You might not know what steps to take after a car accident. However, what you say and do after an accident can affect the outcome of your personal injury claim.
There are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your rights after a car accident. If you find yourself injured in a car accident, this guide of essentials can get you through the difficult period of an accident and its aftermath.
Follow this list of recommendations to protect your rights after an accident and help you fight for the compensation you deserve.
Evaluate Your Injuries
Car accidents are sudden and can involve violent impacts. It will take a few moments for you to get your bearings after an accident. Before you step out of your vehicle take a moment to evaluate your injuries as well as those of any other individuals with you in the vehicle. If you or another occupant of the vehicle feels you are seriously injured, especially to your head, neck, or spine, remain in place until help arrives.
Get to Safety
Your vehicle can end up in unexpected places after an accident. Observe your surroundings and if you are in danger of other oncoming vehicles, debris, or your vehicle itself is fuming or smoking you must get yourself as well as any other occupants in your car to safety as quickly as possible.
Call the Police & Paramedics
When a car accident involves significant property damage or any injuries you should always contact the police. A law enforcement officer plays an important role at the scene of an accident; from the collection of vital identifying information for all parties involved to their initial investigation and report of the accident and fault.
If there are injuries of any kind, emergency medical services should be called to the scene so that all injury victims can be evaluated and if necessary transported to an emergency medical center for further care and treatment.
Record the Scene
Fortunately, most people today carry some electronic device or mobile phone that is capable of taking photographs and videos. After a car accident, take some time to record the scene of the crash. Be sure to include all vehicles as well as their identifying markers (i.e. license plates), the damage to any property involved from as many angles as possible, and the surrounding environment.
If you physically can take photos or videos at the scene you can ask a friend or family member to do so on your behalf, if possible. Also, remember to take photographs of any visible injuries in the immediate aftermath of the accident.
At the scene, law enforcement will gather the information of each driver and passenger involved in the collision. You should be provided with an informational report before you leave the scene with the driver’s license information and the insurance policy information of the individuals in the accident.
It is also likely the police will issue a citation to one or more of the drivers involved. If you are notified another driver has been given a citation this is beneficial information for your pending personal injury claim. While a police report is not an absolute determination of fault in a car accident case, it can be evidence of the fault in a personal injury claim.
At the scene of the accident, you should also gather information on any witnesses that may have seen the accident. You should take note of the name and contact information for any witnesses so that you may speak to them in the future should the need arise.
As you recover from your injuries, you should keep notes of important information that could be beneficial in a personal injury lawsuit, such as:
- The progress of your injuries including photographs at different stages of healing
- Any diagnosis, treatment, surgeries, or other procedures for your injury
- Communications with any parties about your injury or the accident
- Your personal experience including your emotional and mental state, pain, and/or discomfort
Do Not Make Any Statements or Admissions
There are plenty of steps you should take at the scene of a car accident, but there are also a few things you should never do. Under no circumstances should you offer an apology or admit to any wrongdoing on your part.
The reality is that oftentimes you might not have a clear picture of how an accident occurred. It is our human nature to want to rectify a situation when things go wrong, but after an accident, the statements you make can be used against you later on down the line. Do not make any statements to other parties and especially to an insurance company in the moments after a car crash.
Notify Your Insurance Company
There is often some confusion as to the obligation you have as an insured to speak with your insurance company. It is common to be advised to not make statements to any insurance companies as well as not speak to the other party’s insurance company after an accident. However, you must still notify your insurer that an accident has occurred.
You and your insurer are under a contractual obligation to one another when you purchase a policy. One of these obligations on the party of you, the insured, is the prompt notification of any accident that occurs. You will likely be asked a series of questions by your insurance company but be sure to provide only the information necessary. Do not offer any opinions or speculation around the accident or your actions. Avoid making any statements about the accident itself.
