By: KGD Law
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10 Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Car accidents are scary, but they happen more commonly than we would like. Even if everyone involved in the accident comes out relatively unscathed, the details in the aftermath of an accident are the last thing someone wants to deal with when they were on their way to work or a social engagement.
However, tempting as it may be to shortcut some of the important steps post-accident, it is vital that you know what to do so that you can have all the information you need to have the best possible outcome and to avoid trouble with the law.
No matter the details of the accident, here are 10 things you should always do if you are involved in an auto accident. If you have ever been unsure of what steps to take following a crash, big or small, read on to learn more.
1. Do Not Leave the Scene
You should never just drive away from the scene of a motor vehicle accident, no matter how minor you think the accident was. It doesn’t matter if you believe you were not at fault or another party was to blame – you should always stay at the scene.
If you leave the area, and it later turns out that you were mistaken and the other driver or drivers sustained injuries or property damage, you could be charged with a hit and run, whether you were at fault or not.
If police are called to the scene, they will not have all the information about the accident that they need, and insurance may not cover you if you leave without exchanging information. If you are charged with a hit and run, this offense could carry heavy fines and jail time, so it is not worth it to just speed off, even if you think that will be easier.
2. Make the Scene Safe
Before anyone arrives at the scene to make the roadway safe again, be sure to find a way to alert other drivers to the accident so that they are not at risk of danger when they come upon the wreck. It can be a good idea to carry small traffic cones or something else eye-catching in your auto emergency kit.
If it is safe, try not to move or remove anything from the scene of the accident. This can serve as evidence later, and it can help officials figure out what happened during the wreck. It is a good idea to get out of the car because of fire risk, but if the accident was in a dangerous area, be sure to wait in a safe place.
3. Call the Police
Even if the accident does not seem to be serious, it is still a good idea to notify the police. Sometimes your insurance company may require a police report to file a claim and get compensated.
If your vehicle is still drivable and is in a dangerous spot in the road, move your vehicle to a safer place as close to the scene as possible (but take photos first). Otherwise, try not to disturb any evidence before police arrive.
4. Make an Accurate Record
When you speak with the police, tell the officials everything you remember to the best of your ability. If you can’t remember certain details, just say so. It is never advisable to make something up or misrepresent events.
When they ask if you are hurt, you should respond that you are not sure, rather than no, in the case that you think you are uninjured. Often, injuries can show up a few day later after the adrenaline has worn off.
5. Take Photos
If you have a camera on your cellphone, take detailed pictures of the scene. However, make sure that your photography is not interfering with the police investigation and stay out of their way when asked.
Capture images of all vehicles involved from several angles, any debris or evidence that came from the vehicles, skid marks or property damage, and relevant traffic signs or signals. If you have visible injuries, photograph them as well to document them for your medical records.
6. Exchange Info
Usually, the responding officers will be gathering all the necessary information from those involved in the accident and any witnesses. You should also make sure to acquire this information from them, or from the involved parties yourself if the police are not on the scene.
Make sure to copy the information from their insurance cards and license, and give your information in return. If there is a police report filed, get the police report number as well. Get the name, address, phone number, and emails of any relevant parties, and try to get a card from the responding officer as well.
7. Report the Accident
Be sure to contact your insurance company to report the accident as soon as possible. Many policies require prompt reporting, and they will need to be in contact with both you and the other parties to gather all the pertinent information.
Does your policy include medical coverage as well? This kind of coverage often costs extra, so if you have any medical costs that could be associated with the accident, make sure to take advantage of this benefit. Medical coverage often requires the bills and notes from your doctor to be submitted promptly, so all the more reason to report early.
8. See a Doctor
As mentioned earlier, injuries can often be masked by the adrenaline surge after an accident, and issues such as whiplash may not cause you pain until some time after the crash.
Even if you suspect you were not hurt in the wreck, it is advisable to seek medical attention as soon as possible, and ideally within 24 hours of the accident. Some injuries may not even cause pain or be noticeable for a long time, so a medical professional can check you for hidden or internal injuries to bones, organs, or the head and spine.
If you wait too long to get checked, it can become harder to demonstrate that the accident was the source of your injuries. Minor crashes can cause major problems down the road if left untreated.
9. Keep Records
Keep all your related documents together in one file. Include names and contact information, accident reports, medical records, insurance claim numbers, bills and expenses, and anything else related to the accident and its aftermath.
Store your documents in a safe and private place. If possible, it is even better to acquire multiple copies of all of your documents and store them in different locations, in case of loss or damage.
10. Protect Your Rights
The most important thing you can do after you are involved in an accident is to speak to an attorney. They can help you with the next steps and make sure any evidence remains uncompromised, especially if your accident was not straightforward. A lawyer can advise you on what to say to the insurance companies when they ask for a statement.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, you could be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Contact the Law Offices of Kirshner, Groff, and Diaz for a no-obligation consultation about your case. You will be put in touch directly with an actual lawyer.