There are approximately six million car accidents per year, an average of more than 16,000 every day.
If one happens to you, these are the 10 things you should do to help protect your rights:
#1 Stop the Car
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Never drive away from the accident scene, even if both drivers agree that it was a minor accident and nothing needs to be done. The other driver could later claim it was a hit and run.
#2 Protect the Crash Scene
You can prevent more accidents by putting out flares or at least turning your blinkers on. If it is dark and your lights are not working, you should have a flashlight in the car to stay safe while you wait in your car or away from traffic.
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#3 Call the Police
Even if there is only minor property damage, it is wise to call law enforcement. You could need a police report to file an insurance claim, even if it is just for property damage. The cars involved in the crash should stay where they are, unless they are causing a major traffic jam.
#4 Make An Accurate Record
When law enforcement arrives on the scene, tell the police what happened from your perspective. Just tell what you know and do not embellish anything. If there is something you do not know, tell the officer. Never speculate, guess, or misstate anything. If you are asked if you are hurt and you don’t know, say you are not sure. Pain and injuries from a car crash may not be felt for several hours afterwards.
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#5 Take Photos
Almost everyone has a cellphone with a camera these days. Take pictures of vehicle damage and their positions on the road. Also take images of your injuries. The more pictures you have, the stronger your claim will be.
#6 Exchange Information
The investigating police officer usually gets the information for both drivers. But if the police do not come, you should get the name and contact information for other drivers in the accident. Also get insurance information for each driver. If the police come to the scene, the officer usually gives each driver a police report number.
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#7 Report the Crash
Tell your auto insurance company as soon as you can. Most policies require you to tell them about the crash as soon as possible or a claim could be denied. Find out if medical benefits are part of your policy. If you have med pay, you can have that part of the policy pay for your medical costs while the liability issue is dealt with between the insurers. Once your med pay benefits run out, you may need to use your health insurance until there is a settlement or verdict in the case.
#8 Get Medical Attention
Injuries in car accidents may not be apparent right away. Most accidents do not feel any pain from injuries for a day or two. Unless you are positive you were not hurt, you should go to the ER or your doctor immediately. Even in a minor collision, you may have suffered a neck or back injury you do not feel at first. You also could have a concussion and not know about it for days.
If you do not seek medical attention right away and get it later, the insurance company may say that you were not hurt in the accident, but by some other cause. Seeing the doctor immediately establishes a medical record immediately after the crash that is vital to a successful claim.
#9 Maintain a File
Keep your documents and information related to the accident in a folder. This information should have a claim number, the claim adjuster doing the claim, and the name and contact info for all parties. Keep all receipts for expenses you incur after the accident, including medical bills, taxis, and more.
#10 Safeguard Your Rights
Unless you were in a minor fender bender with no injuries, you may consider hiring a personal injury attorney. Your attorney can protect your legal rights and make sure evidence is not altered or destroyed. Insurance companies like to get statements from the drivers right after an accident. But you should have had legal advice before you talk to an insurance company.
Your lawyer can advise you on how to ensure you get full compensation for your car and how to get the best medical treatment possible. He also can make sure that you do not say anything to the other insurance company that can be used against you. It is often best to leave all conversations with the opposing insurance company to your attorney.
If you worry about the cost of an attorney, personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. They only get paid if you get a settlement or verdict. That is why the attorney will carefully review your case before taking it.
If he thinks you cannot win or the money involved is not worth hiring an attorney, he will be sure to tell you. Personal injury attorneys only take cases where there is a strong possibility of substantial compensation.