In the aftermath of a car accident, you may experience chaos, confusion, and frustration. While your health and safety always come first, you can also protect yourself and your rights starting at the accident scene. Below, we outline simple steps you can take that may help to preserve your ability to seek recovery following an accident that you didn’t cause.
Check For Injuries
The impact of a crash is often disorienting. Your car may veer off the road, suddenly change directions, spin out, or even roll over when another vehicle hits you. Your first priority, once your vehicle comes to a stop, should be to check yourself and your passengers for injuries.
While you cannot perform a professional medical evaluation on yourself, you should can check if you are in pain or have any visible injuries. Your input will be invaluable to your healthcare providers as they assess the areas of your body where you report pain. If you have a significant injury to your neck, spine, head, or bone, remain in your vehicle until medical help arrives.
Call For Help From Emergency Services
If you are alert and able, you must call 911 immediately. When you call for assistance, you will need to provide the location of your accident and whether there are injuries. At this time, you must request that the police come to the scene and for medical services if you, other occupants in your vehicle, or other people sustained injuries.
#1. Call Law Enforcement To The Scene
Do not skip this important step or try to resolve the matter just between the parties to the crash. Car accident victims need law enforcement to ensure that they have all relevant information about the parties in the crash, including the insurance information for the at-fault party, and any potential witnesses, or important detail about the nature of the crash. Law enforcement may also be important if the other party provides false information to you or attempts to flee, making it difficult if not impossible for you to seek compensation for your losses.
#2. Call Medical Services To The Scene
Do not hesitate to call emergency medical services to the scene of the accident. Often, accident victims are unsure of the severity of their injuries or feel they are taking up valuable resources by requesting help from medical services. However, adrenaline flooding the victims’ bodies after the shock of the accident often masks the symptoms of severe injuries, and accident victims can develop complications or cause further damage if they refuse prompt medical treatment. If you do not seek medical care at the accident scene or shortly thereafter for injuries you sustain in the crash, it can also complicate your ability to seek compensation for those injuries from an insurance company or the at-fault party later on.
Collect Available Information At The Scene
You have a short time to collect information and evidence from the accident scene to help in an insurance claim or lawsuit. It is worth keeping in mind some of the things you should look out for as you await assistance after a crash.
#1. Photos And Videos Of The Accident Scene
As you wait for the police officer and medical services to arrive on the scene, there is evidence you can gather if you can move around safely. From a safe location where you are not at risk of additional harm, you can use your mobile phone to take photos and videos of the scene. This should include the vehicles and damage to each vehicle, the area where the accident took place, and the surroundings.
If you feel that anything else at the scene is out of place, might become relevant to your case, or could have been a contributing factor to the accident, take get ss some photographs or video of that evidence. For example, if you feel any vegetation on the highway made the accident more likely, if there is debris in the roadway, or if signage from construction appears to be improper, or not far enough from the construction site, photographs or video of any of these conditions can help down the road. These obstructions to visibility, roadwork, potholes or any other potentially relevant condition evidence can change from one day to the next and may not be present later on.
#2. Police Report
Once the police are on the scene, they will take the time to collect identifying information from all parties involved in the crash, and potentially from witnesses who remain on the scene. The police will gather names, contact information, and any insurance policies and coverage that may apply to the crash. The officer may also issue a citation to any parties who violated a traffic law.
The responding officer may complete an informational report and provide it to the parties to the crash while at the scene.
The officer will also complete an official police report. This is different from the preliminary informational report, which is simply to help you file an insurance claim. The police report may include information such as an assessment of the damage to the vehicles, positioning of the vehicles at the scene, and the officer’s opinion on what led to the crash. In many cases, an officer may also indicate who they believe was at fault for the collision. Following the accident, the officer will let you know how to access the police report when they complete it. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks after a crash to secure a report.
