Car accidents are scary, and the aftermath can be hazy and confusing as you are overrun with adrenaline, pain, and excitement. Since there is so much going on, it is easy to understand how someone may miss or forget some important steps that they should have taken in order to make sure that they have the best chance of being compensated fairly. There are many steps that the emergency responders and police on the scene will be able to guide you through, but there are other things that you should be aware of in order to maximize your chances of getting a fair amount of money for your suffering and damages. Read below for a general checklist of what to do after a car accident.
Prioritize Your Safety
The first thing to do after a car accident is to assess the injuries that you and your passengers have suffered. If possible, get to a safe area such as the side of the road, a sidewalk, median strip, or breakdown lane; however, if your vehicle is disabled, there are serious injuries, or it is safer to remain exactly where you are, then do so. It is especially important that you do not move someone who you suspect has suffered from a spinal cord injury because this can cause much more damage.
This is especially important if you are in a single-vehicle accident and there is nobody else around, but even if there are others in the area it is a good idea to call yourself. Once you are on the line with a 911 operator, they will be able to walk you through the steps to make sure that you are making safe decisions until the emergency responders arrive, and they will be able to relay any information about serious injuries in your vehicle.
If there is anything notable about the accident scene that they should tell the police about before they arrive, this is important information to relay. If your vehicle is in a dangerous location, if there is a hazard that puts others at risk, or if there is anything else about the crash that remains dangerous, the emergency responders will have a better idea of what to expect when they arrive and will be able to jump to action.
Get Medical Attention
No matter how minor your injuries may seem, it is important that you are examined by the EMTs and get the medical help that they suggest. This might mean taking an ambulance to the hospital, but if you are not taken to the hospital you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible. Some injuries, such as whiplash and bruising, may take a day or two before they truly show their impact, which means you may walk away from the crash seemingly uninjured and then discover that you are extremely sore or have other complications.
Seeing your doctor will ensure that you get all preventative and palliative care that you need, but it has the second effect of initiating a record of your injuries that will be very helpful during your claims process.
Submit a Statement to the Police
If your condition allows you to speak to the police at the scene of the accident, then inform them of any details that you are able to recall about the situation leading to the collision. During this time, it is very important that you make no statements that may indicate an admission of guilt or partial responsibility, which will have a serious negative impact on your claim. This includes making an apology, which can be an instinctual action during this stressful situation but can come back to haunt you when dealing with the insurance company.
Gather Eyewitness Accounts
If there are eyewitnesses to the accident, get their accounts of the situation, or at least their contact information so that you can follow up once your injuries are addressed. In many instances, a collision may occur after the responsible driver had been engaging in other negligent behavior that you may not have witnessed, such as speeding through a red light, texting while driving, or some other possible cause of the crash. The more eyewitness accounts that you are able to gather, the more complete of a story you will be able to put together in order to understand what went wrong, and who was at fault.
Contact an Attorney
You will have a limited window of time to initiate your claim with the insurance company, and once you are working with a claims adjuster who is assessing your case they will be looking for every possible opening to reduce the award that they give you for your damages. If you are working with an car accident attorney from the start, you can be confident that each step is taken with intention, and that every action and conversation that your lawyer has with the claims adjuster is with the intention of getting you the money that you deserve.