What to Do Before, During, and After a Car Accident: A Step-by-Step Checklist for Tulsa Residents 

Car Wreck Checklist

No matter how minor the damage, car crashes are always scary. They are also notoriously common. Even more shocking is how common it is for a car accident to result in serious property damage or injury. In Tulsa County alone, there were more than 13,000 car crashes in 2018. That accounts for nearly one-fifth of the total car accidents in Oklahoma that year. And about one-sixth of those crashes resulted in injuries. 

If you have never been involved in a car accident, chances are you will be at some point in your life. The car insurance industry estimates that the average driver will be involved in a collision about once every 18 years. That means most drivers will be involved in at least three accidents throughout their life. 

Joe Norwood and the team at Norwood Law Firm in Tulsa, Okla., understand it’s normal to feel disoriented and shocked after a car accident, especially if it is the first time it’s happened to you.  That’s why they’ve created this helpful guide to help you be prepared for a potential car wreck and know what to do after a collision. By following this guide, you will be prepared to respond confidently in a car accident, stay safe, and protect your interests. 

What to Do Before a Car Accident: Practicing Safety and Reducing Risk

The best way to survive a car crash and prevent injury is to avoid accidents completely. But with the need to travel to work, get to the grocery store, and use a vehicle to meet other needs, abandoning driving isn’t a realistic solution for many of us. Instead, we can take steps to learn more about why car wrecks happen and practice safe driving and car ownership before they do. 

What Are the Top Causes of Car Accidents?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2015 Crash Stats, 94% of car crashes are caused by human error. Knowing the leading causes of car accidents can help you know how you can take action in your driving today to prevent Tulsa car wrecks.

  • Distracted Driving: Adjusting the radio, putting a destination into your GPS, eating, or drinking—doing these everyday tasks and others while driving all count as distractions and take your attention away from the road. Cell phone use is the most common cause of distracted driving. The National Safety Council estimates that cell-phone related distractions, including calling or texting, account for 27% of car crashes. Many states, including Oklahoma, have banned texting and driving to help keep drivers’ eyes on the road. 
  • Drunk Driving: In 2018, alcohol-impaired driving accounted for 29% of traffic fatalities, making drunk driving one of the most dangerous causes of car accidents. It doesn’t take many drinks for alcohol to have an effect on your reaction time and judgment. Driving under the influence of drugs also puts drivers at a higher risk of being in or causing a crash. 
  • Reckless Driving: Tailgating, failing to use signal lights, not staying in your proper lane, failure to yield the right of way, rolling through stop signs and red lights, and other aggressive driving behaviors all increase the risk of Tulsa car accidents. Speeding alone accounted for 17% of fatal crashes in 2018. Following posted signs and traffic laws is key to lowering your chances of being involved in a serious accident. 
  • Fatigue: Driving while fatigued can have a similar effect as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drowsiness can significantly impair driving performance, affecting a driver’s reaction time, attention, and awareness. The National Safety Council reported that drivers are “three times more likely to be in a car crash if you are fatigued.” And falling asleep at the wheel can have disastrous consequences. 
  • Poor Road Conditions: Unsafe road conditions can cause drivers to lose control or make it difficult to avoid hazards. Potholes, lack of traffic signs, faint or poorly painted lines, blind curves, shoulder drop-offs, unsafe construction areas, and other dangerous or confusing conditions can all lead to serious traffic accidents. 
  • Hazardous Weather: Rain, ice, and snow can all create slick conditions, which can cause your vehicle to lose traction, making stopping, avoiding obstacles, and controlling the car difficult or impossible. In slippery conditions, vehicles may slide off the road or hit nearby cars. Fog, rain, snow, and other weather can also impair visibility, making it difficult to see the road and avoid potential hazards. Approximately 21% of vehicle crashes each year are weather-related. 

While even safe drivers can sometimes get in accidents, knowing these common causes of car wrecks can help drivers avoid unsafe conditions and take preventative action. To help lower the risk of being in an accident, drivers can limit distractions, choose not to drive after consuming alcohol or using drugs, follow traffic laws, get enough sleep before driving, and learn techniques for driving in poor conditions. 

