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What to Do After a Car Accident That’s Not Your Fault

What to Do After a Car Accident That's Not Your Fault

Car accidents happen when we least expect them. Perhaps you were running late to work when you felt someone slam into the back of your vehicle, or you were dropping the kids off at soccer practice when another driver blew a stop sign and crashed into you. Amidst the flurry of daily tasks and chores, the trauma of a car accident can amplify stress. The good news? After being involved in a car accident that was not your fault, you have only a few simple steps to take — and a couple of important decisions to make.

Immediate Steps to Take After a Car Accident

It is important that victims injured in a car accident seek medical attention as soon as possible. If you or someone else involved in the wreck has been hurt, call 911 immediately. Avoid moving injured victims unless absolutely necessary. Even if you’re not sure if you’re seriously hurt, having a paramedic examine you is a good idea. Many times, the human body goes into a state of shock after an accident, with pain and injuries not revealing themselves for hours or even days afterward. Getting an exam and a paper trail of the injuries sustained in the wreck is the best thing a car accident victim can do right after a crash.

If possible, try to move the vehicles involved in the accident off to the side of the road. Preventing a traffic jam is secondary, of course, to ensure that an ambulance can make it through the street to get to the scene of the accident.

Exchanging information with the at-fault driver is critical for holding them responsible for their actions. Be sure to collect the full name, phone number, and home address of the other driver involved. Also, take down the name of their insurance company and their policy number.

If no injuries occurred in the wreck, it is still a good idea to call the police. Involving police means an official report will be made about the accident. For anyone struggling with what to do when you get into a car accident, this is the best step to take. Police reports are not always admissible in civil court, but it can be helpful to get an official version of events taken down.

Before you leave the scene of an accident, be sure to speak with any witnesses who might be willing to speak about what they saw happen. Record their statement in written form, or ask if they’re okay with being recorded on your phone talking about what occurred. Always get the names and contact info of any witnesses with whom you speak.

Finally, take a few pictures of the accident scene before you go. Snapping photos of the damage done in the crash, the other vehicle’s license plate, and of any injuries sustained in the wreck (including superficial cuts and bruises or symptoms of back and neck injuries like swelling) can be helpful in the days and weeks after an accident.

Following Up at Home

Even if your accident was caused by another driver’s recklessness behind the wheel, do not wait for them to take care of the calls to their insurance company. Assuming you did not sustain serious injuries in the wreck, prioritize your calls with the insurance company. Start by calling your own insurance company and informing them of what happened.

In the best-case scenario, the other driver will be calling their own insurance company.  If all goes as it should, their insurance company should cut you a check for the damage sustained in the wreck, including the cost of medical bills and repairs to your vehicle. Occasionally, though, the company will deny coverage or try to negotiate the auto accident settlement amount down. In those cases, you have the option to hire a lawyer and sue the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

The hours after a car accident can be stressful and the loose ends of a wreck are rarely tied up on the same day of the incident. Even if you’re unsure of your path forward, take a moment of solitude to recall as many details as you can about the day. Even those with the best memories can find themselves forgetting minor details that could come into play in a car accident lawsuit, should you need to obtain the services of a lawyer. Write down everything you can remember, from the weather to the time of day the accident occurred. Photos of torn, bloodied, or otherwise stained clothing can also serve as important evidence down the line.

A Note for Passengers

Each year, countless passengers are involved in wrecks caused by their driver. The above information applies most directly to drivers who have been involved in a car accident that is not their fault, but much applies to passengers in such collisions as well. While the drivers will take the lead on contacting the insurance companies, passengers who sustained injuries in the wreck should not allow their plight to fall by the wayside. Stand up for yourself and ensure that you are not stuck footing the bill for injuries sustained in an accident caused by a negligent or reckless driver.

Unfortunately, many at-fault drivers guilt trip their passengers into not filing a claim. Do not allow a so-called friend to dismiss your pain and suffering so callously. If you sustained injuries in a car wreck, you have rights. Speaking to an auto accident attorney can help clarify your rights and ensure your best interests are protected.

Protect Your Rights After a Car Accident

Car accidents have a way of making victims feel afraid, unsteady, and out of options. The reality? You have choices, even if you’re feeling backed into a corner. Resist the urge to take the easy way out and file a claim with your own insurance company. If the wreck was truly not your fault, you should not be held responsible. Knowing what to do when you get into a car accident can seem impossible, but with a cool head and sense of resourcefulness, you’ll be supported on the road to recovery in no time.

About Graham Bersche, JD

A graduate of Trinity Law School in Southern California, Graham Bersche has experience as a paralegal, negotiator, and legal writer. He lives in Los Angeles and is passionate about helping people who’ve been injured in car accidents to understand the laws governing their situations and learn how to maximize their car accident settlements.