Herb: After a car accident in North Carolina, as long as you are not severely injured, I recommend that you obtain the names and telephone numbers of any witnesses at the scene. I have noticed that on a lot of our client’s cases, the police do not have the witnesses listed on the police report because the witness either do not want to get involved or did not have the time to wait around for the police to arrive. Even though responsibility for causing the accident may look clear to you, the driver of the other car may change their story when the police arrive or later on when they speak with their insurance carrier. At this point you have two different versions with no independent witness to verify one side or the other. This is particularly problematic in North Carolina due to the Contributory Negligence rule. It is one of only four states in the country where, if the person injured is partially at fault, even if it’s only 1% at fault, they cannot recover from the other party. With that said, ask anyone at the scene that may have seen the wreck for their name and number just in case the police have any questions later on or, so that you can call and thank them when you are able to do so.
Another thing I recommend is to photograph the scene and both vehicles. Most people have cell phones, and most cell phones are capable of taking photographs. Take pictures of the accident scene, all vehicles involved, even a picture of the other driver if they are wearing an earpiece or headphones, or have a cell phone in their hand. We have noticed that in many accidents, especially rear-end collisions, clients are claiming that they didn’t hear any screeching of brakes and that the other car just slammed into them. No skid marks. In the last five years, those incidents have picked up, and it’s likely that the other driver was texting or looking at their phone.
And finally, be very careful about what you say to the investigating police officer. Everything you say will be documented in his report. If you are injured, even if only shaken up, let them know. The officer will put down “no injuries at scene” which may come back to haunt you later on if your symptoms get worse.
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