Advice from a Montana Accident Attorney : What to do in the event of a car accident

By Anders Blewett

Even the most cautious Montana drivers may someday be involved in an accident. Accidents happen and we all face the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident. But what can you do if it happens to you? You should know your legal rights and duties in the event of an accident, and consult the services of a trusted Montana personal injury attorney. Here are the steps you should take if you are involved in an accident with another vehicle, property, or pedestrian.

Stop Your Car

Stop your car as close to the scene of the accident as possible. No matter how minor or slight the accident may seem to be, you may subject yourself to criminal prosecution if you do not stop. When stopped, make sure you are not obstructing traffic if possible. Remain at the scene of the accident until you have finished all of the steps below.

Give Aid to the Injured

Montana law requires that any person involved in an accident must render reasonable assistance to any injured person. This may include arranging for transportation or carrying the person to a physician or hospital for medical treatment – if it is apparent that treatment is necessary or requested by the injured person. Though keep in mind, if you are not trained to render emergency medical attention do not try to. You may make matters worse instead of better, and the minimum the law requires is that you make arrangements for carrying the person to a physician or hospital.

Duty to Give Information

You must give your name, address, vehicle registration number and auto insurance information to any other party involved in the accident – this may require you to show your driver’s license to the other party involved in the accident if they request it. If you strike an unattended car or vehicle you are required to attempt to locate the operator or owner of the vehicle, or leave a written note in a conspicuous place on the vehicle. Make sure you give your name, address, insurance information and circumstances. If you are not the owner of the vehicle which you were operating give the name, address, and insurance information of the owner of the vehicle as well. If you strike property upon or adjacent to a highway, attempt to locate and notify the owner and give the name, address, and insurance information of the owner of the vehicle you were driving as well as the vehicle registration number.

The best tactic is to give no more information than what the law requires you to do. Do not admit fault, or comment on the cause of the accident even if you think you were in the wrong. You may find out that the other driver was equally if not more so at fault. Consult a Montana accident lawyer before making any statements. However, if the other driver admits fault it can be helpful to get this in writing, especially where the police do not investigate.

Call the Police, County Sheriff, or Highway Patrol

Accidents are traumatic and stressful situations and law enforcement officers are trained to handle these situations. They can investigate the accident and their report of the investigation may be helpful to you later if you decide to pursue an insurance claim against the other driver. The law requires you to give notice by the most expedient means of communication of an accident resulting in injury or death of a person to the local police department. If there is property damage which may equal or exceed $1,000 you are also required to give notice to the police department. Given the cost of body work, minor damage to a vehicle can often exceed $1,000. If the accident occurs outside the city limits then notify the nearest county sheriff or office of the highway patrol. In the event of an accident which results in injury, death, or property damage to any one person in excess of $1,000 and no police investigation occurs, you as the driver must file a written report with the Department of Justice within ten days after the accident. This report must detail and summarize the accident, and your local police can assist you on how to file this report. Police officers occasionally refuse to respond to auto accidents which occur in parking lots or on private property. If you are involved in an auto accident and the police are unable or unwilling to investigate, it is critical to obtain information from the other driver, including their insurance information.

Obtain protective information

Just as you are required to give certain information to other parties in accidents, you are also entitled to receive the same information from other persons involved in all accidents. Request all information you are entitled to, additionally get the names and addresses of any persons who may have witnessed the accident. If you need to assert an insurance claim or take legal action witnesses may be very important. Make notes of the important aspects of the collision to help you remember them, such as skid marks. The police will usually measure skid marks, though if this is not done you should measure them, their location and either make a sketch or take photographs of them and any other debris or other items of note.

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 or walk-in clinic for an examination and ask your passengers to do the same. Follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter, especially if there is a possibility of litigation and you may wish to consult with a Montana accident attorney

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 an accident lawyer’s advice before giving any interviews or statements to investigators or insurance adjusters, before signing any medical release, and before settling a claim or admitting fault. Contact a Montana accident attorney at Hoyt and Blewett PLLC to find out the best course of action.

This information is intended to inform you about Montana law generally. It is not intended as legal advice. You are encouraged to speak to a Montana accident attorney regarding the specifics of your situation.