Steps You Should Take After a Car Accident
What should you do immediately after a car accident? While most of the accidents on the road involve property damage, approximately 30% of all car crashes result in personal injury to the driver or passengers. If you were injured in an accident, here is a list of things you should do right away to protect yourself and your rights:
Stop and Remain At Scene
It is important that you remain at the scene of the accident until the police arrive. Never leave the scene without first exchanging information with the other driver. Leaving the scene too soon may work against you down the road harm your legal rights.
Make sure it is safe to get out of the vehicle before you do so. Turn on your hazard lights. If the accident occurs in the middle of the freeway, or in an area where it is not safe to remain outside of the vehicle, remain in your car and lock all doors.
Call Police – 911
Getting the accident documented by the police department or the California Highway Patrol will help when submitting your claim to the insurance company. Make sure to obtain the police report number from the officers and order a copy of your police report right away. Accept an offer of ambulance, if needed.
Make A Police Report
Sometimes the police refuse to issue a report where there is no alcohol, drugs or serious injuries involved. Keep in mind, however, that even if you feel no pain right away, chances are that your adrenaline rush is preventing you from recognizing the injury. You should insist that the officers issue a report, and document everyone's statements at the scene and their contact information.
When you receive a copy of this report, make sure everything there is accurate. If you disagree with any portion of the report, you may go to the police station and request to have it revised to reflect the correct information.
See our blog: Importance of Filing a Police Report After a Car Accident.
Preserve Visual Evidence
A picture is worth a thousand words. Take pictures of all cars involved, their damage, and any road markings or debris. The presence or absence of skid marks on the road may become an important issue in your case. If you were visibly hurt, take pictures of your injuries right away, and keep taking them throughout the treatment process to show the progress.
Collect And Exchange Insurance And Contact Information
If the police came out to the scene, the officers will take care of gathering all pertinent information, and will then put it in the police report. If the police do not respond, however, you should make sure to get the names, addresses and contact information for everyone present, including the other drivers, witnesses and bystanders.
Start a Claim With Insurance Company
You will need to notify your own insurance company of the accident as soon as possible. Many drivers are afraid of notifying their carrier for the fear of having an accident on your record. As long as the accident was not your fault, reporting it should not make any difference on your driving record. You should also find out if you have any medical payment benefits as part of your policy.
This type of coverage, known simply as “medpay”, is meant to cover the urgent medical costs, such as emergency room and ambulance services, in the immediate aftermath of the accident.
See our blog: How Can I Prove The Other Driver Was at Fault?
Get Immediate Medical Care
Although you may not feel painful symptoms right away, do not assume that you were not injured. Most whiplash and soft tissue injuries manifest within hours or even days after the accident. If you experience pain or discomfort in any part of your body following the accident, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Especially in cases involving rear-end collisions, a serious spinal injury may result, and if allowed to go undetected and untreated, cause permanent handicap and disability. If you hit your head, blacked out or lost consciousness even for a brief period of time, you should receive neurological follow up to address any brain trauma or post-concussive symptoms.
If you notice any changes in your mood or ability to remember following the accident, it may be a sign of serious brain injury.
Keep All Records In One Place
It is important to keep organized and collect all accident-related information in one safe place. Take care that the photographs you took on the date of the accident do not get accidentally deleted. Preserve all contact information and receipts for out-of-pocket expenses, such as medication, co-pays and car rental.
Consult With an Injury Lawyer
If you were injured in an accident, it is important to secure legal representation right away. Your personal injury attorney will make sure that all important evidence is preserved, and will consult with you before you make any statements to the insurance companies.
The other party's insurance will contact you right away and ask to take your recorded statement, where they will try to make it sound like you were either partly or completely at fault for the accident, or were not injured. Your attorney will help you avoid all the pitfalls of the insurance claim, and guide you toward successful completion of your case.
We work on contingency, which means we do not charge you any money unless we obtain compensation for your injuries. Call us today for a free consultation at 310-734-7974.