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What Should I Do After a Car Accident?

Car accidents can be very traumatic and troublesome. When you’re involved in a car accident, the injuries can be very serious and there are important steps that you need to consider at the accident scene and soon afterwards. Car accidents can lead to heavy medical bills, the loss of valuable property and increased insurance premiums. With so much at stake, staying calm and taking other steps to safeguard your rights is crucial, and retaining an experienced car accident lawyer can make a huge difference.

Steps to consider after a car accident

1. Do not panic, remain at the scene of the car accident

Do not panic after a car accident and try to stay calm. The first thing to do is make sure you are in a safe location.  If the car crash was minor, move to the side of the road. If the car accident was major, it may be appropriate to leave the car in the road, but if possible, exit the vehicle and move to safety on the shoulder and call the police.  You are obligated in several states to remain at the scene when you’re involved in a car accident, so don’t leave the scene of the accident. If you have time, and it is appropriate to do so, you might want to document the car accident by taking a picture of the location of your vehicle before moving it. 

2. Call 911 emergency or the police

If there are severe injuries, contact emergency (911) immediately. If necessary you may request an ambulance during your 911 call.   Many U.S. states have laws that require the police to be contacted if someone is hurt or the harm reaches a certain amount.  However, if there are no serious injuries, some jurisdictions will not send a police officer to the scene. If the police come to the scene, make sure to get the accident report number and find out how to obtain the official police report which can take several days for the police department to finalize.  While you wait for the police to arrive, check your injuries and of those involved in the car accident. Many injuries may not appear instantly but may arise after some time.

3. Record evidence of the scene and collect information

For any claim evidence will be critical.  Gather the names and contact information of any and all witnesses.  Also, gather information from the other driver, including driver license and insurance information, and license plate number.  Document the incident by taking photos and even video of the scene, property damage, and injuries. You may want to keep taking pictures of your bruises in the following days and weeks if they get worse. This will document whether the injuries are healed or getting worse. When the police arrive they will gather information and make a formal police report.  Even if the police come, it is a good idea to obtain the information of the other driver’s involved and any witnesses on the scene.

4. Preserve medical records and bills

If you have any indication of an injury, go to the hospital so a doctor can fully evaluate your injuries.  It is much better to play it safe, than to risk in internal injury that may not be apparent. Many injuries are hard to detect, so the doctor may order x-rays or MRI scans to fully evaluate your physical condition.  Some injuries do not manifest immediately, so pay attention to your symptoms over the following weeks. Make sure to preserve medical bills, medical records and other related documents. Keep track of miscellaneous expenses as they can be added to your claim for recovery against the at fault driver’s insurance.

5. Notify your car insurance

Notify your insurance company and let them know about the incident.  Typically, they will reach out to the other driver’s insurance company.  Depending on where you live, your own insurance, or the at fault driver’s insurance will cover the initial property damage and personal injury damages up to a certain dollar value. If the insurance company of the negligent driver contacts you, do not accept their settlement claim or admit any fault as they will try to settle the claim for the lowest possible. Even if there are only minor injuries, it is a good idea to let an experienced car accident lawyer handle the insurance company.

6. Contact an experienced car accident attorney

Contact an experienced car accident lawyer as early as possible in the process. An experienced car accident lawyer can help explain your legal rights, and negotiate a favorable settlement with the insurance company, and file a lawsuit if necessary to recover maximum compensation for your injuries.  Most attorneys will take injury cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you don’t have to pay them up front, they will take a percentage of the recovery from the insurance company. This allows you to get the best legal representation without paying out of pocket for a top car accident attorney.

A special thanks to our colleague and contributor from Chudleigh Law P.C. insights into the proper steps to take after being involved in a car accident.