Having the privilege to drive is special. Being able to take the wheel of a vehicle represents a level of freedom that is hard to match. But that freedom comes with a hefty dose of responsibility. Unfortunately, you can only take responsibility for yourself. If someone else fails to exercise due care while driving, an accident with serious consequences is one of the possible outcomes.
Oregon, like all state governments, recognizes that driving is a skill that takes training and practice. That's why they all require that certain procedures be followed before a license is issued. In most instances, prospective drivers must get class and behind-the-wheel training and take a written and behind-the-wheel test. If they pass, they get the license.
If a new driver is lucky, he or she won't ever experience a car accident. But if one does happen, it's important for drivers and anyone who might be with them, or who might witness the events, to know what to do afterward. Here are some commonly dispensed tips and some thoughts from the state's Department of Motor Vehicles.
- Call the police. If the accident is very minor, officers might not be dispatched, but make the call anyway.
- Help those who need it. The key word here is reasonable assistance. In cases when injury is really severe, it's best to wait for first responders.
- If safe, move vehicles out of the way. But where injury or death has occurred, no one should leave the scene.
- Exchange information with others. Get license numbers, vehicle and insurance information from other drivers involved and get their names, addresses and phone numbers. If there were witnesses, get their contact information, too.
- Contact your insurance company. Swift notification of any possible claim is typically required by your policy.
- File a report with the DMV.
The Oregon Bar Association says cooperating with police is usually advisable, but don't have to speculate about fault -- yours or anyone else's. It's best to simply offer a description of what happened as you recall it and let investigators make determinations.
If significant property damage, serious injury or death occurred, calling an attorney is also advisable.
Here you will find a DMV accident report checklist that may be useful.