BY: TIM GRENDA, J.D.

Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest times on the nation’s roads, highways and interstates. In 2010, an estimated 41 million motorists are expected to hit the road for the long holiday weekend, more than in past years because gas prices are a few cents lower than they have been.

Unfortunately, many Memorial Day motorists will be involved in traffic accidents, with some suffering serious and life-threatening injuries or costly damage to their vehicles. If the accident is the result of a drunk driver or the negligence or carelessness of another driver, injured motorists may qualify for financial compensation for their damages.

You can read more about your important legal rights if you've been in a car accident or suffered another type of personal injury in LawInfo's Personal Injury Legal Resource Center.

Practicing safe driving techniques such as obeying posted speed limits and wearing a seat belt may help reduce your odds of being in a crash or suffering injuries if you are in a wreck. However, if you are in a motor vehicle accident over the Memorial Day holiday or any time for that matter, there are some steps you should take to abide by the law and limit your criminal or civil liability for the accident.

• Warn others drivers by turning on your vehicle’s hazard lights and remain calm. If it is safe and possible to do so, move your vehicle off the road to avoid other cars from colliding with it.

• Check on the condition and health of everyone involved in the accident. If anyone requires immediate medical attention, call an ambulance.

• If you have a still or video camera on your cell phone on in your car, you may want to take some photographs or video of the accident scene before the vehicles are moved if you are capable of doing so. This type of information can help authorities, the insurance companies, and your attorney document the conditions as they were at the time of the accident.

• Exchange information with all involved parties. Be sure to obtain information such as names, addresses, driver license information, and insurance policy information (insurance company name, insured party’s name, policy number, etc.).

• While laws typically differ from state-to-state, it is usually a good idea to contact local law enforcement and ask to have a police report filed on the accident. This will come in handy later if legal proceedings are initiated.

• Avoid signing any admission of guilt or making statements, such as “It was all my fault!” before you have received professional legal advice. It is up to the police or an insurance carrier to determine who was at fault, so there’s no point in admitting guilt at the accident scene. Talk to a lawyer first.

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