Imagine it’s the moments after a traffic accident. You are
sitting behind the wheel (or perhaps behind a deflating airbag). Maybe another
car is involved as well. Perhaps you had something to drink prior to the accident.
What should you do? Here are ten tips:
- Call for emergency medical assistance, if necessary. Is
anyone hurt? Report as best as you can on the status of those with injuries.
- Report the accident. Some state laws require that all
accidents involving substantial property damage or physical injury be reported.
Whether or not your state law requires it, it’s a good idea to call 911.
- Avoid making any oral or written statements to police
officers. If you are the suspected cause of the accident and a DUI is
suspected, you may wish to consult an attorney before making a statement to
- Cooperate with testing (or not). Of course, you
are free to not take a chemical/breath or field sobriety test. There is no legal punishment for refusing a field sobriety test (horizontal gaze, walk and turn, standing on one leg). But you will be ticketed
for noncompliance and subject to administrative and criminal penalties for refusing a chemical or breath test.
- Avoid making any oral or written statements to witnesses or
victims. Even statements like “I’m sorry” can come back to haunt a defendant,
because in court they can sound like admissions of wrongdoing. (Laws in some
states exclude expressions of regret from evidence. Judges may do so on their
own in states that don’t have such laws.)
- Get names, addresses, and phone numbers of potential
witnesses. This is especially true if you feel you were not at fault, since that information
may not be in the police report.
- Take pictures. If you have a camera (or a cell phone with camera
functionality), take pictures of the vehicle and accident scene.
- Write down your own version of what happened. Note the
date and time of the writing (perhaps also mailing a copy of the statement to themselves
in order to retain a postmark with the date on it). At the top of any such
statement, you should write “Confidential: Attorney-Client Privileged,” and not
show the document to anyone except your attorney (assuming you use one).
- Don’t leave the scene. This is especially true if there is a
victim or another vehicle is involved. This may trigger a claim of felony hit
- Find property owners. If you strike an unattended vehicle or damage private property,
attempt to determine who owns the vehicle or property.
Follow the links below to learn more about DUI-related accidents.