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What To Do After a Car Accident That's Not Your Fault

It can happen to anyone at any time: You're commuting to work, one hand wrapped around a hot cup of joe while you nod your head to the music. Suddenly, you hear the crunch of steel as your neck is jerked violently back and forth. The driver behind you has rear-ended your car, possibly while checking a text message or fiddling with the radio dial. The fender bender is not your fault, but now you have yet another item on your busy agenda to handle. What should you do?

Car crashes are never pleasant, but the following information will help you achieve the best possible outcome.

First Steps After a Car Accident

Many of the steps you take following a car accident are the same regardless of who's at fault. But there are some things you can do to protect your interests in the event the other party leaves the scene of the accident, fails to report the auto accident, contradicts your account of the events, or is otherwise uncooperative.

Assess Injuries and the Scene

First of all, take a deep breath and remain calm. If you are injured, get immediate medical attention. Take notes about your injuries, if possible, to aid in any future injury claims. Check on all drivers and passengers who may be involved in the accident for bodily injuries and help those in need of emergency care. Do not move an injured person unless it's necessary for their safety.

If you can, safely take photographs of the vehicles in their original accident position.

Then, turn on the hazard lights and move the vehicles out of traffic onto the side of the road if possible. You don't want to cause an unnecessary traffic jam or another collision.

Gather Information

If the other driver is the at-fault party, such as in the rear-end collision illustrated above, they're responsible for reporting the accident to their car insurance provider. But don't assume the other driver will take care of it. Leaving the scene of an accident is a felony if there's evidence of a crime. That is why you want to exchange information and collect the following:

  • Name, address, and phone number of the other driver
  • Insurance information, including the insurance company name and policy number of the other driver
  • Witness statements and their contact information (if applicable)
  • Photographs of the accident scene (including the license plate number and driver's license of the other driver, if possible) and the site of the damage
  • Security camera footage from nearby stores/buildings and ask them to provide you with a copy or keep the footage

Consider Calling the Police

Even if it's unclear whether you may have contributed to the accident, collecting the above information may help you make your case. If there are physical injuries (either to yourself, the other driver, or passengers) or significant property/vehicle damage, you may want to call the police. Although a police report may not be admissible in civil court, it will give you leverage when giving your version of events or reaching a settlement offer with the at-fault driver's insurance company.

What To Do When You Get Home

Assuming you haven't sustained serious injuries, you'll want to take care of some extra steps after you get home (or the next morning, but as soon as possible). If you have car accident injuries keep detailed (and ongoing) notes.

In a best-case scenario, the other driver will report the accident to their insurer, and the insurance company will write you a check for your property damage and any medical bills or medical expenses incurred.

Contact Your Own Insurance Company

Car accidents often happen in the blink of an eye. You might not have a full picture of the events leading up to the collision. And yes, perhaps you were at fault, if only partially. Also, there may be instances where the other motorist's insurance company denies responsibility, or the at-fault driver doesn't have an insurance policy.

In either case, your own insurance company will need to know. It will be able to launch a legal challenge against the other insurer or process a collision claim for your vehicle. You establish a good-faith effort by contacting your insurance company to share the accident report, regardless of fault.

Consider Suing the Other Driver's Insurance Company

In most instances, the other party's auto insurance company may accept coverage and pay the insurance claim for damages you incurred. Occasionally, especially in the absence of a police report, it may take the side of its policyholder and deny coverage. In this case, your own insurer may either cover the damage, sue the other insurance company, or try to reach a settlement that works for all parties.

You always have the option of hiring a car accident lawyer and suing the other party's insurer yourself for damages or personal injury. But keep in mind, there may not be enough evidence to make a solid case. Or the amount of money involved may not be worth the stress and time spent in litigation. You should weigh the pros and cons with an experienced car accident attorney before taking action.

Personal Injury Protection

State laws vary on the minimum insurance required. While some require motorists to carry liability insurance, in addition, some no-fault states require drivers to carry personal injury protection (PIP coverage) to cover medical treatment for accident victims. PIP coverage can assist if you have severe injuries, but only up to your insurance coverage limit.

Have an Attorney Evaluate Your Car Accident Claim

Now that you know what to do after a car accident that's not your fault, you may have additional questions about whether the at-fault driver will cover your deductible, and personal injury claims. A personal injury attorney can provide legal advice and assist in the claims process. Before sharing medical records with an insurance adjuster, consult a personal injury lawyer so you don't undermine your case.

Get started today and contact an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer near you.

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