In Nebraska, during 2018, a motor vehicle crash happened every 15 minutes. Even if you are an excellent driver, chances are you will be in a car accident at some point. According to car insurance industry statistics, the average driver will have an accident once every 17.9 years. In 2017, the Department of Transportation reported more than 37,150 fatalities from car accidents. According to the Nebraska Department of Transportation, in 2018, there were 36,117 crashes. Of these, 201 were fatal crashes.
The accident may not have been your fault. However, whether or not you were at fault, an accident can leave you feeling unnerved, traumatized, and unsure what to do next. The key is to remain calm and take the following steps.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident When You’re Not to Blame
Move to a safe area. If possible, move to a safe place. Turn on your hazard lights and place warning devices around the accident scene, if possible. Don’t drive off. Fleeing an accident scene is against the law in every state. Even if the other driver leaves the scene after a crash, stay and report the incident yourself.
Check yourself and others for injuries. If you or anyone else is injured, call for help or ask someone else to do so. Remember that a car accident injury may not become apparent until much later, so it is always a good idea to seek medical attention.
Call the police immediately. Even if it was a minor accident, call the police. The police report will be helpful for an insurance claim or future legal action, especially if the accident was not your fault. When the police arrive, simply tell the officer exactly what happened, to the best of your ability. If you are not sure of something, say you don’t know.
Reporting a car accident in Nebraska. If you are involved in a car accident in Nebraska that resulted in injuries or death to any person, or property damage of $1,000 or more, you must file a Driver’s Motor Vehicle Accident Report within ten days.
Exchange information. Everyone involved in the accident should exchange information, including:
- Names, addresses, phone numbers;
- Driver license numbers;
- License plate numbers;
- Vehicle makes, models, and years;
- Car insurance information;
- Location of the accident.
When talking to others at the accident scene, avoid discussing fault. Sometimes people tend to apologize for an accident even when it was not their fault. The police and insurance claims representatives will inspect the damage, review any information provided by the parties involved, and review any supporting documentation to determine fault.
- Gather evidence. It is a good idea to begin gathering evidence as soon as possible. Take down the contact information of any witnesses. Take photos of the accident scene, including any debris and signage in the area. Look for video cameras that may have captured footage of the accident.
- Consult a personal injury attorney. Do not discuss the accident with representatives of an insurance company without consulting with an attorney. Do not sign papers or release forms without legal advice. For example, signing a medical authorization gives others access to all of your medical records, including those prior to your accident.
Nebraska Law on Financial Responsibility for an Accident
Nebraska law requires everyone to carry a minimum UM/UIM coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. Nebraska is a “fault” accident state, so you are not required to carry no-fault insurance. If you were injured and the other driver was at fault, the driver at fault and his or her insurance company are responsible for paying damages. You have the following options if you seek damages for injuries: you can file a claim with your own insurance company, file a third-party claim with the other driver’s insurance company, or file a personal injury lawsuit.
What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
If you can prove that another person’s negligence caused your accident and the injuries you suffered, under personal injury law, you can recover compensation for damages. Compensation is based on the facts of the case and the degree of your injuries but may include losses such as medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. Negligence is generally defined as “A failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” Therefore, proving fault and liability for the accident and any resulting injuries and damage will be the crux of your case.
You Have a Limited Time to Take Action
State law sets time limits for filing a personal injury lawsuit. The statute of limitations that will apply to most lawsuits arising from car accidents is four years, as provided in Nebraska Revised Statute 25-207. The statute for wrongful death claims, for example, is different, so you should consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible so that you do not miss a deadline.
Also, the statute of limitations does not apply to a car insurance claim. Insurance companies usually require you to make a claim or within a reasonable time after the accident, so act promptly.