Getting in a car accident can be an overwhelming event. On top of dealing with the emotional stress and making sure you’re physically alright, you need to make sure you follow the right steps so that you can get the legal and financial reparations you need. Although it may seem complicated, you can make it through the steps following a car accident and come out the other side with all of your ducks in a row. Let’s dive into what you need to do after you’ve been in an accident.
Step 1: Check Yourself and Others for Injuries
The first thing you need to do when you’ve been in an accident is to check yourself and any passengers that were in the car for injuries. Start with checking yourself. If you are seriously injured, try not to move and wait for emergency personnel to get to the scene. If you’re not too hurt to move, check on other passengers in your car.
If anyone is injured, you should call 911 right away. You can make the call if you are physically able to or you can ask someone else in your car to make the call. You could also ask a bystander to call for help if there were people around when the accident occurred. No matter who calls, it is important that whoever is injured receives emergency medical care as soon as possible. If you can, help keep everyone in your car as calm as possible and keep anyone who is injured from moving until the ambulance gets there. You can make injuries worse by moving too soon.
Step 2: Get to Safety
Once you’ve ensured that no one in your party needs immediate medical attention, you should get to the side of the road or a sidewalk. If your car is safe to drive and is causing a hazard to other drivers on the road where it is, pull it to the shoulder of the road or off of the main thoroughfare. It needs to be completely off the road to avoid being hit by other vehicles and causing more car accidents. Be sure that the other drivers involved also get their vehicles off of the road in a similar way, as long as they are safe to move.
If your car doesn’t appear to be safe to drive, leave it where it is. The inner workings of a car are intricate and contain potentially dangerous chemicals and fluids. If you attempt to move a car when it has severe damage, you risk the car catching on fire or exploding. Try to make the scene of the accident visible to other drivers if you’re unable to move your car. You can do this by turning on your hazards or setting up flares or reflective emergency triangles if you have them. At the very least, use the flashlight function on your smartphone to make the scene visible, especially in the dark. These methods will effectively warn other drivers that they need to go around the accident and that there are people on the side of the road they should be aware of.
Step 3: Call the Authorities
Even if you’ve been in an accident that was relatively minor, you should contact the police. In some states, this step is legally required. The officers will fill out an accident report and document the scene. Insurance agencies often require these reports and official pieces of documentation in the claims process. If you need to work with an auto accident attorney after you’ve been in an accident, your lawyer will need this documentation as well to fight for your side of the case.
As you wait for the police to arrive, it is important that you refrain from speaking about the accident to the other party involved. You can certainly ask them if they are alright or if they need medical attention, but discussing the accident with them can lead you to admit fault and liability. Even if you are at fault for the incident, anything you say now can be used against you when you get to court to discuss legal reparations for the accident. Only talk about the accident with the police, medical professionals, your legal services, and your insurance representative.
Step 4: Make an Accurate Record
When the police arrive, it is essential that you tell the officers exactly what happened as best as you can. If there are certain facts that you don’t know, tell that to the officers. By speculating, guessing, or misstating facts, you put your case at risk. It’s much better to be truthful even if you can’t provide officers with answers.
If they ask you if you’re injured and you’re not sure, say that rather than no. Pain and injuries from car accidents often become apparent hours after you’ve actually been in an accident. If you discover a serious injury afterward but told the officers that you were not injured at all, you may have trouble seeking legal reparations for your injury because the official report will show that you stated that the accident did not cause your injury. Make sure that the statements from everyone else involved in the accident are accurate as well.
Step 5: Take Pictures
Part of creating an accurate record after you’ve been in an accident is getting plenty of photographic evidence. While the police will likely take pictures, you’ll want to have some of your own to send to your insurance company and your attorney if you end up needing one. Take pictures of all of the vehicles involved that show the damage that resulted from the accident. If you or your passengers have visible injuries, take photos of them as well. If you’re unable to take photos at the scene of the accident because of the police investigation, take them as soon as possible afterward.
Step 6: Exchange Information
This is perhaps the most important step to take after you’ve been in an accident. Unfortunately, many people forget to do this step because of the stress and trauma of being in an accident. Even if you forget to do some of the steps previous to this one, try to remember to do this one as it will be essential when you file an insurance claim.
When police respond to an accident, they will often gather a lot of this information. However, it is a good idea to exchange it with the other party involved yourself so that you ensure that you have access to it when you need it and don’t have to rely on the officers keeping an accurate record. As you exchange information with the other drivers involved, remember to not discuss the actual details of the accident. This is the information that you need to exchange with the other drivers involved in the accident:
- Full names
- Phone numbers and addresses
- Insurance companies and policy numbers
- Driver’s license numbers
- License plate numbers
- Vehicle identification numbers
- Types, colors, and models of the vehicles
- Location of the accident
You should also get the names and phone numbers of any passengers involved in the accident as well. If there were witnesses to the accident, get their contact information as well so that your attorney can get in touch with them in the future. If the police responded, be sure to get the names and badge numbers of the responding officers. You will also need to get the police report number from them and the contact information for their station in case you need to contact them later. Remember to ask the officers exactly how you can obtain a copy of the report, as your insurer will likely need it.
