A car accident is something that we know can happen any time we get into a car. We hear of wrecks on the morning news. We see fender-benders on the evening commute. We use the event of a car accident as a measuring rod on how safe another activity is, like flying on a plane, or how likely an event is to occur, like being struck by lightning. We know that an accident can happen, but do we know what to do once it does? Consider the following:
- Make sure you are all right before you exit your vehicle: Check for any injuries. If you’re bleeding, disorientated, or otherwise experiencing significant pain call an ambulance. When in doubt if you are injured, call an ambulance.
- DO NOT LEAVE THE SCENE: It is crucial that you remain at the scene of the accident, especially if someone was injured or killed. Leaving the scene of an accident, even if you believe there is minor damage, can result in you being charged in a felony hit-and-run.
- Call the Police If Needed: Generally, you should call the police for any accident with noticeable damage or injuries. That way there will be a police report filed so there will be documentation of the accident. A police report is regarded as reliable by courts, and is likely to be your strongest piece of evidence (or most damaging depending on who was at fault).
- Check on All Drivers and Passengers: See if everyone else in the accident is all right. Obviously, call for help if anyone is hurt. If there is an imminent danger (like a car sinking in a body of water or car on fire) move people out of harm’s way. Otherwise, do not move injured people and especially do not move their neck. Let the paramedics take care of them.
- Exchange Information with the Other Driver(s): When obtaining everyone’s contact information, do not be emotional or disrespectful. It will get you nowhere. Exchange phone numbers, names, insurance information, and driver’s license. Also, don’t apologize. You may think that it was your fault, but other factors could be at play. Be respectful and helpful, but do not take blame.
- Talk to Any Witnesses: Get the contact information of anyone who saw the accident.
- Snap Pictures of Everything: A picture may say a thousand words, but they are invaluable at trial. After police reports, pictures are the most powerful pieces of evidence a party could have. Take a picture of everything; not just the vehicles but also the road and surrounding area. If there are skid marks or broken glass, then take pictures of those, too. Try to create a thorough documentation of what the scene of the accident looked like.
- Call Your Insurance Company: You will probably dread doing this, but it is critically important that you inform your insurance company right away. Be honest with what happened and give them all the facts. Lying to your insurance company could result in you losing coverage for the accident.
- Be Suspicious of Immediate Settlement Offers: The other driver’s insurance company (or sometimes even your own) will try to save themselves some money by trying to settle with you as soon as possible. They will offer you a low offer but it would be immediately available. Be careful. Some injuries from car accidents don’t appear until days or weeks after an accident. That low settlement offer may not pay for all of the treatment. Once you sign a settlement though you lose your chance to collect any more money. So talk to your own lawyer before accepting an offer to settle your claim.
- Think about Calling an Attorney: If the accident caused substantial damage to your car or significant injury to yourself or others, consider hiring an attorney to help you deal with the insurance companies.
If you’ve been involved in an automobile accident give us a call today. We’ll go over your case and advise you what legal options you have to maximize your damages.