The United States of America is a beautiful country with plenty to do, see, and explore. With a plethora of destinations across the states, it’s become an American tradition to go on at least one road trip during your life; some people choose to go on several, checking off a bucket list of destinations. Whether you want to visit a state park in each state, seek every thrill on offer, experience historic HWY 66, or check out kitschy tourist attractions, the United States has something for everyone— and you don’t need a passport. What you do need is a well-maintained vehicle and a plan. So, pack an emergency kit and supplies, make sure your insurance is current, and know what to do if you get into a car accident on a US road trip in any state.

Car Accident on US Road Trip

Vehicle accidents can happen to anyone, anywhere. Unfortunately, even the safest drivers may fall victim to poor driving conditions or poor drivers. To help increase your chances of a safe trip, you should review the top causes of road trip accidents and how to stay safe.

Common Causes of Roadway Accidents

  • Distracted driving
    • eating or drinking from spillable containers, using a cell phone, applying makeup, checking a map, reaching to find dropped items
  • Drunk driving
  • Speeding
  • Drowsy Driving
  • Faulty Equipment
    • Tire blowouts, burnt-out lights, failing hitches, unsecured luggage, and vehicle malfunctions.
  • Weather-Related Hazards
    • ice, snow, fog, heavy rain
  • Wrong-Way Driving
  • Red Light Running
  • Stop Sign Running
  • Tailgating
  • Road Rage
  • Night Driving
  • Unsafe Lane Changes
  • Lack of Blinkers
  • Tire Blowouts
  • Animal Crossings

Best Practices for Road Trips

Service your vehicle: change your oil, check your fluid levels, check your lights, check your tire pressure, and have a recent safety and maintenance check.

Plan your route in advance: the more familiar you are with the course, the less likely you are to panic about missing exits or lose track of surrounding traffic.

Plan Your Route in Advance
Plan Your Route in Advance

Secure your luggage: double and triple-check all tie-downs to ensure nothing frees itself, and no cords are starting to fray.

Switch driver duty: don’t try to drive the entire trip yourself. Instead, take shifts with other drivers, or take breaks and rest stops.

Avoid driving at night: try not to travel after dark if possible. Research hotels and rest areas along your route. If you must go at night, be extra cautious and don’t look directly at oncoming headlights.

Road Safety: practice all standard road safety and drive the speed limit. High-speed accidents have worse consequences, and racing drivers often miss traffic issues. Also, don’t drink and drive, as alcohol can impair your reaction times and driving ability.

Pack emergency supplies: a roadside emergency kit is one of the best investments of your time and money if you spend a lot of time in your vehicle. Start with a first aid kit, jumper cables, a tire jack, and a spare tire. Then make sure you have non-perishable snacks and water. Blankets and flashlights come next. You can find a premade road kit or throw your own together. Put in anything that can keep you safe in the event of a breakdown or getting stranded.

What to Do if You get in an Accident in Chicago

If you get into a car accident on a US road trip, your first priority is your safety and the safety of your passengers. First, determine if you can move. Take a few moments to let adrenaline and shock wear off, and check on yourself and your passengers visually. Throw on your hazard lights if they are working.

Call for Help

While you are letting your nerves settle and your body tell you how it actually feels, call 911. You will need a police report, and you may need medical services. Let dispatch know you have been in an accident and where you are. If you do not know, try to see if a landmark or road sign is nearby. If you have GPS up on your phone, it should have your location marked.

Try and Move the Vehicles

If you feel safe to move, exit the vehicle. If you and your passengers are able to exit, see if you can move your car off of the road. Do not continue if you experience pain. Moving vehicles out of the way is a courtesy, but it is not required if they are too damaged, or you are too injured. If you cannot move the vehicles, set up any warnings you may have in addition to your hazard lights, such as little cones from your emergency kit. Police will form a blockade and direct traffic once they arrive.

Protect Your Rights

Be careful: do not apologize to anyone involved, do not admit fault, and do not fall for preying tow truck scams. Let emergency services or your insurance handle towing your vehicle if needed. Scammy companies will drive around looking for accidents and then hold your vehicle for ransom with inflated fees. Apologizing can be seen as admitting fault, which will disqualify you from any compensation and affect your insurance.

Rights Protection
Rights Protection

Document the Scene

Get photos of the scene, the vehicles, any travel injuries, the other car’s license plate— anything and everything you can think of. Do not panic if you are not safe to move; emergency services will thoroughly document the scene in the event that any involved parties cannot get their own documentation.

You also need to exchange information with the other drivers and any witnesses. With the other drivers, you need to exchange insurance and contact information. Talk to the police on the scene about getting a copy of their report, too. The police report is a must if you file a claim; Illinois requires all claims over $1500 to have a police report.

Seek Medical Attention

Even if you don’t think you are injured, let the doctors take a look at you and any precautionary x-rays and diagnostics. Some injuries are not immediately apparent, and some shock lasts a long while. Plus, you need documentation from the day off in case something comes up later.

Contact Important Parties

You will need to inform your insurance of the accident. They will talk you through the requirements for filing a claim. Next, you want to hire a lawyer local to the state in which you crashed. If you are in an accident in Chicago, you need a Chicago personal injury lawyer. They will help you work with your insurance and investigate if you have a strong case to file a lawsuit.

Final Thoughts

No one wants to be in a car accident on a US road trip. And no one wants their trip interrupted. But vehicle accidents are an everyday occurrence in the US. It’s better to have a plan and not need it than to assume it can’t happen to you and be caught unawares. So when planning your trip, be sure to have contingency plans and emergency funds in place— just in case. 

Car accident on a US road trip is expensive; you must consider car repairs, medical costs, towing expenses, etc. By retaining a lawyer, you can look into a compensation package from any at-fault parties. Illinois is a ‘fault’ state, so judges and juries will deduct whatever percentage they deem you responsible for in the accident from your settlement.

However, if you are 100% not at fault, you would be entitled to compensation for your costs. Working with a reputable car accident lawyer in Chicago will help you avoid debt; with luck and no injuries, you can get a rental through your insurance company and return to your plans.

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