What to Do after a Car Accident
It can’t happen to me. I’m a safe driver.
That’s what most people think when they get behind the wheel. The reality is, we are all human, and a car crash can happen to anyone.
The National Safety Council reports that 4.57 million people required medical attention because of injuries suffered in a car crash in 2017, with total costs to society of over $413 billion.
So while good driving habits may reduce your risk of an accident, you should also know what to do if you happen to be involved in a car crash.
Here are a few tips to remember.
#1: Stay Calm
As with other emergencies, panicking only makes the situation worse. Remaining calm will help you think more clearly, make better decisions and ultimately benefit yourself and everyone involved in the accident.
- Don’t go anywhere. Leaving the scene of an accident can result in hit-and-run charges. Even if no one was injured, many states may still charge you with misdemeanor hit-and-run, which can result in fines and up to a year in jail. If there are fatalities or injuries, you can be charged with a felony.
- Always check for injuries before property damage. Immediately call 911 to get medical attention for yourself, the other driver, passengers or pedestrians who may have been hit. Never move anyone who is unconscious or who has back or neck pain, unless it is absolutely necessary to avoid an immediate hazard such as a fire.
- Call the police. Any auto accident involving death, injury or property damage must be reported to law enforcement. Get the names and badge numbers of responding officers.
#2: Collect Information
Your car crash will result in insurance claims, and possible medical care and legal proceedings. The more accurate information you gather in the immediate aftermath of the accident, the better.
- Exchange information with other parties. You’ll want to record the other drivers’ names, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers and insurance.
- Record the make, model, year and a description of every vehicle involved in the crash. Get the vehicle registration numbers and take photos if possible.
- As for insurance information, get the company name and policy number for all drivers.
- Collect the names and contact information for all witnesses. Ask everyone to describe what they saw, and write down or record their answers.
- Photograph all damage to all vehicles as quickly as possible. It’s a good idea to have a few pre-accident pictures of your vehicle on hand, so you can make before-and-after comparisons to prove the extent of damage.
- Create a written description of the accident as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the fuzzier your memory may get. Write down the date, time, weather conditions, visibility and the address where the crash occurred. Take notes describing how the accident happened, and the direction each vehicle was traveling.
#3: File a Claim with Your Insurance Company
Inform your insurer about the accident as soon as possible. Be prompt and truthful, and explain the facts pertaining to the accident clearly. Lying about the accident can result in a loss of coverage.
- Obtain the insurer’s valuation of your vehicle and gather independent repair or replacement estimates
- Confirm that all injuries have been treated before accepting any settlement offer to make sure that you’re appropriately compensated. It’s best to consult with a qualified auto accident lawyer before signing any settlement documents.
#4: Document Your Injuries
Always see a doctor as soon as possible after a car accident, even if you feel no initial pain or discomfort. Sometimes even serious injuries can have delayed or seemingly mild symptoms that still require treatment.
In addition, insurers and defendants will use a delay in medical help as evidence that your injuries aren’t severe. Watch for discomfort that appears in the days, weeks or even months following the accident, and complete all recommended treatments, including therapy and medications.
And as with the accident itself, it’s important to keep track of all pertinent information related to your injuries:
- Record the names and contact information of all doctors, therapists and other health professionals who treat your injuries.
- Save all test results, x-rays, MRIs and other records and provide them to your attorney.
- Track all treatments, medications and therapy you receive.
- Retain copies of all medical reports and bills to verify your health-related expenses.
- Document the pain and suffering you experience. Write down how your injuries have impacted your daily life, including missed work, routine activities compromised and effects on your family.
#5: Avoid Discussing Your Case
The only individuals you should discuss your case with are the police, your attorney, your health provider and your insurer. Talking about the accident with others may hurt your chances of getting fair compensation.
- At the scene of the accident, never admit fault or say “I’m sorry,” even if you did, in fact, run a red light. Don’t tell anyone you “feel fine,” even if you do. Again, some injuries have delayed symptoms.
- Don’t talk to the other driver’s insurer. If the other insurer contacts you, refer them to your attorney. Inform your lawyer about the contact.
- Never talk about a pending legal matter on social media, and don’t post comments or photos pertaining to the accident. Insurers and defendants will investigate your online accounts looking for information that contradicts your side of the story. Ask family and friends not to post anything about you or tag you in any posts until the case is resolved.
- Don’t post any online reviews while your case is pending. Negative ratings of doctors, insurance companies or other will be used against you in legal proceedings.
#6: Hire an Attorney
Hiring a qualified car accident attorney is one of the best ways to ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive fair compensation.
- Always contact an attorney if there are any injuries in the crash.
- Your attorney will help you navigate the insurance claims process to maximize your settlement.
- Contacting a lawyer is one of the most financially sound decisions you can make after an accident. He or she will only get paid if you are awarded damages or receive a settlement.
If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact Eng & Woods at 877-888-2345 to set up a free consultation. Our experienced attorneys will answer all of your questions and help you get the compensation you deserve.