The first few minutes following a car accident are sure to be filled with confusion. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to do and say things that can hurt you in the end while forgetting to complete the necessary tasks that anyone who wants to cover the bases must remember to do. If you should find yourself involved in an auto accident of any severity, here are some things to take care of during the minutes, days and weeks that follow.
What to Do Immediately After the Accident
First and most importantly, you must remain at the scene. Hit-and-run driving is against the law, and giving in to an urge to flee can subject you to criminal charges.
If at all possible, you will also need to check on the physical condition of every individual that had an involvement in the accident. Serious injuries, if any, will require professional medical attention. Do not try to move anyone who has lost consciousness or is complaining of pain in the back or neck unless leaving that person in his current location would subject him or her to further dangers. While you are checking for injuries, do not forget to take note of any that you may have suffered yourself.
You will also need to exchange information with the other driver or drivers involved. This includes obtaining their:
- Names and addresses.
- License plate and driver’s license numbers.
- Insurance information.
Do your best as well to obtain the names and addresses of all passengers and any witnesses of the accident that might happen to be on hand.
One thing you must never do at the scene, however, is admit fault or apologize for something you think you might have done wrong. Anything you say on the scene in this regard could amount to an unwitting admission of legal liability, and in the case of an ensuing personal injury lawsuit, your conciliatory attitude could easily come back to bite you. For instance when talking to police, don’t give more information that needed. Don’t say things like “I was running late, so I was in a bit of a rush to pick up my child at school”. This can, and most likely will be used against you.
Call Your Insurance Company
As soon as you possibly can, you’ll need to contact your insurance company concerning your accident. During this conversation, telling the truth about the car accident is mandatory. Lying to the insurance company will only lead to trouble that could end in a denial of coverage.
Give the insurer a clear explanation of the accident’s details along with proof of how badly you were injured. A review of any police report, if you have obtained one, will assist in determining who was actually at fault or how much blame each driver must shoulder.
Tracking Your Medical Treatment
If you have suffered physical injury, keep a careful list of each medical professional from whom you receive treatment. It will be beneficial to request detailed copies of all your medical bills and reports since they will serve as proof of your expenses.
Unfortunately, any resulting pain and suffering might be somewhat harder to prove. It can help to keep careful records of all the ways in which your injuries have adversely impacted your daily life and impeded your ability to follow your regular routine both at home and at work.
Quantifying the Damage
When words fail to prove your case, pictures can say it all. As soon as you are able after the accident, pull out your phone and photograph the condition of your car. Then, return to the scene and take some shots of the location and any nearby details that could serve as evidence. These pictures will back up your case and refresh your memory if you need to negotiate with insurers, give depositions or testify in court.
You will also want to ask your insurance company for a valuation of your property damage. If you should receive an initial low-ball figure, you do not need to accept it. Go a bit further afield and seek out repair and replacement estimates from two independent sources. If their appraisals should differ too greatly from those of your insurer, you might want to subject your case to mediation or obtain the services of a qualified personal injury attorney.
Your insurer may also attempt to short-change you on compensation for your physical injuries. If the initial offer should seem surprisingly low, don’t be too quick to settle. Remember that some injuries may not appear or reach their greatest severity until days or even months after your accident. By settling too soon, you may cheat yourself out of your just and rightful restitution.
Above all, never settle a claim for injury without first seeking legal advice. If you’ve been hurt in an accident or should prove to have been even partially responsible for causing it, the personal injury attorneys at Weiner Law Group can be of inestimable assistance. Call today at 702-202-0500 for a free consultation.