Motor vehicle accidents can happen very fast, without much time to process how they happened. But the consequences can be devastating and chaotic.
Continue reading for more information about the steps that motorists involved in car accidents should take to best recover from injuries. There are also steps to successfully deal with the auto insurance claims process.
First Steps Immediately Following a Car Accident
Traffic accidents usually happen so quickly that it can be difficult to determine how the accident happened and who was at fault. It helps to have a general outline of the first steps you should take.
The first steps following a car accident include:
- Contacting law enforcement if there are injuries, deaths, or instances of property damage. Ask that a police report be completed and filed when law enforcement arrives on the scene of your auto accident.
- Remaining at the scene of the accident. If you are uninjured or if the accident was only a minor fender bender, it is still a good idea to call law enforcement to document the incident with a police report. Stay on the side of the road with your hazard lights on and wait for a police officer to arrive. Keep in mind that leaving the accident scene or committing a hit-and-run can have serious legal consequences.
- Checking the drivers and passengers to make sure they are safe. Get medical attention for those who need it. Be careful not to move anyone with neck or back pain, as doing so could result in even worse injuries.
- Exchanging information with the other motorist(s) involved, passengers, and any witnesses. You'll want to get names, addresses, phone numbers, driver's license numbers, license plate numbers, and basic insurance information.
- Taking pictures of the damage or any injuries. Since virtually all cell phones have cameras, you can take pictures of the damage. Those pictures should show all angles of the cars and any other visual information that would help explain what happened to a car accident lawyer or jury. The police should also document this in their accident report.
- Contacting your insurance company promptly, keeping in mind that the insurance adjuster may deny your injury claim if you fail to tell the truth or delay.
- Tracking your medical treatment if you have sustained any personal injuries. This will allow you to accurately estimate your medical bills and level of pain and suffering.
Taking Notes About Car Accident Injuries
Taking notes soon after a car accident, assuming you're not so seriously injured that you cannot take notes, is very important. Taking notes will help you accurately report accidents or counter dubious claims.
In your notes, you'll want to write down everything you can remember that is accident-related, including how the accident started, how it unfolded at impact(s), and its aftermath. What were the weather conditions? Were there signs of driver impairment at the time of the accident, such as intoxication? Was anything said after the accident that might help explain who was the responsible party? Was the other party uninsured? If they had insurance, what was the other driver's insurance policy number?
If you have sustained an injury, write down or take a recorded statement on everything you can remember about how it happened. Also, continue taking notes as symptoms come and go or as new conditions develop. Concussions and whiplash, for instance, may not be apparent at first. However, even mild symptoms may indicate a more serious injury.
When To Report a Car Accident
There is no one right answer on whether you should report an accident to your car insurance provider, to the other driver's insurance company, or at all. However, the rule of thumb is that you should report most car accidents reported to your own insurance company as soon as possible, especially if it's your fault. In no-fault states, the right answer is to notify your carrier if you want the carrier to cover the accident.
Some insurance policies indicate how long insured drivers have to report an accident. Make sure you check your policy if you're uncertain. (Disclaimer: even a low-speed collision can cause costly but otherwise unseen vehicle damage).
Whatever the case, if you need more help after a car crash, contact a car accident attorney near you for legal advice.