Auto Accidents: Do You Know Your Legal Responsibilities?

Automobile accidents can happen anywhere, anytime. Whether it's a fender bender or a multi-car pile-up, drivers have certain legal responsibilities when accidents occur. Knowing what to do can assist the police and other officials and protect you in case any legal action occurs.

In an accident involving another driver, contact the police and emergency medical staff immediately if injuries occur. If possible, move the vehicles off the road so as not to obstruct traffic or cause additional accidents. Exchange name, address, and license and car tag numbers with the other driver. Have proof of vehicle registration and insurance to show the other driver and police.

If there are witnesses to the accident, including passengers in either car, be sure to get their names and addresses. If police respond to the scene, get their names and badge numbers. If a camera or video camera is handy, take pictures of the damaged cars, skid marks or other evidence.

In the case of minor accidents, the law does not require the drivers to summon the police to the scene. However, most accidents require the filing of a written report, either by the police or the

The time frame for filing an accident report varies from state to state. In Mississippi, a written accident report must be filed with the police within 10 days if someone is hurt or the property damage exceeds $250.  Failure to file a report is a misdemeanor and could lead to a suspended driver's license. Providing false information in the report is illegal.

Do not express any opinions concerning fault. Others could use these statements as evidence against you in a lawsuit. Even if you feel you were at least partially at fault, you may be unaware of factors with the other driver or roadway that may have contributed to the accident. Allow the authorities to determine fault.

If you wish to file a lawsuit against the other driver, you will have to hire an attorney. If the other driver sues you, your insurance company will provide the lawyer. If you sue, be sure to keep a record of expenses related to the accident, including medical costs, automobile repairs, and loss of income.

No matter how minor, an automobile accident can be an upsetting event. Carrying the appropriate information in your car and knowing your rights and obligations in an accident can minimize the anxiety and inconvenience of an accident and possibly prevent legal action.