Given that the NHTSA say police-reported car accidents crossed the 5 million mark in 2020 in the U.S. If you\’ve been involved in a car accident, you are not only not alone, but you share the stress and uncertainties as to how to handle things post-accident.
Ensuring all aspects of the incident are handled properly is important for your mental health and legal well-being too.
Here are some tips on what to do and what not to do if you\’ve been in an accident:
Seek Medical Attention
Seeking medical attention is obviously the first and most urgent action to take. Given the motor vehicle accident rate, the incidence of injuries is also very high with data from the National Safety Council shows that 4.8 million people were seriously injured in automobile collisions in 2020.
A doctor can help determine the severity of your injuries and advise on how to care for them. You should also request a note from your doctor stating that you were injured in the accident and need time off work due to these injuries.
This will be especially helpful if you need to file an insurance claim or sue the driver responsible for causing your injuries.
Your health insurance company may reimburse some expenses related to medical treatment after an auto accident, but it\’s best to document all of your medical expenses as soon as possible so there is no confusion about what should be covered by insurance later on down the line.
Make sure all doctors\’ bills have been submitted before filing any claim with either party involved (the other driver\’s insurance company or yours). This way, there won\’t be any surprises when settlement negotiations begin.
Document the Scene of the Accident
Documenting the scene of the accident is critical. You can take photos with your smartphone, write notes about what happened, when, or both, and document everything you can about the accident. This includes:
- Photos of damage to your vehicle (and any other cars involved)
- A description of where precisely each vehicle was before and after impact and whether those vehicles were parked or moving at the time of impact
- A description of weather conditions (e.g., foggy vs. sunny) at the time of impact. Data shows that 24% of all weather-related vehicle crashes result from snow or icy pavements.
- Photography or written documentation of any injuries sustained due to an accident (if applicable).
Call the Law Enforcement Agency
If you are injured, or if there are injuries or fatalities involved in the accident, call 911. If the crash is blocking traffic and/or any other extenuating circumstances need to be addressed immediately by law enforcement, you should call 911.
If you believe there is key evidence relating to the accident that may be useful in any subsequent court proceeding you should wait until law enforcement arrives before collecting these items so as not to tamper with or destroy anything important during the investigation process.
Don\’t Admit Fault at the Accident
Do not admit any fault at the scene of the accident. You need to co-operate and exchange necessary insurance details but admitting fault will obviously seriously affect any court case and until you have taken legal advice just keep to the details outlined here, rather than making admissions that may or may not be correct in any event.
This requirement also extends to not providing any written document relating to the accident that you might provide to the other driver or to their insurance company.
Similarly, do not have your voice recorded regarding the circumstances of the accident, which is something that most (if not all) state laws will permit.
Write Down the Contact Information of Any Witnesses and Passengers
If there are witnesses, get their names and contact information. If passengers were in your vehicle at the time of the accident, take down their names and contact information. If you or one of your passengers are injured, get a statement from them about what happened.
If you think another driver might be intoxicated, get their license plate number so you can report them later if necessary. New data suggest that crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit have increased. In fact, data shows that drunk drivers lead to 28% of all American traffic fatalities, resulting in around 10,000 deaths annually.
You should also try to get a description of the other driver and their vehicle, if possible. If you have a camera on your phone, use it to take pictures of any damage or injuries.
Contact Your Insurance Company
When you have been involved in a car accident, you must notify your insurance company as soon as possible. This can be done by calling the number on your insurance card or by going online and providing them with a brief description of the accident. You should provide them with witnesses\’ names, addresses, and phone numbers during the incident.
The insurance company can assist with care rental, repairs, medical expenses and so forth until any court case is dealt with.
You need to co-operate with your insurance company to ensure you receive all the benefits that might be forthcoming from them under your policy, which may also involve you speaking with your attorney first (as below).
You will also want to provide details about any damage caused to either vehicle(s) involved in this accident and any injuries sustained during the said collision. Your insurance company will be able to assist you further if they need additional information from you after receiving these initial reports.
Contact Your Attorney
Once you have the evidence you want, the next step should always be to contact an attorney. As you know, the legal system is complex, and it can be challenging to navigate alone. Your attorney will help you understand your rights and determine whether you have a case worth pursuing.
Your attorney will also help with any insurance claims process and any legal issues or consequences arising from the accident. Car accidents can be very costly, considering the medical expenses, lost wages, etc.
According to data from the National Security Council, the total cost of car accidents in 2020 was estimated at $474 billion. An attorney will work toward getting you a settlement that provides fair compensation for your injuries while avoiding unnecessary costs like excessive medical bills and lost wages due to missed time at work while recovering from car accident-related injuries.
Try to work with a local attorney who is well-versed with the laws of the city or state where the accident occurred. This is because the local lawyer will know the local laws and regulations.
For example, the statute of limitations for a car accident case in California (CA) is two years, and that in Florida (FL) is four years. Hence, if you hire a lawyer based in FL for an accident that occurred in San Mateo, CA, the lawyer might not know this and several other such state-specific laws.
You need to be aware of different state laws regarding filing claims in relation to car accidents. For instance, we are car accident attorneys in San Mateo, CA,where there is the two year limitation period, but the necessary legal advice will tell you what restrictions you have regarding filing for car accident claims, along with any other key, legal pointers.
Source: Danko Meredith Attorneys, Redwood City, CA.