In my personal injury practice, I’ve handled countless car accident cases. While an injury claim hinges on factors such as determining which driver was at fault, the insurance laws of the state in which the accident occurred, and the extent of your injuries, the steps you take after an accident can weigh heavily on an injury claim. This article is a brief discussion of what you should do after a car accident.
What To Do After A Car Accident
Although being involved in a car crash is a frightening experience, it is important to remain calm. As difficult as maintaining your composure may be, especially if you or another passenger are injured, the actions you take in the wake of the accident can have lasting repercussions.
Therefore, it is critically important to avoid these mistakes after a car accident:
- Remain at the Scene — After a car accident, the law requires you to stop and remain at the scene. You must also check on the other driver and exchange information. If anyone has been injured, you are also required to seek medical assistance. Depending on the circumstances, fleeing the scene of a car accident can lead to misdemeanor or felony charges.
- Call the Police — It is also crucial to call the police and file a report. The police report will serve as evidence if you decide to pursue a personal injury claim. Failing to contact law enforcement after a car accident opens the door to disputes that could jeopardize your claim.
- Seek Medical Attention — Even though you may feel fine, adrenaline may mask your injuries, which may not surface until days or weeks after the accident. Failing to seek medical attention immediately after a car accident may cause your injuries to worsen and also prevent you from recovering damages. The at-fault driver’s insurer or attorney may claim that your injuries are unrelated to the accident.
- Collect Documentation — After a car accident, take photos of the accident scene, damage to the vehicles, and your injuries, if you are able to do so. It is also important to get the other driver’s contact and insurance information, as well as the names and contact information of any witnesses. Your personal injury attorney will be able to use this documentation to support your claim.
- Do Not Admit Fault — Under no circumstances should you apologize to the other driver, admit fault to the police or make a statement to the other driver’s insurance company. Simply saying “I’m sorry” at a car accident scene can impact the value of your claim. Determining fault is best left to law enforcement and the attorney handling your personal injury case.
- Do not speak to an Insurance Adjuster — Shortly after the accident, you will likely be contacted by a claims adjuster from yours or the other driver’s insurance company. Claims adjusters represent the insurer’s interests, not yours, and they will attempt to pay as little as possible or deny your claim. You should not speak to anyone from an insurance company or sign any papers, such as a release, before you have contacted a lawyer.
- Immediately Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer — The best way to protect your rights after a car accident is to contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Personal injury attorneys generally offer free consultations during which you can receive an assessment of your case and explore all your options for compensation. If you have a valid claim, your attorney can help to collect evidence, examine the accident scene, interview witnesses while their memories are still fresh, and handle all the details of your claim, including filing a civil lawsuit. Ultimately, failing to contact a lawyer will make it more difficult to obtain the full value of your claim.
Why This Matters
After a car accident, it is important to avoid the foregoing mistakes so that your interests will be protected. The wise thing to do is stay calm, contact the police, collect evidence if possible, and then call a personal injury attorney. Some car accident victims believe they do not need an attorney because they have automobile insurance which will cover their injuries and property damage. As mentioned above, insurers often put profits ahead of injury victims and seek to pay injury claims for as little money as possible. By working with the right lawyer, you can obtain compensation that considers all of your medical and financial needs.