What to Do If You Have Just Caused a Car Accident

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This is part 2 of our series on car accidents. If you have been the victim of a car accident, read What to Do If You’ve Been Hit in a Car Crash.

Causing a car accident can happen to even the safest driver. When at fault, it is a particularly scary and overwhelming experience. It can be hard to know what to do to afterward.

Remembering a few key things will help make a tough situation a little more manageable. Review these 11 tips to make sure you are prepared when the unexpected happens.

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Stop immediately 

Leaving the scene of an accident in Oregon is illegal. A hit and run conviction will mean your driving privileges will be revoked. Stop as close to the scene of the accident as possible, assuming it is safe to do so.


Check for Injuries and Move Vehicles Out of Traffic

Make sure you and your passengers are okay. If needed, attend to anyone else involved in the accident. This could include a person from any other vehicles involved, a pedestrian, or a cyclist. If someone has been hurt, call 911 as soon as possible. Try not to move an injured person, as it could lead to furthering an injury that occurred during the accident. 

If everyone is uninjured, move your vehicle to a safe area so other cars can pass. If possible, designate someone to warn approaching vehicles. Place flares or other signals to alert other motorists there is an accident.

When interacting with the other drivers, stay calm and collected. Tensions can run high when accidents happen, but it is important to remain focused. Even if you know you are at fault, don’t admit guilt or apologize. Let the police and insurance companies sort out who is responsible.


Call the Police 

If the accident caused any damages over $1,500, Oregon law requires you to call local police as soon as possible after an accident so they can investigate and file a police report. 

If no one is injured and there is not an immediate safety concern, the local non-emergency number should be contacted. If 911 has already been called due to an injury, you do not need to call again. 

Non-emergency numbers for local Oregon counties and cities:

  • Portland and Multnomah County: 503-823-3333

  • Clackamas County: 503-655-8211

  • Milwaukie: 503-786-7500

  • Washington County: 503-629-0111

  • Lake Oswego: 503-635-0238

  • Yamhill County: 503-434-6500

  • Marion County: 503-588-5032

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Car Accidents and DUII 

In certain situations, police may investigate if you were driving under the influence. They may ask if you were drinking, look for evidence of alcohol consumption, and conduct a field sobriety or blood alcohol test. 

Due to Oregon’s implied consent laws, officers can conduct a blood or breath test with reasonable suspicion. If you are asked to take a test, refusing to do so will trigger a minimum 1-year suspension.  A 3-year suspension will be triggered if you have had a DUII conviction or refused a breath or blood test in the preceding 5 years. 

If you have been seriously injured and need medical attention, a test will be administered while you are receiving treatment. If you are unconscious, a test can be ordered without your permission. 

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Contact a Lawyer

Once the police have arrived at the scene and investigated the accident, you may be issued a citation. This could be for reckless driving, speeding, or as mentioned above, a DUII. If someone was killed or seriously injured as a result of the accident, you could be charged with a much more serious crime, such as manslaughter.

If cited or arrested, you should call an experienced attorney. Particularly in collisions involving a DUII, serious injury, or fatality, a lawyer is necessary so you know your options and how to best proceed. 


Exchange Insurance & Contact Info 

Assuming everyone is safe, exchange insurance and contact information with everyone involved in the accident.

This information includes:

  • Full Name

  • License plate number

  • Drivers license number

  • Vehicle make, model, and year

  • Phone number

  • Address

  • Insurance carrier and policy number


Report Accident to the DMV

For most accidents, you are legally required to notify the DMV of the accident within 72 hours. You must file an Oregon Traffic Accident and Insurance Report. This is required if:

  • Damage to any vehicle is over $1,500 and any vehicle is towed from the scene as a result of damages from this accident

  • Injury or death resulted from this accident

  • Damages to any one person's property other than a vehicle involved in this accident is over $1,500

Some drivers try to convince others to not file a report as part of an off-the-books settlement. This is illegal and can result in a $1,500 fine.


Contact Your Insurance Company

Contact your insurance company as soon as possible. They will ask for your version of events and investigate the accident. They will talk to the other drivers, look at the police report, and determine who was at fault.

Since Oregon is a “Fault” and Personal Injury Protection hybrid state, if you are determined to be at fault you will be held liable for damages and injuries caused by the accident. Insurance will generally cover these costs, but you could also be subject to a personal injury lawsuit.

Your insurance premium will also likely increase. In the case of accidents where you were under the influence and caused serious injury or death, you could also be held liable to a civil or wrongful death suit, in addition to any criminal charges brought against you. 


What to Do If You Don’t Have Insurance 

If you do not have car insurance, you are still going to be held liable for any damages. In addition to any damages to yourself and your own vehicle, the other drivers and passengers involved will likely file personal injury lawsuits against you. If you do not have many assets, they may have trouble collecting. Still, be prepared to pay what is feasible.


Have You Been Determined at Fault in an Accident and Need Legal Assistance?

If you have been determined to be at fault or been charged with a crime in relation to an accident and need legal assistance, call me today at (503) 498-6985. 

Your consultation is always free and confidential.

Adam Greenman
Adam Greenman has been a trusted criminal defense and personal injury attorney in Portland for over 15 years. A graduate of Lewis and Clark School of Law and an experienced former prosecutor, Adam is a proud member of the Oregon State Bar Association, Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, and the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. He is known for providing personal, one-on-one attention to clients.