What To Do After A Car Crash
Once you leave the accident scene for medical treatment or to recover at home, there are some things you should keep in mind as you move forward. When the adrenaline wears off following a collision, you may find you experience fatigue, soreness from the impact of the accident, and possibly acute pain from accident-related injuries. It can be frustrating to attempt to manage medical treatment, property damage, insurance claims, the need to miss work, and other challenges. Below are some things you can do to make it easier as you navigate this time after a car accident.
#1. Focus On Your Recovery
Your injuries need your attention, and you must make time to rest and heal after a motor vehicle accident. Failure to take the time you need to address your physical and emotional health after an accident can take a toll and cause additional harm and complications.
#2. Get Help If You Discover An Additional Injury Or Experience New Pain
Even if you received medical treatment right after the accident, it is possible to discover another injury or complication in the days or weeks following the accident. In addition, injuries such as bulging discs or nerve impingement may take time to reveal themselves, especially if you focus on other injured areas first. If at any point after the accident you feel pain, discomfort, or a general sense of unwellness, seek medical attention.
Certain car accident injuries can take time to reveal themselves, or for the symptoms associated with them to reveal themselves, such as traumatic brain injuries and other internal injuries. Do not assume just because an initial medical evaluation didn’t catch an injury that you are not hurt. A provider or emergency service personnel can miss an injury in its initial stages if symptoms are not yet present.
#3. Notify Your Insurance Company of The Accident
Your insurance company needs to hear from you about your accident. Make this nothing more than an informational call under your policy terms to notify them of the accident. During this conversation with your insurer, take a minimal approach providing basic information about where the accident took place, the names of other people involved in the accident, and the involved vehicle makes and models.
Even conversations with your own insurer can hurt your claim and reduce the compensation you ultimately recover. If the insurance company asks for details, refer them to your lawyer.
#4. Do Not Speak To The Other Insurance Company
While you do need to talk to your own insurer and notify them of the accident, you have absolutely no obligation to speak with the other insurance company. The other insurance company’s primary motivation in speaking with you may be to attempt to limit their liability in the case and to figure out if there is a reason they can deny your claim or reduce the compensation they provide you.
#5. Contact A Car Accident Attorney As Soon As Possible
In the days after an accident, you should prioritize contacting a car accident attorney near you. You will be better off with a lawyer at your side as you go through the insurance claims process and seek the compensation you need for your accident-related damages. Insurance companies have their own team of attorneys to advise them on how best to protect the company’s interests.
As the victim of an accident that was someone else’s fault, you are going up against a formidable system that is set up to shortchange the victims of accidents at any opportunity. A car accident lawyer can help you protect your legal rights and fight for compensation against the insurers and at-fault parties in your case.
What To Do In The Weeks And Months After A Car Accident
Once your insurance claim is underway, there is little left that you must do other than take care of yourself and keep a record of information that may become relevant if a lawsuit is necessary in your case.
#1. Keep Up With Your Medical Treatment And Care
Keep up with all medical appointments and treatment as prescribed by your providers. Go to all follow-up appointments and physical therapy sessions, and take any medication as prescribed. Not only will this give you the best chance of making a quick and full recovery, but it can also help your accident claim. Never give an insurance company grounds to say you are not as hurt as you claim, or to otherwise reduce or minimize your injuries, as the companies have a better chance of denying your claim if you miss appointments or do not follow your doctor’s directions.
#2. Keep A Personal Journal Of Your Experience
Car insurance claims, particularly those that involve serious injuries and potential long-term disabilities, can take time to settle. In some cases, it may even be necessary for a case to go to trial if the parties can’t reach a settlement agreement. The passage of time can make it difficult for a victim to recall details about the accident and their injuries.
To prepare for this possibility, keep a journal where you can jot down details and information about your injuries and experiences after the accident. You may also keep a video journal to view your injuries, your at-home therapy, or conversations with family members. This can include conversations with other parties, employment issues due to your injuries, medical treatment and outcomes, as well as pain, discomfort, or other challenges that arise from your injuries.