Many people take their ability to drive for granted. We hop in our cars to commute to work, drop off the kids at school, or hit the road for vacation. It isn’t until we’re involved in a collision that the freedom we associate with driving becomes threatened. A normal, everyday activity like driving becomes something downright dangerous after a wreck has occurred. This rings even truer when the accident was caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness behind the wheel.

Car accidents are made even more stressful by the legal questions that arise in their wake. When you’re in a panicked state of mind, it can be difficult to navigate the decisions that must be made in the immediate aftermath of a crash. By understanding your rights after a car accident, though, you can mitigate many of the most common legal problems faced by crash victims.

Rights and Responsibilities

After a collision has occurred, it’s up to you to be your own best advocate. Whether your actions contributed to the incident or you were simply a victim, it’s important to safeguard your rights. Should you or the other driver involved decide to take legal action, you’ll want to lay the groundwork for a successful case.

Calling the police to report your accident is a good place to start. You have the right to call for emergency responders in the wake of a crash. Even if you don’t think you’ve been injured, it’s important to have official record of the incident. It’s always smart to be examined by paramedics, too. You never know if your adrenaline is preventing you from feeling the pain of an internal injury.

In addition to reporting the incident to the police, you also have the right to document the scene around you. If possible, snap photos of the damage done by the collision, street signs, stop lights and any other obstructions in the road that may have contributed to the incident. If witnesses saw what happened, ask if they’ll be willing to go on record about their experience. Ask for their names and contact information, and see if they will write down an account of what they witnessed.

Even if you don’t see any injuries initially, it’s a good idea to get a thorough medical examination in the hours or days following a crash. Should you decide to pursue legal action, copies of your medical records, bills, and referrals to specialists will come in handy. Be sure to keep a file of all the records relating to your collision.

Limitations and Requirements

While you have certain rights after an accident has occurred, there are also certain limitations to your options. Anyone involved in a wreck has the responsibility to stop and check to see if everyone is okay. Simply ignoring a crash isn’t an option. No matter how small the crash may have been, it’s your duty to pull over, chat with the other driver and report the incident to the police. Do so immediately to prevent any kind of speculation about a hit-and-run occurring.

Those involved in car accidents are not permitted to leave the scene. Regardless of whether or not you were at fault, you should stay on site and exchange contact information with the other driver involved. Leave the scene and you could face felony charges, especially if anyone involved in the wreck sustained injuries.

It may sound surprising, but simply being involved in a car accident does not necessarily give you the right to take legal action. To do so, there must be some evidence that you were harmed in a tangible, quantifiable way. Simply complaining of a sore neck, for instance, won’t net you thousands of dollars in a personal injury lawsuit. To pursue legal action, you’ll need to have proof that your injuries or damage to your vehicle was caused by the incident itself.

What If I’m at Fault?

The rights of car accident victims and those who contributed to a crash are largely one and the same. Just as victims have the right to medical attention, so do drivers who cause wrecks. Victims can take legal action and at-fault drivers may defend themselves against claims of negligence. Regardless of who is to blame for a particular incident, it’s important to report it to police, seek medical attention for those who are injured and take the necessary legal action afterward.

No matter who is to blame, talking with an experienced car accident attorney can help you better understand your rights. Lawsuit Info Center is committed to connecting those involved in car crashes with local lawyers. If you’re in need of legal advice, simply fill out a form on our website to find an attorney in your area. or learn more about car accident settlements.