We’ve all been taught that after a two-car accident, the responsible thing to do at the scene is to make sure everyone is ok, call first responders, and exchange information with the other driver. But, what happens when the other driver is visibly drunk or on drugs? What should you do then?
In this post, we offer tips for dealing with a driver who is under the influence at the accident scene, and for how to follow up afterward.
- Your Health and Safety Come First after a DUI Car Accident
After an accident, the first priority is typically ensuring everyone’s health and safety. It’s important to summon first responders, including police and an ambulance, in nearly all cases. While waiting for them to arrive, standard practice for responsible citizens is to administer first aid if needed and possible and to take care to keep the scene safe, such as by moving damaged cars to the shoulder and setting out flares or cones to signal other traffic to slow down.
When it’s obvious one of the accident victims is a drunk or drugged driver; however, the task of ensuring everyone’s health and safety can be more complicated. The impaired driver’s need for first aid may be more difficult to assess. His or her actions may be unpredictable. It may be difficult to convince him or her to take safety measures. He or she may resist calling first responders. He or she could even get violent or try to flee.
- Be Cautious Around Drunk or Drugged Drivers After an Accident
In such a situation, your own health and safety take priority. Administer first aid to the drunk or drugged driver if you can, but if he shows any signs of violence, back away. Don’t try to get him or her to agree to call first responders. Just do it. If he won’t cooperate or tries to flee, let him or her. Don’t try to be a hero and put yourself in further danger by giving chase or subduing him or her. If he or she gets aggressive, take whatever measures you can to keep the scene safe, and then lock yourself in your car or otherwise put distance between yourself and the other driver. If you’re afraid for your safety, keep first responders on the phone with you. This will help them dispatch appropriate help and ensure they do not mistakenly think you are fleeing the scene.
- Collect Evidence of the Car Accident (If it’s Safe to Do So)
Keeping health and safety as your first priority in mind, if you can collect evidence at the accident scene, do so. We’ve all seen crime drama shows on TV where forensic teams reconstruct accidents. Think of yourself as one of those characters and document as much as you can… so long as you stay safe doing so.
Focus first on the drunk or drugged driver and his vehicle. If you have a smartphone with photo and/or video capabilities, use it to document observations leading you to think the other driver appears drunk or drugged (such as slurred or incoherent speech, acting strange, etc.). Get shots of the other driver’s license plate, the condition of his car, and the direction he came from and was going when the accident occurred.
Next, document your own injuries and the condition of your vehicle. If there are witnesses to the accident—other drivers who saw the accident happen, or pedestrians standing around—ask them to tell you basically what they saw and get their contact information for follow-up.
- Inform First Responders and Avoid Admitting Fault for an Accident
As soon as first responders arrive (or while you have them on the phone, if possible), tell them first about what you’ve seen that lead you to believe the other driver is drunk or drugged. This serves two important goals. First, it keeps first responders safe. Second, it prepares them to take immediate steps to detain the drunk or drugged driver, perform any necessary field sobriety testing, and make decisions about whether an arrest is appropriate.
Next, give first responders other information about the accident, and tell them what evidence you’ve already gathered, if any. In speaking with first responders, try not to blame yourself for the accident. This can be difficult. It’s an emotional moment. You’re shaken up, possibly in shock. It’s understandable if you blurt out that you feel responsible or at fault. But try not to do that. Stick to telling first responders about facts and not interpretations of facts. The time for assigning blame will come later when everyone’s adrenaline is down and the other driver is sober.
- Call an Experienced Fairfax Car Accident Attorney at Avery Law Firm
Once you’ve left the scene and dealt with your own medical needs, contact an attorney experienced in representing clients in car accident cases.
Get the Help You Deserve After Your Accident
If you’ve been injured in an automobile accident, chances are, you’ve got plenty to deal with. Make sure that your legal needs are covered. Our attorneys are ready and willing to represent you in your case today. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a Fairfax personal injury attorney, please call us at 703-462-5050 or contact us online today.