How to Recognize and Respond to Dangerous Drivers and Unsafe Road Conditions

Being a safe driver doesn’t mean accidents won’t happen. Others may still drive recklessly, making the roads perilous for everyone else. Learning how to spot a reckless driver or dangerous driving conditions can help you drive defensively and prevent disaster. 

We’ve all seen the car that speeds down the highway, weaving in and out of traffic. Speeding, reckless lane changes and erratic movement are all signs of a dangerous driver. Tailgating, driving without using headlights or turn signals also indicate a reckless driver. Swerving or drifting out of the lane might signal that a driver is falling asleep, drunk, or distracted. If you see a driver doing any of these things, you’ve spotted a dangerous driver. 

Once you’ve spotted a dangerous driver, the best thing you can do is to avoid them as much as possible. Consider putting some distance between you and the problem car. You can’t control how they drive, but you can work to protect yourself and your passengers. 

Spotting hazardous road conditions isn’t always as easy as spotting a reckless driver. Some conditions are impossible to ignore, like heavy fog, pouring rain, sun glare, or heavy snow. Other conditions, like icy roadways or potholes, can be more difficult to spot. In clear weather, potholes are typically visible. During or after a rainstorm though, potholes may fill with water, making them look like shallow puddles. 

Black ice is another dangerous condition that makes winter driving treacherous. It is especially difficult to see. If the pavement is dry, you can find black ice by looking for spots of pavement that look dark and glossy. In the dark, ice is harder to spot; instead, watch out for areas where ice tends to form, such as shaded areas, or on bridges or overpasses. 

In poor weather and road conditions, a simple rule of thumb is to slow down. Whether you’re driving in snow, over potholes, or other dangerous roads, slowing down will help you maintain control of your car and safely react to hazards. 

What Can I Do to Prepare Before An Accident?

No matter how safely you drive, you never know when you might be in a car wreck, so it’s a smart move to be prepared for one. Here are a few steps you can take to make sure you will have everything you need and be protected in case of a car accident.  

  • Keep proof of your vehicle insurance and car registration in your car in an easy-to-access location. And, remember to replace the expired registration after renewing it.
  • Put a cell phone charger in your car to keep your phone charged so you can use it to call for help.
  • Prepare an emergency kit, and keep it in your car. The emergency kit doesn’t have to be huge. The kit may include a first aid kit, a blanket, a list of emergency contacts and important medical information, a flashlight, water, and a notebook and pen. You may also want to include orange cones or warning triangles to help alert traffic of an accident. 
  • Practice what you would do right after an accident. Go through our checklist below of what to do in an accident and role-play how you would complete each step. Role-playing will allow you to prepare for a crash in a low-stress environment, so when a crash does happen, you’ll know exactly what to do. 

At the Scene of a Car Crash: What You Should Do

When you are involved in a car wreck, emotions, adrenaline, and shock make it easy to forget everything you’ve ever learned about what to do after an accident. This checklist will help you remember the steps to take to protect yourself, any passengers, and your interests in the event of a crash. Consider printing this checklist out and keeping it in your vehicle so you can easily access it if necessary. If you have any questions about this checklist or would like more information about your options after a crash, a car accident attorney from Norwood Law Firm can help. 

