In the seconds or even minutes after a car accident, it can be challenging to think clearly. With thoughts running wildly through your head, it can be difficult to focus on what to do next. Your primary concern should be your safety, your passengers, and drivers on the roadway.
Traumatic emotions associated with a car accident cause many drivers to make mistakes that can limit their ability to gain compensation from their insurance company and the at-fault driver after the accident. Below are the steps to take after a car accident while protecting your rights.
First Step: Make sure everyone is safe and seek medical attention for the injured:
Safety is foremost; you will want to ensure the safety of all involved.
- Turn on your vehicle emergency flashers, and if possible, exit your vehicle. If the car wreck is more than a minor incident, or if someone involved is injured, call 911 promptly and ask for an ambulance to be sent as quickly as possible. Even when an accident is relatively minor, it is best to call 911, inform the dispatcher that the incident is not emergent; however, you would like to report an accident and have a police officer file a report.
- Stay at the scene of the car accident until you are released by law enforcement.
Remember safety first; the health and safety of those involved take precedent over financial considerations. Take all necessary safety precautions immediately.
Second Step: Assess the situation at the scene. Once physical safety has been established, start evaluating the accident. Here is what to do next.
- With a phone or camera, take pictures of the vehicles involved, auto, additional debris, and even skid marks around the accident.
- After taking photographs of the accident, if it is safe to do so, move the vehicles involved out of traffic as soon as possible.
- While you will be tempted to do so, never admit fault or apologize for the accident. While this can seem impolite, admitting fault can impact your case if it ends up in court.
- You may express concern over the accident and obtain medical attention without apologizing or accepting liability.
- If medical attention is unnecessary, you can exchange contact and vehicle insurance information with the drivers involved at the scene.
Third Step: Obtain pertinent insurance information from all accident involved driver(s).
You will need the following information to settle the accident:
- Driver’s name, address, and phone number
- Their insurance information, including their policy number.
- Driver license number.
- Vehicle(s) year, make, model, and license plate number(s).
Additional items and information you will need to keep with the insurance information above:
- Photos of the accident scene, take collision photos before moving the vehicles, and a list of noticeable damage to the automobiles and property.
- The accident report number.
- Law enforcement information, including their names and badge numbers.
By taking these initial steps, you are setting the stage for a successful case should legal action become necessary later.
Fourth Step: Call your insurance company to report the accident.
If possible, don’t delay in reporting the accident to your insurance company. It is always preferred if you are the first to initiate the accident claim with your insurance provider. Inform your insurance company of the details of the incident so they can start building your claim request. Your insurance company may decide to send an adjuster to the accident scene for assessment; This is why you should call them at your earliest convenience.
Even minor incidents need to be reported within a reasonable time frame.
The time frame can vary from company to company. Reporting the accident promptly will ensure your incident is compliant with insurance contract terms and thereby covered.
Why do insurance companies require accidents to be reported as soon as possible?
Too often, the injuries and effects of an auto accident are realized later in the day or days following the accident. Adrenaline released during the accident can prevent the body from experiencing pain, and only after the adrenaline rush subsides injuries become apparent.
Reporting the accident at the scene or shortly after provides a timeline for the insurance company. If the accident is not reported promptly, it is possible the personal injury portion of your claim could be denied.
If your wreck is serious and injury is evident, we highly recommend calling an experienced personal injury attorney immediately. Recovering compensation for serious injuries, more often and not, requires the assistance of a knowledgeable trial lawyer. When in doubt, always seek consultation, personal injury attorneys do not charge for case evaluation and are only paid when they win your case. Seeking the advice of a seasoned personal injury lawyer is the prudent thing to do.