What to do after a car accident?
7 Things You Must Do Right Away If You’Re Hurt After A Car Accident
No one expects to be involved in one. But thousands of car accidents occur every day. If you are injured in a car crash, “What to do after a car accident?” becomes a crucial question. What you do right after the accident may determine whether you receive full compensation for your injuries. To help you be prepared, we created an infographic. There are seven key things.
A more detailed explanation of what to do after a car accident appears further down this page. Below that you can find a business card-sized summary to carry in your wallet or purse. Here’s the infographic:
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Here is what to do after a car accident, in more detail
1. REPORT THE CAR ACCIDENT TO THE POLICE WHILE STILL AT THE SCENE.
The police will write down in an official report the position the cars were found in, skid mark locations, weather conditions, etc. These facts may prove the validity of your personal injury claim. Be sure to write down the officer’s name, police department and badge number. This will help if the officer misfiles the police report, or fails to make one. Note that police reports sometimes contain mistakes. If that happens, it may be possible for you to file an amendment to the report.
2. OBTAIN THE OTHER DRIVER’S CONTACT & INSURANCE INFORMATION (name, address, phone number, email, driver’s license number, auto insurance company and auto insurance policy number from his/her insurance card). You should give the other driver the same information about yourself if requested.
The police should obtain this information from the other driver. But it’s always a good idea for you to get it too if you are physically able to. Otherwise, if the other driver leaves before the police come, or if the police report contains mistakes, it may be impossible to identify the other driver. If you exit your vehicle, remain in a safe location at all times. For example, you generally do not want to remain either behind or in front of a vehicle on the road, where you or the vehicle you are standing next to could be rear-ended by oncoming traffic.
If the other driver becomes belligerent, back off. It’s not worth risking a violent confrontation. Let the police handle it. Try to write down the other vehicle’s make, model, color and license plate number. If possible, also take pictures showing all of these things (see number 3 below).
3. HAVE PHOTOS TAKEN of the accident scene, skid marks, your injuries, traffic signs/lights, the other driver, damage to all cars involved and damage to anything else at the scene.
Also photograph any video cameras pointing at the accident scene. (Surveillance footage, if helpful, will need to be requested ASAP.)
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Car accident scene photographs can be crucial evidence in your personal injury case.
If your injuries prevent you from taking photographs, have someone else take them. Let the person taking the photographs use your mobile phone. If you don’t have a mobile phone that will take photos that you can later email to your lawyer, let the person taking the photos use his/her phone and email the photos to you.
If for any reason photographs cannot be taken immediately, you should still have someone take pictures as soon as possible. Even if photos can’t be taken later of the other vehicle, photos can still be taken of your injuries, damage to your car and any evidence remaining at the scene.
Do not repair, transfer or discard your vehicle before you: a) take photographs of all damage, interior and exterior, b) get a written repair estimate (preferably two or three), and c) allow the other driver’s insurance company to inspect your vehicle and get its own repair estimate. (The last step is best done through your attorney. See number 7 below.)
4. OBTAIN CONTACT INFO FOR ALL WITNESSES (name, address, phone number, and email). Don’t rely on the police doing this. (They should, but sometimes they make mistakes).
Once you leave the scene, it may be impossible to locate any witnesses later. Many cases involve “he said…she said” scenarios. Each driver claims that the other one was at fault. The testimony of a neutral witness can go a long way in proving who actually caused the accident.
5. SEEK IMMEDIATE TREATMENT.
Don’t be a hero. You need to be examined by a qualified health care provider after a traffic accident. Let an ambulance take you to the emergency room. Physical injuries may not be apparent. These include some potentially life-threatening injuries, such as a ruptured spleen. If for any reason you aren’t taken to an emergency room immediately, at least see your personal health care provider as soon as possible, preferably the same day. Wherever you are treated, make sure to let the provider know that your injuries stem from a car accident. In most cases, your treatment bills should be processed and paid by your car insurer through your personal injury protection (PIP) policy, not through your regular health insurer. Otherwise, there is an increased risk that you will net less money from any personal injury award you receive.
6. REPORT THE ACCIDENT TO YOUR CAR INSURANCE COMPANY as soon as possible.
Your insurance policy and the law probably require you to promptly report the accident. Failure to make a timely report may even void your insurance coverage. When you speak to the claims representative, you may be asked about your injuries. If you are asked, it’s important that you tell the representative about all of your injuries. Don’t minimize your pain. Don’t minimize the extent of your symptoms. But don’t exaggerate anything either. Remember that your call may be recorded. Anything you say can be used against you later on.
Keep in mind, too, that insurance companies often send out investigators to spy on injury victims. These investigators will follow the victim around and take video of the victim’s daily activities.
Make sure to write down any claim number that is assigned to your case by the claims representative.
7. DON’T DISCUSS THE CAR ACCIDENT, SIGN ANYTHING, ADMIT FAULT, APOLOGIZE OR ARGUE WITH ANYONE, at the scene or later.
Don’t speak with the other driver’s insurance company without a lawyer. You can, though, sign standard medical forms from medical providers, such as a new patient questionnaire or a consent to treatment. And do tell the police at the scene just the facts of how the accident occurred. You can also sign standard forms from your own insurance company, but it’s best to have a lawyer look at those first.
BONUS TIP: CALL A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY as soon as you can, preferably not later than when you leave the emergency room.
The sooner a case is started, the better your chances are to obtain full compensation for your injuries. The insurance company for the other party will have experienced lawyers and insurance adjusters on its side. You need an experienced personal injury lawyer to represent you.
An experienced attorney will know how to process your claim to maximize your chances to receive full compensation for your injuries. The attorney can also advise you on how your medical bills should be processed by insurance. (See number 5 above). If you lack adequate medical insurance, an attorney may be able to help you receive proper treatment by a physician. (Some doctors will accept their payment out of any monetary award you receive.) A lawyer can assist you with filing an amendment to the police report, if necessary. (See number 1 above.) Finally, an attorney will if advisable, begin a prompt investigation to locate evidence that may have been overlooked by the police. As time passes, such evidence may become impossible to obtain. One example would be video footage from surveillance cameras near the scene of the car accident. The footage in such cameras is often erased after a short time.
EXTRA BONUS: Print, cut out, fold in half and carry in your wallet or purse this business card-size summary of what to do after a car accident.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice, and should not be relied upon as such. Consult a lawyer respecting any car accident you have.