  • First, stop at the scene. If you are able, move your car to the side of the road out of the way of traffic. Oklahoma state law requires you to stay at the scene; if you leave before following the next steps, you could be charged with a hit-and-run and face misdemeanor or felony penalties. 
  • Check to see if you, your passengers, or other drivers are injured. 
  • If anyone is injured, call 911 for emergency help and wait for an ambulance and police to arrive. You are required to call the police if there are any injuries or deaths in the crash. 
  • If you are able, provide assistance to anyone injured or ask a bystander for help. 
  • If no one was injured and only property damage occurred, you are not required to call the police. However, reporting an accident is a good idea. The police can provide an impartial record of the scene. 
  • Turn on your car’s hazard lights and turn the engine off, removing the keys from the car. 
  • Set up any cones or warning triangles.
  • Limit any discussion of the events of the accident. Do not admit fault. Discuss the accident only with the police, your insurance agent, and your car wreck attorney. 
  • Take pictures and/or videos of the aftermath of the accident. Photograph: 
    • Injuries
    • Damage to your vehicle and to any other vehicles involved 
    • Other property damage 
    • Road conditions 
    • The positioning of the cars before being moved (if possible)
    • Details about where the accident happened (for example, street signs, and traffic signals)
  • Gather information about everyone involved in the accident. Get the other driver’s:
    • Name
    • Address
    • Contact phone number
    • Driver’s license number
    • Insurance company name and policy number
    • Vehicle description (make, model, and year)
    • Vehicle Registration Number
    • License plate number
  • Talk to any witnesses and take note of their names and contact information. 
  • Document the accident. Take note of details to preserve evidence and use it as a reference for filing an accident report. 
    • What time was it when the accident happened? 
    • What was the weather? How were road conditions? Was visibility good or poor? 
    • Where did it happen? What road were you on, and what is the nearest cross street?
    • What direction were you traveling? What direction was the other car traveling?
    • Were there any injuries? Who was injured? What were the injuries?
    • Were the vehicles damaged? What damage did they have? Was any other property damaged? 
    • Were any of the drivers ticketed by the police? 
  • If the police were on the scene, make note of the police report number they will use for this accident. You will need this number when you call your insurance company. 
  • If your car is not driveable, remove any personal belongings and call a tow truck to move your car. 
  • If you are injured, take the ambulance to the nearest hospital for medical attention. If you don’t have any injuries, call a taxi and get home.

After the Crash: Steps to Follow After Leaving the Scene of a Car Crash

Unfortunately, getting home from the scene of a car wreck does not mean your work is done. In order to protect your rights and begin the insurance claim process, there are a few more steps to take after a crash happens. 

  • Contact your insurance company to report the accident as soon as possible. 
  • Contact Joe Norwood, an experienced Tulsa car accident personal injury attorney, to make sure your rights are defended and to ensure you get the most from your insurance claim. 
  • Keep detailed records of your medical treatment and the progress of any injuries. 
  • Draft an accident report for your records. 

The adrenaline and physical trauma response individuals experience in a car wreck can easily mask symptoms of injury or block pain for a time. Because of this, it is not uncommon to see injuries manifest symptoms days or even weeks after an accident. 

Soft-tissue injuries like whiplash are common traumas that sometimes take days to show symptoms. Soft-tissue injuries like whiplash do not appear on x-rays like fractures and other injuries, so it can be difficult to diagnose at the scene. Concussions, neck and back pain, headaches, and PTSD may also have delayed symptoms of pain. If you experience any symptoms of whiplash, concussions, or other pain after an accident, seek prompt medical care. 

How Long After a Car Crash Can I Make a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Claim?

Even if your pain and injuries surface days or weeks after the accident, you have time to seek compensation if you were not at fault in the accident. The statute of limitations for personal injury in Oklahoma is two years from the date of the vehicle crash. If you experience accident-related pain within two years of your car accident, a personal injury lawyer can help you get the recompense you deserve and protect your rights. 

If someone involved in a car accident is injured and later dies due to complications from the crash, a family member can bring a wrongful death claim. The statute of limitations for wrongful death is more forgiving than for personal injury. It runs out two years after the date of death, rather than the date of the accident, giving the family time to seek recompense after losing a loved one. 

Whatever your injuries or experience, a compassionate car wreck attorney can protect your rights and help ensure you get the compensation and closure you need after an accident. 

How an Experienced Attorney Can Help You After a Car Accident

Navigating insurance claims, injuries, and bills after a car accident can be challenging and anxiety-inducing. Insurance companies often work to give you the lowest compensation possible for both property damage and injuries. Tulsa attorney Joe Norwood is an expert in challenging insurance companies and defending your rights. If your insurance adjuster won’t settle your claim, or if there is an auto collision insurance claim dispute, the team at Norwood Law Firm can help. 

As a local Tulsa car accident attorney, Joe Norwood and his team will work to protect your financial interests and your legal rights after an accident. Contact Norwood Law Firm today for a complimentary consultation.