The most common question I am asked by friends and family is “What should I do following a car accident?” Such a time can be highly stressful, emotional, and scary. It is important to keep calm and remember that the steps you take directly following your accident can affect your potential insurance claim.
GET TO A SAFE LOCATION
If at all possible, you want to get to a safe location by pulling your car off of the roadway. If not, you should turn your emergency flashing lights on. If you get out of your vehicle, be mindful of the traffic. Remember to stay at the scene of the accident until it is appropriate to leave.
CHECK ON ALL PARTIES INVOLVED
Check on all the other parties involved, including drivers, passengers, and pedestrians, to make sure no one is hurt. Get medical attention for anyone who needs it. If a person is unconscious or has neck or back pain, don’t move them until qualified medical help arrives.
CALL THE POLICE
If there’s significant property damage, physical injury, or death, you need to call the police. You need to have a trained police investigator assess the situation. Filing a police report with your account of what happened in the accident is vital in determining who will be held responsible for the crash. Furthermore, a police accident report can prove invaluable when dealing with your car insurance company and other drivers. Cooperate fully, but avoid admitting fault or blaming others while at the scene. Let the police objectively judge events and determine who, if anyone, is at fault in the crash. If the police can’t make it to the scene which is may occur if there are no injuries, you can file an accident report through the DMV.
Try to write down as much info as possible in the accident aftermath, including:
In talking to all of the involved parties try to be cordial and cooperative. However, you SHOULD NOT apologize for anything at the scene. For example, if you say, “I’m so sorry I ran that red light! Is everyone okay?” you may be admitting legal liability for what happened. Try not to admit guilt unintentionally or unnecessarily.
SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION
This may be the most important step. See a doctor immediately. Although you may feel fine now or think your injuries aren’t very serious, symptoms such as the following can appear days after the accident:
Hidden injuries such as whiplash, TMJ, and traumatic brain injury can be devastating. Getting medical attention quickly isn’t just the best thing for your health; it also strengthens your personal injury claim. If you wait several days or weeks after the accident to seek medical attention, it will be harder to prove that your injuries were the result of the car crash.
INFORM YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY
Promptly alert your insurance company of the accident. Tell them the truth and the full extent of your injuries. Explain the facts clearly. If the insurance company finds out that you’ve lied to them about anything, you can get into serious trouble, including possible denial of coverage for the accident. Obtain and review any police report filed. You may be inclined to admit fault to your car insurance agent, however, doing so can seriously jeopardize your claim. Even if you believe you might have been fully or partially at fault, don’t say to the other party, your passengers, witnesses, or your car insurance company that you were to blame. Instead, provide an honest report of what happened and let the insurance companies determine the details.
TRACK YOUR MEDICAL TREATMENT
Keep a detailed account of the treatments or medications you receive, including any contact information from any doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, or other medical professionals that you receive treatment from, and each medical provider that referred you to other caregivers. Also, request copies of all medical reports and bills as these help you prove your medical expenses later.  It would also be prudent to document how your injuries have impacted your daily life and routine, such as how many days of work you have missed or leisure activities you cannot longer participate in.
It is important to document the scene with as much detail as possible. Take photographs of any damage to your vehicle as soon as possible after the accident. Photos will also help your insurance adjuster determine how much you should be compensated for the damage to your car. Photos can also help your legal claim in court, should it get to that point. Pictures of your car before the accident can offer a great “compare and contrast” to show the true extent of the damage sustained in the accident.
GET A DAMAGE VALUATION
It is likely that your insurance company will employ an adjuster to evaluate the damage associated with the accident. If there is a report, request it from your insurance company. It may also prove useful to get one or more independent valuations of the damage.
CALL AN EXPERIENCED ATTORNEY
This could be paramount. Call an experienced personal injury attorney to advise you in protecting your rights. Kovar Law Group is experienced in these matters and will always advise you of these and other steps you should take after an accident.
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
We have touched on this in other headings, but what you say can be used against you. Avoid admitting fault and as best you can, do not talk to anyone about the accident other than your lawyer, your insurance company, and the police. If called by the other insurance company, be polite, but ask them to call your attorney or insurer to arrange an interview. Also, tell your lawyer or insurer about the call. Also be leery of early settlements. Confirm all your physical injuries have been treated as some injuries don’t show up or reach their greatest level of discomfort until many days, weeks, or months later. Don’t settle a claim until you know you’ll be compensated for all your injuries, and consult an attorney before signing any settlement documents.
Kovar Law Group CAN HELP
Again, if you’ve been in a car accident, the best thing you can do is seek the help of an experienced attorney. At Kovar Law Group we are well-versed in dealing with these issues and are proficient in gathering the required evidence to secure the best outcome possible. Schedule a free consultation with Kovar Law Group today.