North Carolina State Highway Patrol wants to remind drivers of a key safety tip regarding the handling of vehicles after car accidents.
In most cases, getting your vehicle off the road after a fender-bender is the safest thing to do, but people often don’t move their cars after minor accidents because they believe they need to preserve the scene. And sometimes, as in a recent case involving a deadly multi-vehicle collision in Catawba County, vehicles may become disabled after accidents and can’t be moved.
The incident in Catawba County is a worst case scenario, but it unfolded this way: A Toyota Corolla traveling north on N.C. 16 struck a Honda Accord after entering the intersection at Buffalo Shoals Road on a red light, according to a news release from N.C. Highway Patrol. Both vehicles were disabled after the incident.
Then, two minutes later, a Honda Civic traveling north on N.C. 16 struck the Accord, officials said. The driver of the Civic was able to pull over to the shoulder.
After that, a tractor-trailer traveling north on NC 16 then struck both disabled vehicles.
“The impact caused the tractor-trailer and the Corolla to travel off the right side of the road into utility guy wires supporting an electrical power pole. The pole fell, striking the tractor-trailer and causing it to become inflamed,” the release said.
After flames spread to the Corolla, the driver, Julia Annice Chandler, 34, of Hickory, was removed from the vehicle and transported by medical helicopter to Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, with life-threatening injuries, officials said. Chandler died in the hospital the next day.
The driver of the Accord, Christopher David Hernandez, 21, was transported by EMS to Catawba Valley Medical Center, with non-life-threatening injuries. The drivers of the tractor trailer and Civic were not injured.
So what are you supposed to do after an accident? Is leaving your vehicle on the road against the law in North Carolina? Here’s what to know.
Should you move your vehicle off the road after an accident?
North Carolina law requires drivers involved in minor wrecks to move their vehicles off the roadway, Master Trooper Christopher Casey, with N.C. State Highway Patrol, told The Charlotte Observer.
“If you can’t move your car out of the roadway, please get out of your car and get off the road yourself,” Casey said. “At nighttime, sometimes cars can’t see you. You’re in a dangerous spot sitting in your car, and it’s possible that you could get hit again.”
Vehicles can only be left on roadways if they are disabled, state law says.
Are you required to call the police after an accident?
North Carolina law requires drivers involved in collisions to “immediately, by the quickest means of notification, notify the appropriate law enforcement agency of the accident.”
Law enforcement officers must investigate accidents and write a report of the incident within 24 hours, according to state law.
If you don’t notify law enforcement after an accident, you could be charged with a misdemeanor, per state law.
How to file a claim after a wreck
In the event of an accident, you should call your insurance company to file a claim.
If another driver is responsible for damages to your vehicle, you should contact their insurance company as well, according to the N.C. Department of Insurance. Your adjuster will inform you of any additional steps you need to complete.
The adjuster will also investigate the accident to determine who was at fault, according to the NCDOI.
The North Carolina Contributory Negligence Law prevents drivers found liable for accidents from collecting damages, meaning insurance claims from drivers found partially at fault may be denied, the NCDOI said.