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Upset man after car crash

What Should I Do If an Accident Was My Fault?

Law Office of James A. Maniatis May 13, 2024

Being involved in a car accident can be frightening and overwhelming. If you are in a wreck with another vehicle and you are at fault, it can feel even more terrifying. What should you do now? What steps should you take? What should you do (and not do) if you are at fault? 

There are several practical steps you should follow immediately after any car accident. Even if you suspect the collision was due to your error, there are also certain actions you should always avoid. 

My firm, the Law Office of James A. Maniatis, is here to guide you through the steps you should take after a car accident and what you should and should not do if you believe you are at fault. Located in Shrewsbury, Southborough, and Webster, Massachusetts, I serve clients throughout the state, including Westborough, Northborough, Grafton, Boylston, Millbury, Upton, Dudley, and Oxford. 

What Should You Do After an Accident?

Following a car accident in Massachusetts, it's crucial to take certain steps to ensure your safety, comply with the law, and protect your rights. Here is a detailed list of actions you should take immediately after an accident: 

  1. Do Not Leave the Scene: Regardless of who is at fault, you should never leave the accident scene. This can result in legal consequences and can also prevent you from obtaining necessary information for insurance claims. 

  1. Check for Injuries: If anyone involved in the accident has sustained injuries, call 911 immediately. Even if no one appears to be hurt, it's still recommended to seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

  1. Move to a Safe Area: If your vehicle is drivable and there are no injuries, move to the side of the road or to a safe area to avoid blocking traffic if it's safe to do so. 

  1. Alert the Authorities: Whether the accident is a minor fender bender or a major collision, you should call the police. In Massachusetts, you are required to file an accident report with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) if the accident resulted in injury, death, or property damage over $1,000. 

  1. Exchange Information: Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver(s). Make sure to get their name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, license plate number, and insurance policy number. 

  1. Document the Scene: Take photos of the accident scene from different angles, including all the vehicles involved, any visible damages, license plates, and any relevant road signs or signals. These can be critical for insurance claims or legal issues. 

  1. Gather Witness Information: If there are any witnesses to the accident, ask for their contact information. Witness statements can be invaluable for resolving disputes about fault. 

  1. Notify Your Insurance Company: Inform your insurance company about the accident as soon as possible. Provide them with all the information you have gathered but avoid admitting fault or making statements that could be used against you. 

  1. Seek Medical Attention: Even if you don't feel injured, it's wise to see a healthcare provider after an accident. Some injuries are not immediately apparent and can develop symptoms hours or even days later. 

  1. Keep Records: Keep a file of all accident-related documents and notes, including a copy of the police report, medical records and bills, communications with insurance companies, and any other expenses related to the accident. 

  1. Consult With a Legal Professional: Consult with an attorney, like the Law Office of James A. Maniatis, who is experienced in Massachusetts' specific traffic laws and insurance policies. A legal professional can provide valuable guidance for protecting your rights and making sure you don't inadvertently harm your case. 

Remember, the actions you take immediately following an accident can have significant implications on any subsequent insurance claims or legal processes. It's important to stay calm, follow these steps, and seek the appropriate professional advice to ensure your rights are protected. 

Dos and Don'ts If You Believe You Are At Fault for an Accident

If you believe you are at fault for a car accident, there are some specific dos and don'ts that you should follow to manage the aftermath effectively. 

Dos 

  • Do admit to having insurance: It's important to confirm that you are insured, but avoid discussing the details of your coverage. 

  • Do document your version of events: Write down everything you remember about the accident as soon as possible. Your notes should include the time, location, weather conditions, and any obstacles or distractions. 

  • Do cooperate with the police: Provide all the necessary information to the officers. Your cooperation can be an important part of the investigation. 

  • Do review your insurance policy: Understanding your coverage will prepare you for the claims process and help you know what to expect. 

Don'ts

  • Don't admit fault: Avoid making any statements that could be interpreted as admitting liability for the accident. The full circumstances of the accident may not be clear until after an investigation. 

  • Don't speculate or guess: If asked about specifics that you're not sure of, it's okay to say you don't know. Providing inaccurate information can complicate matters. 

  • Don't discuss the accident: While you should discuss the accident with the police and your attorney, refrain from discussing it with the other driver, their insurance, or their attorney. Additionally, don't post anything on social media, as online posts could be used against you. Always consult with an experienced attorney before providing any information. 

  • Don't ignore legal deadlines: Be aware of and adhere to any deadlines for filing insurance claims or lawsuits related to the accident, as missing these can severely impact your ability to seek compensation. 

  • Don't be the first to leave the scene: It's important to stay at the accident scene until all necessary steps have been taken and authorities have given permission to leave. 

  • Don't get too emotional or yell: It can be easy to get emotional after a car accident, but it's important to remain calm and avoid escalating the situation. 

Remember, each accident is unique, and liability isn't always straightforward. Consulting with a legal professional, such as the Law Office of James A. Maniatis, can help you understand your position and take the right steps to protect your interests. 

Understanding Fault in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, determining fault in car accidents is guided by a set of rules that consider the actions of each driver. The state recognizes that more than one driver can be at fault, and it allows fault in percentages to be allocated to each party involved in the accident.  

Massachusetts follows a modified comparative fault system, which means that if you are found to be more than 50% at fault for the accident, you cannot recover damages from the other party. Conversely, if you are found 50% or less at fault, you may recover damages, but those damages will be reduced by the percentage of your fault. 

Additionally, Massachusetts employs a "no-fault" system for car accidents, meaning that your car insurance will pay up to a certain limit for personal injury claims and certain other expenses through personal injury protection (PIP) coverage regardless of who caused the accident. However, for property damage, the at-fault driver’s insurance typically covers the damages. 

Seeking Legal Counsel

The aftermath of a car accident can be a challenging process, especially if you believe you are at fault. To make sure you don't implicate yourself or admit fault before fault has been determined by the insurance companies, an experienced car accident attorney can provide you with the guidance you need to understand Massachusetts traffic laws and the steps you should take post-accident. 

At the Law Office of James Maniatis, I have over thirty years of experience in helping clients like yourself. Remember, there are specific things you should and should not do immediately following a collision. If you or a loved one has been in a car accident that you believe is your fault, contact me at the Law Office of James A. Maniatis to schedule a consultation.