by LawInc Staff
November 13, 2023
Car accidents affect over 6 million people in the U.S., annually. Accordingly, knowing what to do if you’ve been involved in a vehicle collision is crucial.
To ensure your rights are protected, and that you receive fair compensation, it’s also important to immediately consult with a lawyer if you have been involved in a motor vehicle collision.
A qualified attorney can help you efficiently navigate the often complex legal system and insurance process.
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The following are ten crucial steps to follow if you have been involved in a car accident:
1. Move to Safety & Secure Accident Scene
- Pull Over: If vehicles can still be driven, carefully move out of the flow of traffic onto the shoulder or a side street. Turn on hazard lights to alert other drivers.
- Prevent Further Collision: Set up road flares or warning triangles to alert oncoming traffic of hazards and obstructed roadway. Try to prevent additional accidents.
- Wait for Police: Remain at the accident scene if possible until police arrive, unless circumstances become extremely unsafe. Do not flee the scene immediately.
2. Call 911 to Report Accident & Request Medical Aid
- Call Even If No Injuries: Getting an official accident report is important even if no one seems injured. Call 911 so police and medical teams are dispatched.
- Describe Scene: Provide dispatch with specific location, number and type of vehicles involved, apparent property damage, any concerning injuries, and hazards blocking the roadway.
- Request Police Response: Police can facilitate medical assistance, take witness statements, direct traffic safely, and document details for the official crash report.
3. Exchange Driver & Vehicle Information
- Collect Details From All Parties: Get full names, driver’s license numbers, insurance details including provider and policy number, phone numbers, addresses, and vehicle registration info.
- Note License Plates: Document all vehicles involved including make, model, year, color, and license plate number.
- Limit Conversation: Only discuss critical details and facts. Do not admit fault or speculate about what happened.
4. Document Accident Scene Thoroughly
- Take Photos From All Angles: Photograph damage to all vehicles, injuries and blood, skid marks, dents, any obstacles or conditions that contributed to the crash, and overall scene.
- Measure Skid Marks: Use a tape measure or other means to document skid mark lengths, distances, and locations as they can help reconstruct what occurred.
- Draw Detailed Diagram: Note positions of all involved vehicles both before and after the accident, traffic lights or signs, obstacles, directions vehicles were traveling, and surrounding road features.
5. Obtain Eyewitness Statements & Contact Info
- Record Observations: Ask eyewitnesses what exactly they saw happen, heard, or observed prior to, during, and after the accident sequence.
- Compare Accounts: Note any discrepancies between witnesses’ versions of events and check for consistencies.
- Request Written Statements: Police may arrive after witnesses have left the scene. Try to get written statements documenting what they observed.
6. Seek Prompt Medical Evaluation & Care
- Get Checked Out Thoroughly: Even for seemingly mild discomfort or ambigous symptoms, get evaluated urgently. Soft tissue injuries and internal damage can have delayed onsets.
- Explain Pre-Existing Conditions: Disclose any pre-existing medical issues to your doctor as accident trauma can exacerbate underlying conditions.
- Follow Up with Your Doctor: Serious issues like concussions, spinal injury, PTSD may require multiple visits with your primary doctor, specialists, or other healthcare professionals.
7. Consult with a Car Accident Attorney
- Discuss Legal Options: An attorney can explain settlement amounts, deciding between settlement or lawsuit, and factors that determine case value such as liability, verdicts in similar cases, special damages, negotiating strategy, and time required to reach resolution.
- Request Case Reviews: Ask about the attorney’s past record on relevant cases, win/loss rates, settlements obtained, and trial experience if needed.
- Ask About Fees: Most personal injury attorneys work on contingency meaning no upfront payment. They receive a percentage of any settlement or award.
- Avoid Early Statements: Recorded statements can be used against you. Speak to an attorney first to understand how to protect yourself.
- Assess Liability: An attorney can investigate who is at fault if it is unclear. They can determine the at-fault driver’s policy limits and assets to maximize potential compensation.
- File Before Deadlines: Strict statutes of limitations apply to personal injury lawsuits. A knowledgeable attorney ensures filing within deadlines to preserve your rights to legal action.
8. Refrain From Speculative Statements
- Decline Recorded Statements: Politely refuse to provide recorded statements to insurance providers without your attorney present and guiding the process.
- Stick to Facts: When describing the accident to police or others, stick to factual observations and avoid admitting guilt or speculating about the cause.
- Consult Attorney First: Before accepting any blame or liability, speak with your attorney to protect yourself from damaging admissions.
9. Notify Your Insurance Provider
- Prompt Notification: Most policies require notice within 24-48 hours. Late reporting can jeopardize your claim.
- Cooperate with Investigation: But get guidance from your attorney on providing an official recorded statement or interview.
- Discuss Coverage: Ask your attorney to explain the claims process, advise on benefits entitled to, and answer any questions about your provider’s policies.
10. Maintain Records & Documents
- Keep Paperwork Organized: Create files organizing medical bills, receipts for medications and equipment, communication with health providers and insurers, property damage estimates and invoices.
- Catalog Injuries & Treatment: Keep a detailed journal tracking doctor visits, prescribed medications/dosages, procedures, diagnostic tests, therapy appointments, recovery restrictions, treatment timelines, and symptom changes.
- Back Up Digital Evidence: Save copies of photos, videos, audio recordings to both cloud storage and physical devices in case originals are lost/destroyed.
Been in a Vehicle Accident?
If you have been injured in an auto accident, it’s essential that you immediately speak with an attorney. Being in an auto accident is extremely stressful and an experienced personal injury attorney can help protect your rights, build your claim, and work towards maximum compensation for your losses.
Contact us to learn how LawInc can help.