Knowing what to do immediately after a car accident is not always easy. You may be in shock after the collision – or injured. If you’ve been in an accident that was not your fault, you have the right to seek compensation for your damages.
The initial steps taken after a car accident can potentially impact your settlement amount. In this post, we want to explain the proper protocol. Let’s discuss.
Step 1: Get to a Safe Spot
First and foremost, you need to focus on your safety and getting yourself out of harm’s way. Start by turning on your hazard lights and looking around. In the event you’re on a busy street or highway, try to maneuver to the shoulder of the road and check yourself for injuries.
DO NOT drive away under any circumstance. Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime – regardless of who is at fault. If the at-fault driver leaves the scene, stay there and report the accident to the authorities. You’ll need to describe their vehicle to the best of your abilities. They may be charged with a hit and run for fleeing.
Step 2: Document the Accident
Assuming you are not seriously injured and have gotten to a safe spot, you’ll need to start collecting evidence. The best place to start is with pictures. Pull out your phone and try to take pictures of the accident from as many angles as possible.
These pictures will be key evidence as you build your claim. They will be used to attribute liability and provide proof of the damages you are owed.
Step 3: Call the Authorities
Once you have collected some initial documentation of the accident, don’t waste any time calling the authorities. Even if you think the accident is minor, you need to get an official report filed immediately. The police report will be crucial in the claim you file – whether it’s a personal injury claim or a claim with the auto insurance companies.
Step 4: Get Examined by the Medical Staff
Getting looked at by the medical staff is very, very important – and is oftentimes overlooked. Some injuries like concussions or neck/back injuries can take days to become apparent. Moreover, you might be in shock after the accident and not recognize the initial symptoms of an injury.
When you call the authorities after an accident, there will be medical staff on the scene. Even if you’re not feeling any pain, ALWAYS get yourself looked at. Medical professionals will take field tests to see if you’re exhibiting early signs of brain trauma and other serious injuries.
Step 5: Exchange Information with the Other Driver
With any car accident – assuming the other driver did not take off – you’ll need to collect their information to get insurance providers involved. The more information you get, the better. This should include:
- First and last name
- Phone number
- Driver’s license number
- License plate
- Insurance provider
- Location of the accident
Step 6: Collect More Detailed Evidence
Ideally, you’ll already have the initial pictures of the accident and the police report by this point. This will explain the scenario of the accident, damages to your vehicle, and the injuries you sustained. Now you’ll need to go a step further with additional evidence.
Take more pictures of the surroundings. This should include the road conditions, signage, or anything else that may have contributed to the accident. If anyone saw the accident happen, try to get their contact information. They will serve as a lay witness if your personal injury case goes to trial.
Step 7: Be Smart About Communication Regarding the Accident
Following a car accident, you may be questioned by multiple parties. This would likely include your insurance company and potentially the insurance company of the at-fault party. It’s imperative that you choose your words wisely. Do not say anything that could be easily twisted and point to the accident being your fault. Additionally, do not agree to a recorded statement without hiring a lawyer.
The number one priority of insurance companies is to minimize the amount of money they have to pay after an accident. They have no problem using your own words against you. If you’re not sure how to handle this call, ask a personal injury lawyer who specializes in car accidents. They know the tricks insurance companies use on unsuspecting victims – and how to avoid them.
You also need to be cautious about how you talk about the accident. Unfortunately, the age of social media and constant connectedness has created a hazard for victims of car accidents. It’s recommended to keep any discussions about the incident off of social media altogether. Your words can easily be used against you.
Step 8: Contact a Car Accident Attorney
Hiring a personal injury attorney is the best thing you can do after a car accident. To reiterate, insurance companies have a goal to maximize their bottom line. This means minimizing their liability by any means necessary.
They have all kinds of tricky tactics and sneaky clauses up their sleeves to avoid responsibility. The personal injury attorney you hire will fight to make sure you receive every penny that’s owed to you.
Many victims of car accidents do not think they can afford a skilled attorney. What they might not realize is personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee agreement. This means they make a percentage of the payout AFTER they win the case – and won’t charge clients a penny out-of-pocket.
In other words, anyone can afford to hire a skilled attorney to manage their injury claim.
Step 9: Collect Documentation for Your Damages
As you file a personal injury claim, you’ll need to collect records of all the damages you accrue. Damages for personal injury claims are generally grouped into two categories: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are damages you can place a clear monetary value on. This may include:
- Hospital bills
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Lost earning potential
Non-economic damages do not have a clear monetary value attached. However, they can have a serious impact on the victim – and may constitute compensation. These damages may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Decreased quality of life
- Lost companionship
Your personal injury attorney will help you place a value on all these damages.
Hopefully, you haven’t experienced many car accidents before. The first steps are very important in how the claim shakes out. If you’re not sure what to do next, do not feel shy about asking a personal injury attorney. Most are more than happy to answer your questions – even if you don’t have a valid claim.
Use these steps above and you will be in a better position to earn maximum compensation for your damages.