Car accidents happen every day. Fortunately, most accidents are minor fender benders that result in little more than a few scrapes and bruises. But even a minor car accident can be a traumatic event, and it is important to know what to do (and what not to do) after an accident.
Things can be even worse when you are involved in a serious car accident that leaves you or a loved one with injuries. In addition to the stress and anxiety that come with being involved in an accident, you also have to deal with insurance companies, doctors, lawyers, and repairs.
So, what should you do after a car accident? Here is a comprehensive list of things you must do if you are involved in an accident to protect your rights.
The first and most important thing you need to do when you are involved in an accident is to stop. Never drive away from the scene, even if the accident is minor. If you leave, you could be charged with a hit and run.
Hit-and-run accidents are treated very seriously by the police and prosecutors. You could face criminal charges, as well as civil liability if you are caught. So, it is always best to stop and exchange information with the other driver.
If you are the victim of a hit-and-run, don’t be tempted to chase after the other driver. Get the license plate number, the color of the vehicle, plus any other unique identifying characteristics that may help the police go after the other motorist.
2. Call the Police
After you have stopped and exchanged information with the other driver, the next step is to call the police. The police will create an accident report that will be helpful later when dealing with the insurance companies.
If there are no injuries, you can usually file a report online. But, if there are injuries or property damage in excess of $1,000, you will need to file a written report. Be sure to go for a copy of the accident report from the police department once it is completed.
3. Get Medical Attention
Even if you feel fine, seeing a doctor after an accident is still important. Adrenaline can mask pain, so you may not realize you are injured.
Internal injuries may not be immediately apparent, but could be serious. So, it is always best to err on the side of caution and get checked out by a doctor.
In addition, it is important to document your injuries as soon as possible. This will be helpful later if you need to file an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.
4. Document the Accident Scene
You should take clear photos of the accident scene if you can do so. This includes photos of the damage to your vehicle and any injuries you may have.
It is also a good idea to take photos of the other driver’s vehicle and license plate. These photos will be helpful later when dealing with insurance companies.
If you have been injured and cannot take photos yourself, ask anyone at the accident scene to help you. The photos will also play a critical role in proving fault in the accident.
5. Get Contact Information from Witnesses
If there are any witnesses to the accident, be sure to get their names and contact information. These witnesses can provide valuable testimony if there is a dispute about what happened.
The police will usually interview any witnesses at the accident scene. But it is always a good idea to follow up with the witnesses to get their version of events.
6. Exchange Information with the Other Driver
Be sure to exchange information with the other driver, including their name, address, phone number, insurance company name and policy number.
You will also need to get the make, model and license plate number of the other driver’s vehicle. This information will be critical when filing an insurance claim.
7. Do Not Admit Fault
Even if you think you may be at fault for the accident, do not say so to the other driver or the police.
Admitting fault can be used against you later, even if you did not mean to admit fault at the time. It is best to let the insurance companies sort out who is at fault.
Be careful with what you say because uttering words such as “I’m Sorry” could be interpreted as an admission of fault. While it is good to check on the other parties involved in the accident, be sure to resist the urge of saying anything that could be used against you later.
8. Call Your Insurance Company
After the accident, you will need to call your insurance company to report the accident. Be sure to have all pertinent information on hand, including the other driver’s information, when you call.
Your insurance company will likely open an insurance claim and assign an adjuster to your case. The insurance adjuster will investigate the accident and determine who is at fault.
The insurance company may also send out an appraiser to assess the damage to your vehicle. Once the insurance company has all the information, they will determine how much they are willing to pay for your damages.
9. Do Not Give a Recorded Statement to the Other Driver’s Insurance Company
The other driver’s insurance company may contact you after the accident and ask for a recorded statement. You mustn’t give a recorded statement without first consulting with an attorney.
Anything you say in a recorded statement can be used against you later. The insurance company may use your statement to show that you were at fault for the accident or that your injuries are not as serious as you claim.
It is always best to have an attorney present when giving a recorded statement. This way, you can be sure that anything you say will not be used against you later.
Following these simple steps after a car accident will help ensure you protect your rights and receive the compensation you deserve.
Remember, always stay calm and collected after an accident and be sure to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.