When notifying your insurer of an accident, stick to the basics:
- The location of the accident
- The date and time when the accident occurred
- All parties involved in the accident
- The identifying information of the vehicles involved
- Any other insurance companies involved
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
Once things have settled down after a car accident, and you can physically do so you should contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible. The earliest in the process of your personal injury claim that you hire a lawyer the better it will be for you in the long run.
The initial stages of a personal injury claim are vital in the determination of fault as well as the calculation of damages by the insurance companies. After an accident, you should be focused on the healing of your injuries and would benefit from less stress and the burden of managing a personal injury claim while you allow a qualified and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer to help you protect your legal rights.
Stay Vigilant of Warning Signs of an Injury
Injuries after a car accident may not always be visible or apparent to you. In the moments after an accident, you may be too overwhelmed to notice any signs of possible hidden injuries; it is also common for some injuries to take some time to develop into symptoms after a car accident. If at any point you feel unwell, in prolonged pain, or discomfort after an automobile accident, seek medical attention for an evaluation for any potential injury.
Several car accident injuries can develop slowly and may not appear at the crash scene, including:
- Head injuries such as a concussion
- Neck or back injuries
- Internal damage or injuries
Potential Damages After a Car Accident
Car accident impacts can have far-reaching implications on many aspects of an injury victim’s life. From the financial burdens of medical bills and other damages to the physical, mental and emotional toll a traumatic accident can have on your daily life.
It can be difficult to measure the exact value of the losses you have suffered. While some damages are easily quantifiable others can be much more complex depending on the severity of injuries you have suffered and the extent to which those injuries will affect your overall life.
Fortunately, car accident attorneys are experienced in the unique needs of car accident victims and can help you estimate the damages you have suffered. Having a better idea of your overall losses now and in the future can help you make the best decisions in a car accident injury claim.
Car accident damage claims can include:
- Expenses for medical care now and in the future
- Work-related losses of income and wages
- Decreases in future income potential due to injuries
- Pain, suffering, and distress related to the accident and your injuries
- Damage to any personal property in the accident
How to Seek Compensation for Your Losses
After a car accident, your initial action will be to file an injury claim with the insurance company. Depending on the specifics of your case; you may need to file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company, your own insurance company, or any other insurers that could be responsible for your losses.
Most car accident cases are resolved with a settlement by an insurance company; however, some situations may require an injury victim to file a personal injury lawsuit to fight for the recovery of their losses. For example, when a settlement agreement cannot be reached or a policy limits your recovery, there is the option to proceed to litigation against the insurer or at-fault party to seek reasonable compensation for your damages.
How Can a Lawyer Help You After a Car Accident?
Personal injury insurance claims and personal injury lawsuits are complex. To increase your chance at success of being awarded compensation, a car accident attorney can help provide legal advice as to the best course of action for your best interests and legal rights. The resolution of a car accident case takes time and requires experience to navigate without undue delays and errors that could put your recovery in jeopardy. A car accident lawyer will represent your interests throughout each step of the car accident injury claim process and any legal actions that stem from it.
Investigate Liability and Damages for Your Claim
A car accident is anything but a cut-and-dry case. It often requires extensive research and investigation to determine the fault in an accident as well as the overall damages suffered by the injured victims. A car accident lawyer understands the intricacies of these cases and how to discover all potential liability in an accident as well as the calculation of the maximum potential damages you may be eligible to recover compensation for.
Communicate With All Parties to a Claim
One of the most stressful components of a personal injury case is the management of communications with all interested and competing parties. When you are represented by an attorney all of these communications will be handled by your legal team. You will not have to worry about a missed message or what you did or did not say; your attorney will handle every aspect of your personal injury claim on your behalf.
Negotiate on Your Behalf
A lawyer knows what your claim is worth and can help you fight for the compensation you deserve. They will negotiate on your behalf with the insurance companies involved and any at-fault parties to reach an agreement that meets your needs now and in the future. If a settlement agreement cannot be reached, your attorney can fight for your rights in court if necessary.