What Should I do After a Car Accident?
10 Things You Need To Do After A Car Accident
More than six million automobile accidents occur each year in the United States. Fortunately, most of them only involve property damage – damage to the vehicle as opposed to the occupants. But one in three accidents involves personal injury to the driver or passengers and of that number, two out of ten accidents lead to fatal injuries.
If you are involved in a car accident, there are certain things you can do to protect yourself and your interests. The following is a list of the top ten things you should do if you are in a car accident:
1. STOP. Never drive away from the scene of an accident, even a minor one.
2. PROTECT THE SCENE. You can avoid additional accidents by creating flares or keeping the flashing lights on. If it is dark and your lights do not work, you should have a flashlight to keep it safe while you wait in your disabled or side-by-side car.
3. CALL THE POLICE. Even if there are no serious injuries, it is a good idea to call the police. You may need a police report to file a claim with your insurance company, even if it is only to make a claim for damages to your vehicle. Vehicles involved in the accident should remain where they are, unless they interfere with traffic.
4. MAKE AN ACCURATE REGISTRATION. When the police arrive, be sure to tell the investigating officer (s) exactly what happened, to the best of your ability. If you do not know certain facts, tell the officer. Do not speculate, do not guess or say nothing of the facts. If you are asked if you are injured and not sure, let’s say you are not sure, rather than not. Often, the pain and injuries from auto accidents become apparent hours after the actual collision. You should also make sure that statements made by other people involved in the accident are accurate as well.
5. TAKE PHOTOS. If you have a camera in your vehicle, or a cell phone equipped with a camera, you should take pictures of the vehicles if there is visible damage. If you have visible injuries, you should also photograph them. However, it should not interfere with the ongoing police investigation. If you can not take pictures at the scene of the accident, take them as soon as possible after the accident.
6. CHANGE INFORMATION. Normally, the investigating officer obtains this information. However, if the police do not respond to the accident, you must obtain the name, address and telephone number of all persons involved in the accident, drivers and passengers alike. You should also get insurance information by asking to see the insurance card for all the vehicles involved in the accident. If there are witnesses, you should obtain information from them as well so that you or your lawyer can contact them in the future. If the police respond to the accident, the investigating officer usually provides all drivers with a police report number. You can use that number later to get the police report. If the accident occurs on a state highway, you must request the state police report.
7. REPORTING THE ACCIDENT. Notify your insurance company as soon as possible. Many policies require immediate reporting and full cooperation. Find out if you have medical benefits as part of your insurance coverage. You pay extra for that type of coverage – known as “medpay” – so you should use it. In fact, if you are covered by Medpay, you must present your medical bills related to the accident to your insurance company. Medpay coverage is primary for medical bills related to accidents. Once the medpay benefits run out, private health insurance becomes your primary insurer. Medpay benefits are available to all occupants of the vehicle. Your insurance rates should not increase as a result of filing Medpay coverage claims.
8. SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION. Often, injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents are not immediately apparent. Most of our clients report feeling the greatest pain a day or two after a car accident. Unless you are absolutely certain that you were not injured, you should seek medical attention at the local emergency room or see your GP. Even in accidents with less impact, you can suffer serious and permanent damage to the spinal cord. If you have lost consciousness or been stunned even for a short time after the collision, you may have suffered a concussion or closed-head injury. This can cause cognitive and behavioral changes if left untreated.
9. SAVE AN ARCHIVE. Keep all your accident-related documents and information together. This information should include a claim number, claim adjuster handling the claim, names and phone numbers of all contacts, rental car receipts, and other expenses incurred as a result of the accident.
10. PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS. Perhaps the most important thing to do after an accident is to consult your lawyer. Your lawyer can protect your rights and make sure that valuable evidence is not destroyed. Often, insurance companies want to take statements immediately after an accident. It is important that you have received legal advice before providing such a statement. Your attorney can advise you on issues ranging from how to make sure you are fully compensated for your vehicle to make sure you are getting the best medical treatment available. Personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means that there is no legal fee unless the lawyer recovers compensation for your injuries.