It can also help to take personal notes on what happened during the incident soon after it happened so that the facts and sequence of events stay accurate. This can be extremely helpful as you try to recount the crash to your insurance provider or attorney, as you may forget the details later on.
Step 7: Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
As soon as you can, notify your insurance company that you’ve been in an accident. A lot of insurance policies require immediate reporting and full cooperation.
How the insurance claims process moves forward after you’ve been in an accident will depend on who was at fault and the types of coverage you and the other driver have. If you were not at fault, the other driver’s property damage liability coverage will pay for repairs to your vehicle up to the policy’s limit. Their bodily injury liability coverage will cover your and your passengers’ medical bills, unless you’re in a no-fault state. In the 12 no-fault states, your own personal injury protection would come into play. If the other driver doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough coverage, uninsured or underinsured motorist coverages would pay out. These coverages are only required in some states, so it’s good to know if your state is one of them.
If you were at fault for the crash, your coverage will need to take care of the other driver’s vehicle damage and medical bills, as well as your own. You should find out if medical benefits are a part of your insurance coverage. This is known as medpay and you pay extra for it if you have it, so you should make good use of it. Medpay coverage is primarily for accident-related medical bills and many insurance companies will require you to submit your medical bills to them if you have medpay coverage. Keep in mind that once medpay benefits are exhausted, your private health insurance provider will become your primary insurer. Medpay benefits are available to all occupants of the vehicle, so be sure that you know how far your benefits will go and what they will cover.
When you’re deciding whether to file a claim, it’s typically best to do so. Even if an accident was your fault and the damage seems minor, you shouldn’t offer to pay cash for the other driver’s repairs. Car repairs are often costlier than you think and you may get yourself into a sticky situation if you don’t file a claim to cover the damage immediately after you’ve been in an accident.
Step 8: Seek Medical Attention
As mentioned earlier, injuries from car accidents are not always immediately apparent. You may start to feel pain a day or two after you’ve been in an accident. Unless you are completely sure that you did not suffer any kind of injury, you should seek medical attention at a 24 hour urgent care or your family physician a day or two after the accident.
Accidents that involve any kind of impact can result in serious injury to your spinal cord and many people experience strained or sprained muscles after being in an accident. If you lost consciousness or felt dazed for any period of time after the collision, you could have suffered a concussion or a closed head injury. Going to a doctor after being in a car accident is the only way you can be sure that your body is whole and healthy.
Step 9: Consult Your Attorney
Even if you don’t think that you will need to go to court over the car accident, you should contact your law office and consult your attorney. Your attorney will help protect your rights and they can also help ensure that valuable evidence is not destroyed or lost. Insurance companies will often want to take statements from you immediately after an accident, but you should receive legal advice before you provide such a statement. Your attorney will be able to advise you on a variety of issues, including how you can receive compensation for your vehicle and get the best medical treatment available.
As attorneys often deal with car accidents, most will know the ins and outs of the process and can help guide you through it. However, if there is a dispute as to who was at fault during the accident or other complications with the other driver and insurance coverage, you should contact an experienced car accident lawyer. They will know what steps to take to settle the matter and get you the compensation you deserve. As a personal injury attorney, your car accident lawyer will work on a contingency fee basis, meaning there will be no legal fees unless the lawyer succeeds in recovering compensation for your injuries. You’ll know that the attorney is working on your side because your best interest is their best interest.
Step 10: Shop Around for Vehicles and Lower Insurance Rates
If your vehicle is totaled after the accident, you will need to start the hunt for a new car. As this can be an overwhelming process, it can be tempting to go with the first car that you see and like. However, you should try to find the best deal possible. Look at seasonal sales as well as used car dealerships. You may be able to find a dealership that has used corvettes for sale and get the car of your dreams. Even though going through the accident may have been an ordeal, you could come out on the other side with a better vehicle than what you started with.
You should also look for lower car insurance rates after your accident. Depending on the severity of the accident and your insurance company, your car insurance rates could increase significantly. In some cases, rates can go up by 50% or more. Be sure to check if your insurance company offers accident forgiveness, which means that your at-fault accident may not cause higher premiums. If higher rates are on the horizon, do some cost comparison to find an affordable insurer.
While you’re looking toward the future with purchasing a new vehicle and shopping around for insurance rates, you should also think about how you’ll keep your car safe in this future. This applies to when the car is parked at your home as well as when it’s driving down the road. First, make sure that your garage is secure. If your garage door doesn’t function well, that’s a security risk and you should contact a garage door repair service. To keep your car safe on the road, remember to bring your car in for regular maintenance and that all drivers in your family know the rules of the road.
No one wants to be in a car accident, but every driver should be prepared for that possibility. By knowing what steps to take after you’ve been in an accident, you can protect yourself and your assets. Don’t let your post-crash shock prevent you from gathering the information you need and take care of business so that you can move forward with your life after the accident.