description of what occurred, location of vehicles, approximate speed you and other cars were traveling, weather conditions and names of those involved or witness to the accident. Draw a diagram of the scene of the accident.
5. Get Treatment for Your Injuries
Seek treatment for your injuries or suspected injuries as soon as possible. Do not wait to seek medical attention. If you suspect injury, go to the hospital or urgent care immediately and inform them you were in a car accident so you can be evaluated. Your health insurance or the applicable auto insurance should cover the bills.
Often symptoms do not immediately appear, but rather develop in the days following an accident. Therefore, even if not urgent, it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician for an evaluation. Follow the doctor’s advice and schedule follow up appointments if the symptoms do not resolve.
6. Always Notify Insurance After A Wisconsin Car Accident
You should report the crash to all relevant insurance companies, including your own auto insurance company and the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The insurance company will likely have you complete claim forms and request other relevant details, including information about your medical treatment, the injuries you sustained, damage to your vehicle, the police report and any photographs in your possession. The insurance company may ask you to give a recorded statement, which is best done after speaking with an attorney. As the investigation ensues, you may decide to consult with legal counsel regarding your rights.
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