Being in a car accident, even if it’s just a fender bender, can be very stressful and upsetting. It happens all of a sudden and your mind starts racing: What should I do? Should I call the police? Should I move my car?
Every car crash is different, and what you do after the accident can have as much of an impact as the accident itself. Here’s what to do after a car accident. You may want to print this out and keep a copy in your glove compartment – just in case.
First off, remain calm.
It’s absolutely crucial to keep a clear head after a car crash. Check to make sure you’re okay, and that your passengers are okay. If someone is unconscious or complains of neck and back pain, don’t move them unless there in the line of more danger. Wait for the paramedics to arrive on the scene.
And whatever you do…
Don’t leave the scene of an accident.
Even if it’s a minor one. Doing so could have serious criminal consequences if you’re proven guilty. And don’t move your car unless it’s absolutely necessary for your own personal safety, like getting out of the way of heavy highway traffic.
Call 9-1-1 and wait for help.
Even if you think the accident is your fault or there are no injuries and minimal damage, call the police. You want to document the accident. Make sure you get the name and badge number of responding police officers. All of this information will be helpful when filing claims with your insurance company.
Accurate information is important.
When the police do arrive, make sure to tell them all the facts and don’t hide anything. Make sure not to speculate, guess, or misstate anything. If you’re unsure of something, just let them know. And make sure statements made by others are accurate as well.
When police officers ask you if you’re injured, let them know that, too. Many times after car accidents, it takes hours, days, and weeks for injuries to surface, so be aware of that. And if an ambulance or medical treatment is offered, don’t refuse it.
These days, we all have our cell phones handy. Their cameras take great pictures. Assuming yours isn’t damaged in the accident, you want to take pictures of any damage to the cars involved, their license plates, and of your obvious injuries. Just make sure you’re not interfering with any police investigation.
If you’re unable to take pictures at the scene, make sure to take them as soon as possible after the accident.
Pictures most often are the most compelling piece of evidence you can have. They can be used to refute a claim and help experts determine the cause of the accident if necessary.
Usually the police gather information at the scene of a car crash. But if they don’t respond, you should get the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of everyone involved in the accident, including other passengers and any witnesses that are there. You or your attorney may need to contact them in the future.
It’s important to get car insurance information from all drivers involved in the crash. Just ask for their insurance cards and then write down that information, or even snap a photo with your cell phone, both the front and back of the card.
Notify your insurance company.
You need to notify your insurer about the accident as soon as possible. Many policies require immediate reporting of an accident and your full cooperation. If you don’t follow their guidelines by promptly reporting the accident, your insurer could deny your claim, which could then expose you to costly personal liability.
Seek medical attention.
It’s important that you see a doctor right away either at the emergency room or by your family physician. Injuries caused by car accidents don’t show up right away, so tell your doctor everything, no matter how insignificant you think it is.
Follow through on all treatment plans your doctor recommends. If you don’t, the insurance companies could dispute your claim and argue that you’re contributing to your own injuries. This could prevent you from recovering the full value of your losses associated with your medical bills.
Above all, following doctor’s orders and sticking to your treatment plan is the best way to ensure your full recovery so you can get on with enjoying your life.
Keep a file.
It’s important that you keep good records related to your accident and create a file. Information you want to keep handy are your claim number, the name of your insurance adjuster who’s handling your claim, names and phone numbers of all contacts, receipts for a rental car and any other expenses you incur as a result of the accident.
Be careful with talking about your accident.
Don’t discuss your accident with anyone, except your insurance company, your attorney, and the police. And absolutely do not talk to any representative from any other insurance company without the knowledge of your insurance company or lawyer.
If you do get a call from the other insurance company, be courteous, and ask them to call your attorney or insurance company directly, and then immediately contact your insurer or attorney about the call.
Stay off of social media!
Do not talk about your case on social media at all – not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any of them. It’s not just your friends and family on those sites. Insurance adjusters and police investigators are on there too, and they will be looking at everything you have to say. So keep your social posts to a minimum or avoid social media altogether.
Protect your rights.
One of the most important things you should do following a car wreck is to contact a personal injury lawyer. An experienced personal injury lawyer represents you and ensures that your rights are protected.
Even if you think you may not have a case, you owe it to yourself to speak with an attorney first. They can advise you on issues from how to make sure you’re fully compensated for damages to your vehicle to how and where to get the best medical treatment so you can get better and get on with your life.
How much do personal injury lawyers charge?
Personal injury lawyers typically work on a contingency basis. This means that you don’t pay them anything in your case unless they win your case and recover compensation for your injuries. Make sure your rights are protected, and get legal representation ASAP!