A negligent person can make terrible driving choices, crashing into and injuring even the most careful drivers. If you find yourself in an easily avoidable crash due to someone else’s fault, ensure your safety and that of others while getting the information you need for an insurance claim or a lawsuit for damages.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), the following steps could help guide you through the often challenging time of dealing with a crash and its aftermath. Take these steps regardless of who caused the crash. Never hesitate to speak with a car accident attorney right afterward.
Move to Safer Place
If you are okay enough to move, then move or walk to the side of the road or a sidewalk. Check to see if your car is posing a danger and if it is and is safe to drive, then move it to the side of the road. If it is not safe to drive the car, then leave it as is and move yourself to safety.
Call the Police and Wait for Help
If you are reading this blog, there is a good chance that you are not still sitting at the scene of an accident. However, if you are reading this right after a crash, call the police—which the law may require, depending on your state.
If your car engine is on, turn it off and turn your hazard lights on as you call 911. Use road flares in your emergency tool kit to warn other vehicles of the hazard created by the crash scene and for them to slow down.
When the police arrive, they will usually document what they can as established by their observations and asking questions. They will create a report and facilitate the exchange of information between drivers. If warranted, police will also check the sobriety of other drivers involved in the accident to determine if anyone was drunk or high.
If you did call the police to the scene and they made a report, fantastic. Your car accident lawyer is standing by to help on your case, a part of which is contacting the relevant authorities to collect reports and documents to use as evidence in support of your case. When you are trying to recover from an injury, calling around to police departments and filing lengthy insurance claim application forms can be the last thing you have the energy to focus on, and that is the value of your local car accident attorney.
If no police come to the crash scene, you can proceed to the nearest police station and have a report recorded there yourself.
To help protect yourself, the III recommends that you:
- Identify the officers. Once a police officer arrives, get his or her name and badge number and do so for all responding officers, if more than one.
- Get a copy of the accident report. Inquire from the police officers present where you can obtain a copy of the accident report. This report may be requested by your insurer when you file a covered auto insurance claim.
- Take pictures. If you can do so safely, document the crash thoroughly by taking several pictures of your vehicle and from different angles, showing clearly the damage done to both your car and the other car involved in the crash. It is also a good idea to take a picture of the other car’s number plate. These photos may help support your insurance claim.
- Talk to witnesses. If there is anyone who witnessed the crash, make sure you take down their full names and contact information, as well.
Exchange Information With Other Drivers
Once you have made sure you and any passengers are uninjured, reach out to the other driver and exchange contact and insurance information.
The following is the most important information you should exchange as drivers according to the III:
- Full names and contact information
- Insurance company and policy number
- Driver’s license and license plate number
- Type, color, and model of the vehicle
- Location of the crash
The III recommends that you limit your conversation with the other driver to getting the information above. Avoid discussing fault if you discuss facts of the crash with the other driver. The adjuster reviewing your claim will determine fault based on a variety of factors, including inspection of the vehicles, damage, and information provided by you and the other driver involved in the crash.
Seek Medical Care
In the moments after an accident, it is natural that the shock associated with the crash will cause adrenaline to mask the pain or discomfort of serious injuries. Assess your situation immediately, and if you are not seriously hurt and can do so, call 911 or ask someone else to do so. If you are not too seriously hurt to move, check on any passenger in your car and if anyone is injured, call 911 or anyone around you to call for help.
If you’re seriously injured, lie or sit still without trying to move your body in any way and wait for first responders.
Regardless, get emergency medical care to ensure that you are not seriously hurt and create official documentation of your injuries. Like traumatic brain injury (TBI), some injuries are often invisible and difficult for victims to detect.
You should always seek medical attention after an accident, even if the EMTs who respond clear you to go home. Failing to seek medical treatment can allow the other side to argue that you failed to take steps to mitigate your losses. In many cases, injuries that do not require emergency medical treatment are still serious and need treatment. Furthermore, seeing a medical professional will result in the creation of a medical record that can be used as evidence when you make your claim.
Follow your treatment plan as closely as possible. Doing so means that you need to attend all follow-up appointments, fill your prescriptions, and go to physical therapy if your doctor prescribed it.
Notify Your Insurer
The sooner you start the insurance claim process, the better, so call your insurance agent while you’re at the crash scene or as soon as you can. The insurance agent will tell you exactly what you need to do, what they will need from you to process your insurance claim, and what to expect during the insurance claims process.
Contact an Attorney Before Negotiating With the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Company
If you are the victim of an auto crash, consult an experienced car accident lawyer.
While the at-fault party may be liable, that does not mean that their insurance company will treat you fairly. You may get a settlement offer from the insurance company, but it is often a mistake to accept the offer without consulting a lawyer. The offer is usually too low to properly compensate you. An experienced auto accident lawyer can protect your right to compensation.
Insurance companies work for profit and increase profits by denying whichever claims they can and paying as little as possible on the claims they pay out on. An initial settlement offer from the insurance company will generally be lower than the compensation you are entitled to and will leave you paying for your losses out of your pocket.
Damages Include Repairs, Short- and Long-Term Medical Bills, and Lost Wages
Collecting damages from your accident can make you whole or put you in as close a position as possible to the position you would be in had the accident never happened. When you suffer injuries in an accident that someone else’s negligence caused, state law entitles you to compensation for all of your economic and non-economic losses.
These often include:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Current and future lost income
- Property damage
- Lost quality of life
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
Keep all your auto crash-related information and documents in one file. You should update this file as you get the new or additional information, and you should have it ready to share with your car accident lawyer, who will use it to prepare the best case for your compensation.
Measuring your damages will often require expert opinions and very complex calculations that consider the number of working years you have left, inflation, regular raises, and other issues. Fortunately, an experienced car accident attorney has likely worked on similar cases, knows how to calculate the amount of your damages you are entitled to, and the process through which you can maximize the outcome of your compensation.
Your Car Accident Attorney Negotiates on Your Behalf
One of the key benefits of a car accident attorney in your case is that they take the stress of communicating and negotiating with the opposing party out of your day-to-day life. Once you are working with an attorney, they will handle all filings, communications, responses, and paperwork associated with your case.
If you have yet to file a claim with the insurance company, your attorney can help you assemble your application and maximize your settlement. If the insurance company has denied your claim, your attorney can draft the appeal or file a lawsuit to collect the full damages you deserve.
There Are No Upfront Costs Associated With Retaining a Car Accident Attorney to Represent You
After a car wreck, you may be worried about whether you can afford to retain a car accident lawyer to help you. Fortunately, you can retain a car accident lawyer without up-front costs or financial risks. Most injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means they only get paid if they obtain compensation for their clients.
This means that if your attorney does not obtain compensation for you, you will not owe them anything. In addition, because almost all injury lawyers offer free case evaluations, you can find out if you have a claim and get to know a particular attorney without having to pay anything out-of-pocket.
If your lawyer does obtain compensation on your behalf, any legal fees they collect will come out of your settlement or award as a predetermined percentage. You should be sure that you fully understand your fee arrangement with your attorney before signing a representation agreement.