If you were recently involved in a car accident, it’s essential to have an action plan. Knowing what to do in the moments following a crash is essential for keeping everyone safe. Also, preparing will help you avoid potential legal problems. Do you need advice following a car accident? Keep reading as we reveal what to do after a car accident to protect yourself physically and legally.
1. Get Everyone to Safety
Before you worry about documenting the scene or calling the police, your first step is to get yourself and others to a safe location. If your car is still driveable, pull it off the main lanes and onto the shoulder of the road. This ensures other motorists won’t hit you and turn one collision into a multi-car accident.
Next, turn off your car. Keeping a car running after an accident is a serious hazard, as a broken fuel line or other hot fluids could lead to fires and burns. Once you and your vehicle are in a safe location, see if others involved in the accident need immediate help.
If you’re injured, it’s best to stay where you’re at and wait for medical help to arrive. Do not leave the scene of the accident unless your injuries are life-threatening. This is against the law in all states and can result in criminal charges.
2. Seek Medical Assistance
Even if no one appears seriously injured, dial 911 and get an ambulance on the way as soon as possible. Even a minor accident can cause hidden injuries. Sometimes you don’t realize you’re injured until after the adrenaline has worn off. Concussions and whiplash are common after car accidents, but the symptoms may not manifest for days or weeks.
After you’re examined by an EMT, make sure to follow up at an urgent care clinic or emergency room. This is vital even if you don’t feel like you sustained any injuries. When you file your auto insurance claim, you’ll want to include all medical bills and records. If you end up filing a personal injury claim, these initial examinations and records will help you build a stronger case.
The insurance company is sure to examine your medical records to see when you first started complaining about the injuries. They’ll try to argue that it wasn’t caused by the accident and that it’s not their responsibility to pay for your medical bills.
3. Cooperate With the Police
When you call for an ambulance, the local police force will also arrive. This is another vital step for your insurance claim and any future legal action that might result from the accident. The responding officers will interview the drivers involved, as well as any eyewitnesses. They’ll generate an official police report and may also issue a citation to the driver who’s at fault.
This accident report is crucial because it contains all of the drivers’ names and contact information, as well as their insurance information. It will also include details of how the accident occurred and other important factors such as the weather, lighting, and traffic conditions. Without this police report, it’s extremely difficult to pursue an insurance claim or build a strong case.
Be sure to contact the police and have them write a report, even if the accident didn’t seem too serious. Important note: Never admit fault to anyone — the other driver, the police officer, or your insurance company. Admission of guilt will affect how the insurance claims are handled by your auto insurer and medical insurer. Be cooperative, answer questions, and state the facts, but avoid sharing too much information.
4. Document the Scene
While you wait for the authorities to arrive or for the police to finish their report, do your own documentation of the accident scene. Use your smartphone to take pictures and videos of:
- All damage to your vehicle and the other party’s
- Any cuts, bruises, bleeding, or other obvious injuries
- The vehicles from every angle
- The roadway from every angle
- Current weather and lighting conditions
- Any obstacles on the road (i.e., debris or roadwork signs)
- Street names and intersection
- Traffic conditions
Some auto insurance companies have apps you can use to upload photos and videos from the scene of the accident. Even if you don’t send anything to your insurance company immediately, save everything for future use. Take detailed notes about what you were doing in the moments leading up to the accident.
Also, be sure to note anything that could have contributed to the accident, such as an obstacle on the road or a sudden change in weather. If you feel too shaky to write or type, record a voice note on your phone. Also, if you haven’t already done so, this is also the time to exchange contact and insurance information with the other party.
5. Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
Once the initial shock of the accident has passed, it’s time to think about the future. You’ll need to file a claim with your auto insurer and get follow-up care for any injuries you sustained in the crash. This is also the time to consider seeking legal aid from an experienced car accident attorney.
Injury lawyers know the ins and outs of the law and how to build a strong case. They also know that insurance companies tend to offer lowball settlements that don’t cover the full cost of the accident.
For example, have you missed time from work because of your injuries? Are you going through physical therapy or discussing the possibility of surgery? Is there a chance that your injuries could affect your future ability to work or take care of your family?
You could be entitled to compensation for all of these factors and more. Before you accept any settlement offer, it’s wise to discuss your case with an attorney who can advise you of your options and rights.
The Essential Car Accident List From Park Accident Attorneys
It’s natural to feel confused, angry, or uncertain after a car accident. Whatever challenges you’re facing, you don’t have to go through them alone. The legal team at Park Accident Attorneys has the experience, talent, and empathy you need. If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Buena Park, CA, we’ll work to recover the maximum compensation you deserve. Contact us now to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.