What to do in a Philadelphia Car Accident
Learn more about what to do in the case of an accident in Philadelphia and how Pennsylvania insurance requirements affect you.
Having a general understanding of what to do in a car accident is essential information, even when you are a defensive driver on the road. In Philadelphia, one of the most dangerous places in the country to drive, knowing how to navigate even a minor fender bender can be the difference between getting everyone safely home and causing a multi-car pileup while assessing the damage.
Immediately following an accident.
Whether you are in a small accident or a large one, the moments directly following the accident are critical to everyone’s safety at the scene. According to state law in Pennsylvania, all involved drivers in an accident – whether it includes multiple cars, a pedestrian, or someone’s non-moving property, must pull over and exchange insurance and contact information, as well as provide essential assistance to anyone who has been injured, including calling 911 for emergency medical support if someone has been moderate to severely injured. In addition to being a show of citizenry, stopping when you have been involved in an accident is a legal matter: if you leave the scene of an accident you caused, you could be charged with a hit-and-run, which in Pennsylvania can result in a fine, the loss of your license, or even carry felony charges, depending on the severity of the accident.
Gathering Important Documentation
After an accident, it is important to gather proper documentation to report to the police and your insurance company. First and foremost, of course, attend to your physical safety needs, including safely moving the vehicle to the side of the road and contacting 911 if someone is injured.
You’ll also want to gather detailed information about the others involved in the accident. Get their contact information – including name, address, and phone number – as well as their insurance information. Take a photo of their insurance card, if possible, as well as their driver’s license.
Take photos of the damaged parts of your car and others’ property, as well as any scrapes or visible injuries to your body (this can wait until you are safely at home as well). If it is safe to approach the accident scene, take photos of any skid marks on the road or indentations caused by vehicles hitting roadside barriers. Photograph nearby signs to show where the accident happened and ensure that pictures capture the weather at the time of the accident. If possible, timestamp the photos.
If an officer arrives at the scene, gather their badge number and name as well. They will be responsible for transcribing the information they obtain at the accident scene into an official police report.
Do I need to file a police report?
Depending on the accident’s nature, you may need to call the police to report the accident. As noted, if someone is injured in the accident, it is essential to contact emergency services to ensure that they get the immediate medical care they need. You can call 911 or the Pennsylvania State Police or report the accident directly to the Philadelphia Police Department. A police officer and necessary medical assistance will be dispatched at your request by contacting any of the three. When the accident does not involve traffic and does not include an injury, such as in the case that you back into someone’s parked car, you are legally required to leave a note for the owner of the car or property which contains your contact information: name, address, phone number, and license plate number. While many do not follow this protocol, it is important to call the Philadelphia Police Department to report the accident. However, it will not be necessary for them to dispatch an officer.
Immediately following the accident.
Once you’ve safely arrived home and tended to your nervous system (even a minor accident throws us into a fight-or-flight response that causes tension and may lead to extended injury and emotional trauma), it is important to contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the incident and initiate a claim.
If a police officer did not report to the accident scene, and there was extensive damage to a car or property, or there was injury or death involved, a Driver’s Accident Report must be filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. This report must be filed within five days of the accident, or your driver’s license could be suspended.
Retain our Bensalem Personal Injury and Car Accident Attorneys Today
At Cohen & Riechelson, our experienced team of accident and injury attorneys supports Northeast Philadelphia clients, including Bensalem, Levittown, Penndel, Feasterville, Millbrook, and all of Bucks County in all matters related to traffic accidents in the larger Philadelphia area.