Millions of people are involved in automobile accidents, in the US, on an annual basis. This experience can be scary, confusing, and downright disorienting. Assuming you and your passengers haven’t been seriously injured, it’s important to clear your head. Take a deep breath, and do everything necessary to deal with your insurance company following an accident. And since a third of all car accidents involve personal injury, knowing exactly what to do after an accident, can directly impact your recovery and the amount of compensation you may receive.
Important Steps to Take if You are Involved in a Car Accident
When you’re involved in any type of accident, even if it’s a fender bender, always stop to survey any damage and confer with the other driver(s). Never leave the scene of an accident without doing so. Before leaving your vehicle, assess any injuries you or your passengers have sustained. Do not risk exiting the vehicle if you are dizzy or have severe pain or injuries.
Always be civil to anyone else who was involved in the accident, even if you think it was their fault. Getting angry or making threats will only raise tensions, and it may also hurt your case. Take some time to calm down, and then exchange contact information with any other drivers involved. Never admit fault after an accident; in fact, there is no reason to discuss the events leading up to the crash, either.
If no one else has done so, call the police. If there is any damage to any of the vehicles involved or if there are any injuries, your insurance company may need a police report to process your claim. Only the police can run checks to confirm vital information provided by the parties involved.
Once the police are on their way, take photos of any injuries sustained by you or your passengers. Also make sure to photograph the damage to both vehicles. Other shots of the scene that establish weather conditions, obstacles in the road, traffic lights or signs, and any property damage caused by the crash may be useful to supporting your version of events.
Keep all of these points in mind after an accident:
- Do not sign any documentation unless it is requested by the police
- Ensure that the other driver’s license, insurance, and registration all have the same names on them
- Stay calm, be civil with everyone on the scene, but never admit fault
- Collect contact information from all witnesses to the accident
- Stay on the scene until the investigation has been completed
After You Leave the Scene of a Collision
It’s important to call your insurance company as soon as possible after an accident. Preferably within a couple of hours of the incident. Your insurance may cover part of your injuries under “medpay”. When you speak with your insurer, request this information so that you can plan.
The shock of an accident can cause you to ignore symptoms of injury, or worse, make you simply want to sleep it off. If you’ve sustained a concussion, going to sleep can be deadly. Symptoms of internal injuries can take time to surface. It is always in your best interest to be checked by a doctor after an accident. You may be severely limiting your compensation by delaying medical evaluation. Not to mention the possibility that your injuries may substantially progress.
Protecting Your Legal Standing After a Car Accident
Once you’ve been evaluated by a doctor and informed your insurance company of the situation, it’s time to contact a lawyer. Car accident lawyers have represented many victims who have been in the same situation.They know all of the relevant laws as well as how to conduct an investigation and ensure that you get the best settlement possible.
A lawyer can protect you in the following ways:
Keep you within deadlines
Every facet of filing a claim with your insurance company has time limits and rules that must be followed to the letter. There may be a statute of limitations governing car accidents in your state, and other conditions may also apply. You may also have a limited time in which to file a police report. Your attorney will ensure that you don’t ruin your case simply because you let time run out.
Maximize your insurance payout
The last thing you need is to deal with is an insurance company that doesn’t want to live up to its end of the bargain. Unfortunately, that happens all too often. Like any business, insurance companies exist to make a profit, and every dollar that goes to you is a dollar lost from their bottom line. It is an unfortunate but simple fact of life that insurance companies will always try to get away with as low a settlement as possible. You need someone in your corner to ensure that you get everything you’re due.
Understand all relevant statues
Laws vary widely from state to state concerning a victim’s rights after a car crash. “No fault” states allow for suing after a car crash only within a narrow set of circumstances. In “comparative negligence” states, you may be able to sue even if the accident was partly your fault. The “contributory negligence” states disallow anyone who was at fault in an accident to sue. Navigating the differing laws without a lawyer can create additional headaches that you simply do not have the energy or bandwidth to manage after such a stressful incident.
A lawyer will also help you get the maximum settlement when another driver was at fault. Since most car accident suits are settled rather than tried in court, you need to work with a lawyer who understands exactly what it’s worth to the other side. Taking an offer just to get things over with can be a costly mistake, but once you’ve accepted, you will have lost the right to sue. Make sure there’s an experienced car accident lawyer on your side before you enter into any agreements. Call Donaghue & Labrum Today!