There are six million car accidents in the US every year. Luckily, most of them just involve damage to property. But 1/3 of these accidents involve personal injuries, and 1/5 of car accidents are fatal. In both of the latter examples, if the car accident was caused by someone else you should be entitled to a car accident settlement payout that covers all your medical bills, lost income, and ther damages after the crash.
If you find yourself in a position where you’ve been injured in a car accident, there are several vital things to do. Keeping these in mind will help to protect you and your interests. Below is more information.
#1 Stop Driving and Exit The Vehicle
You should never leave the scene of a car accident that you were involved in. Leaving the accident scene can be especially damaging if there is serious property damage and/or injury. There are cases where a driver left the scene of the crash and was eventually charged with hit and run! Imagine having injuries in an auto accident caused by another driver, but you have difficulty winning a car accident claim because you left the scene. Don’t let this happen – stay at the scene until the police arrive.
#2 Protect the Accident Scene
It is common for one car accident to be a distraction to other drivers and end up causing another accident. You can prevent this from happening by putting out flares, keeping your car’s flashers on, etc. If it is dark, you should always have a flashlight in your glove box so that other drivers can see you. If your vehicle is stuck in traffic and you cannot move it, be sure to be a safe distance away from oncoming traffic. Your vehicle can be replaced; you cannot be.
#3 Call Law Enforcement
Even if damage is minor and there are only minor injuries suffered in the crash, it is always wise to call the police to report the car accident. You will probably need a police report to file the auto accident claim with your insurance company, even if it is just for property damage. The vehicles involved in the car accident should generally be left where they are, unless they are seriously impeding traffic. Remember to stay at the scene until the police arrive and tell you that you can leave.
#4 Be Accurate With Your Story
When law enforcement arrives, provide the police officer with a complete summary of what happened in the car accident as far as you remember. If you do not know something for certain, do not guess. Do not give your opinion. Simply state all the facts of the auto accident as you know them. If you are asked if you are hurt and you are uncertain, just say you are not sure. You may find out later that you ARE hurt but did not realize it for several hours or days later. Certain injuries, such as whiplash from a car accident, are notorious for not showing up for days after the accident.
#5 Take Photos
If you have a camera, or a cell phone with a camera, take photos of the cars involved in the accident, even if there is no clear damage sometimes the positioning of the cars after the crash can help strengthen your case and get you a better auto accident settlement payout. If the car accident caused injuries that are visible, you should take pictures of them, too. While not always relevant, if there were hazardous road conditions (something in the road, a blocked street sign, brokwn traffic light, etc) that contributed to the auto accident, make sure to take pictures of that as well.
If you cannot take photos immediately after the incident, do them as soon as possible before the vehicles are moved.
#6 Exchange Contact Information
The police officer will normally gather contact and insurance information from any parties that were involved in the car accident. But if they do not come to the scene or take longer than usual to arrive, make sure to get the name, address and phone number, as well as insurance information (insurance company, policy number, and a good contact number should suffice) of everyone that was in the accident. It’s also a good idea to get contact information for any witnesses that saw how the crash happened – a neutral 3rd party with a good view of the crash can be crucial in a car accident settlement where it’s your word against theirs.
#7 Report the Crash to Your Auto Insurance Company
Call your insurance company as soon as you can. Also, most states require you to report an auto accident to the police if it involves injury and/or property damage above a certain dollar amount, such as $1000. Even if the accident was clearly not your fault, it’s better to let them know what happened than have them get the other parties’ version of the accident.
#8 Get Medical Attention
It’s important to keep in mind that not all auto accident injuries are immediately apparent after the crash. Many car accident victims report they did not know they had any injuries until the next day. If you delay seeking medical care, you could run into difficulty when you make a car accident claim. Insurance companies will argue that your injuries had another cause and will try to deny or drastically lower the amount of your car accident settlement offer.
#9 Speak with an Auto Accident Attorney
After taking care of your health, the most important thing to do in a car accident is to consult with a qualified auto accident attorney. Even if the car accident is anything more than a minor fender bender with no injuries, it usually is wise to run the case by an attorney, and you definitely should do so before you speak to the other driver’s insurance company. Most car accident lawyers will offer a free initial consultation, which is a good opportunity for you to ask questions that will gauge the viability of your case and maybe give you a ballpark idea how much your auto accident settlement might be.
It’s important to remember that most auto accident attorneys charge on a contingency basis, meaning they don’t charge up front retainers or hourly fees, rather they are conpensated as a percentage of the final car accident settlement amount. As a result, most injury lawyers are very good at determining quickly how much a car accident claim is worth. So if a good personal injury lawyer tells you they won’t take your case, it usually means that you either don’t have a big settlement or there’s unclear liability. Even if you decide not to hire a car accident attorney, if you have a free consultation and the attorney is willing to take your case, chances are you’ll have a decent settlemnt check coming, whether you hire the attorney or not.