At Fault and Not At Fault: Essential Steps to Take After a Car Accident

There are more than 218 million registered drivers in the US-making our streets among the busiest in the world.

With all that traffic, it’s no wonder there’s an average of 6 million motor vehicle crashes in the US every year. As common as being involved in a car accident is, being prepared can make the event less chaotic if it ever happens.

First and foremost, taking the right steps after being in a crash involves protecting your safety and the safety of those around you. But it can also make all the difference in your insurance claim and even a potential lawsuit.

So what do you do when you’ve been involved in a car accident? Keep reading to find out.

On the Scene of the Car Accident

There are a number of things you should do while you’re still on the scene of the car accident. Before ever leaving the site of the crash, you should take these measures that give you a fighting chance with insurance but also account for your health and safety.

Make Sure Everyone Is Safe

The first step to take immediately following an accident is to make sure everybody is safe. Depending on how severe the impact was, there could be many degrees of injury. You need to assess this before considering property damage.

Begin by checking yourself thoroughly. Once you’re sure you’re okay, and if you are able, you should check on the other passengers. If you’re trained, you can administer first aid if necessary.

Whether someone on the scene is first aid certified or not, you should also call for medical attention for anybody who requires it. It’s important you don’t move or touch a person who is unconscious or suffering back or neck pain. This could result in a more severe injury.

When you can, move your car out of the way of traffic. Your car and any other car involved in the accident should pull off to the side of a road if it’s possible, and hazard lights should be used to warn other drivers.

Call the Police

If there’s physical injury or death, you should call the paramedics. Though they may not be necessary, receiving medical attention immediately following an accident may reveal injuries you didn’t know were there.

Regardless of how minor the car accident was, and even in the case that all parties agree to cooperate, you should call the police. In some states, calling the police is legally required after a car accident.

Police officers who respond to the accident will document the scene, including talking to all involved parties, assessing road conditions and property damage, and potentially speaking with witnesses.

The responding police officers will fill out an accident report as well. For good measure, you should ask for a copy of the report. You may also record the badge number and name of the police.

If the police don’t arrive at the scene of the accident, you can file an accident report yourself. Visit the nearest police station for an accident report (and make sure you get a copy of that as well).

Exchange Information

It’s absolutely necessary that you record the information of all parties involved in the accident for insurance purposes. Make sure you get the most important information, including:

  • First and last name(s)
  • Contact information (including phone numbers and email addresses)
  • Driver’s license number(s)
  • License plate number(s)
  • Type, color, and model of vehicle(s)
  • Location of the accident

If there are passengers also involved in the car accident, get their information as well.

When you’re exchanging information, it’s best that you don’t discuss who was at fault. The details of those conversations could later be used against you in the case of a lawsuit.

Speak to Witnesses

If there are any witnesses that stopped to help, ensure you get their information. Ask them for names, numbers, and/or addresses. You can ask them for details on what they saw.

After the Car Accident

The necessary steps following a car accident don’t end after leaving the scene of the crash. There’s plenty more to do after you’ve exchanged information and assessed any immediate injuries.

See Your Doctor

Some injuries don’t show their symptoms immediately. Whiplash, for example, can be delayed for more than 24 hours after an accident. Internal bleeding is another very serious injury that can be ongoing for days before you notice symptoms.

This is why it’s important to visit a doctor immediately following your car accident regardless of how severe you think your injuries are. A doctor can help to diagnose and treat injuries that you may not notice or know to look for. This gives you a better chance at recovery and rehabilitation after a crash.

Make Notes About the Accident

While it’s still fresh in your memory, record your thoughts on the accident. This will help you remember details should you need to recall them for the insurance company or for any other reason.

Write down all the details you can remember. Be sure to include locations (i.e. streets, intersections), road conditions, timelines, etc.

Inform Your Insurance Company

If you feel the need, you can call your insurance company while you’re still on the scene of the accident. They can tell you what information you’ll need to process your claim. This way, you don’t forget to gather anything you won’t be able to access later.

But, because of the potential shock of the accident, it may be wise to wait. It’s recommended you contact your insurance agent after you’ve left the crash, recovered your senses, and had a medical evaluation.

Be honest with your insurance company about the details of the accident. There are serious penalties for lying to an insurance company and processing fraudulent claim. If you lie to them and they find out, your claim might even be denied.

Have the police report with you when you call your agent. This can provide them with concrete evidence and details as to who was at fault for the accident.

When working with your insurance company, be aware that settlement offers take some time to process. This is why you should be wary of early settlement offers. Some injuries don’t show up for weeks or months after an accident, and you need to be sure your settlement offer is covering those potential injuries as well.

When you’re working through settlement offers, an attorney can offer advice and recommendations. Their expertise and knowledge of how insurance companies work may lead to a better settlement than you would otherwise obtain on your own.

Keep Track of Your Medical Treatment

Record everything related to your medical treatment since the accident. This involves any treatment from doctors, physical therapists, caregivers, chiropractors, and any other medical professionals providing you treatment.

Ask for copies of medical reports and bills. Keep those documents and record the details of all your appointment as well as any treatment or medication you receive. Keep a diary or journal of your recovery as well as any pain and you’ve endured as a result of the car accident.

Take Photographs

A picture really is worth 1000 words. Take photographs of your vehicle and any damage it has.

Your insurance company will use these photos to help them figure out how much you’ll be compensated in terms of property damage. The photos can also help in court in the case of a lawsuit.

If you have pictures of the car prior to sustaining damage, these can provide hard evidence of just how damaged your car was as a direct result of the car accident.

Find out the Property Damage Valuation

Your insurance company will provide you with a property damage valuation. This damage valuation will tell you what the insurance company has valued your damage at.

In many cases, people are unsatisfied with the value their given. In this case, look into independent repair estimates as well as costs for replacing the vehicle.

Voice any concerns to the insurance company. And if they insist on the value they provided, consider hiring an attorney or moving into mediation.

Hire a Lawyer

Especially when injuries are mild to severe or when your insurance company isn’t giving you the settlement you think you deserve, hiring an attorney is a smart choice. They can help you get the most from a lawsuit or insurance settlement.

Contact an experienced injury attorney to get the most help after an accident. The Law Offices of Joseph R. Dawson have 35 years of experience dealing with these matters. If you’ve been in a car accident in Florida, contact them for more information.

More on Health

The most important thing to do after a car accident is to ensure you’re safe and not severely injured. Following that, you should call the police and collect the info of the other people involved as well as witnesses. And when you’ve left the scene, it’s time to start thinking about contacting your doctor, your insurance company, and a lawyer.

Following these steps can minimize the long-term impact of an accident. And for more health-related tips and advice, be sure to check out our blog.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.