Everything feels chaotic and overwhelming after a car accident and you might find yourself wondering what, exactly, you are supposed to do. Do you check on the driver of the other car? Should you call the police first? Has someone else already done that? The light was definitely green when you went through it, right? As stressful as all of this is, it can be even more so when you are injured and in pain.
The fact is, the steps you take immediately after a car accident are actually quite important. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your crash and where it occurred, you may be able to file a claim for damages with the insurance company, but be warned: you are going to need to gather evidence to back it.
If you find yourself on Google searching “car crashes in the last 24 hours near me” or something similar, you are probably looking for information on what you should do after being in a car accident. The actions you need to take in the moments and days following a crash will have a direct impact on your ability to collect financial compensation. They include:
Remain at the Scene
Even if your accident was minor, you should never just leave the scene without reporting it. Fleeing the scene of a crash is a very serious offense with penalties that range from the suspension of your driving license to administrative fines and time in jail. Although each state is subject to its own set of laws, almost all of them require an accident to be reported if it involves property damage, injury, or death.
Although you do need to remain at the scene, you do not need to cause any secondary accidents. So, make sure you get to a safe location that will prevent any further incidents. This means you may need to:
- Pull to the side of the roadway
- Turn your flashers on
- If it is dark, use your phone or a flashlight while exiting your vehicle
- If your car is not driveable, leave it where it is and get to somewhere safe well away from traffic
Exchange Information With the Other Driver(s)
Following a car accident, it is always a good idea to exchange certain important information with the other driver(s) and passengers involved in the crash. This information includes:
- Contact details (email addresses, phone numbers, etc)
- Driver’s license number
- Vehicle make and model
- Car insurance information
- Number plates
The officer who responds to the scene will also document this information, but it is a good idea to have a copy for yourself, just in case.
Notify the Police Right Away
Even if your car accident seems minor, you need to notify the local or state police immediately. If anyone involved in the accident is unconscious or injured, tell them you need medical assistance on the scene. The responding officer will draft an accident report that could serve as an essential piece of supporting evidence for your insurance claim.
Answer all of the officer’s questions honestly and to the best of your ability, Never guess, embellish, or fabricate details. Keep your answers short and stick to the facts. If you do not know the answer to a question, tell the officer that you don’t know rather than saying yes or no when you are unsure.
Document the Scene
Although the official police report will include a description and sketch of the accident scene, you might need more than that to back your claim. Using your smartphone or an actual camera, take pictures or videos to document:
- Any visible injuries sustained by you or your passengers
- The damage to both vehicles
- The accident scene as a whole, especially relevant details such as fluid spills, skid marks, malfunctioning stoplights, etc.
Photographic evidence is very useful in proving damages from a traffic accident, which is good news for your insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. If you are unable to take pictures immediately after the crash, you need to make every effort to take them as soon as possible.
Talk to Any Bystanders
If anyone witnessed the accident, try to talk to them and get their contact details. Eyewitness testimony is another strong piece of evidence that can support your claim.
Get Medical Attention
Car accident victims often experience something called invisible injuries. These injuries, such as whiplash and internal bleeding, have a habit of not making themselves known until hours or even days after the crash. With this in mind, you need to seek immediate medical treatment after your accident, even if you think you managed to escape unharmed. There are two reasons why this is important:
- A doctor can examine you and promptly diagnose your injuries, including ones you may not have known about until some time has passed. A prompt medical evaluation can keep your injuries from worsening, spare you pain, and possibly reduce the costs of your treatment.
- Seeing a doctor directly following your car accident will create an official paper trail that will prove to the insurance carrier that your injuries were caused by the accident. It will also generate a record of all treatments, hospitalizations, and doctor appointments to include in your claim.
Consult With an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer
Speaking with a reputable lawyer is one of the most vital steps you can take after a serious car accident. Insurance claims can quickly become complicated and stressful, feelings that will be compounded by the fact that the other driver’s insurer is going to contact you for a recorded statement (which you should decline to give) within hours of the accident being reported.
Working with a skilled attorney will ensure that someone is protecting your rights and has your best interests in mind. Just taking advantage of a free consultation can help you understand your rights and the law as it applies to your case. An attorney can also advise you on the best course of action for your situation and what your next steps should be.
Notify Your Insurance Company
After you have spoken to a car accident lawyer like professionals from Local Accident Reports, it is time to notify your insurance company. Fill them in on the facts of the accident and then inform them that any additional questions can be directed toward your lawyer.
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