If you are like many other people, you spend a great deal of time in your automobile. Although you consider yourself a safe driver and you follow all of the rules of the road, there is a risk of an accident. No one wants to involved in an accident, but sometimes it is unavoidable. In fact, automobile accidents are extremely common, so it’s important that you take certain steps after an automobile accident to ensure you are protected. Failing to take certain steps may put you, your health, and your financial stability in jeopardy. Here are the top 3 things to do when you are involved in a car accident.
1. Safety First
Immediately after the accident, it will probably take you a few seconds to register what has actually happened. But, as soon as you recognize what has just occurred it is critical that you make sure you, your passengers and anyone else involved in the accident are okay. First, make sure you aren’t injured by checking closely. Even if you feel okay, your adrenaline is running high, which can mask pain, so it’s easy to be seriously injured and not even realize it until you calm down, so check very carefully. If you or anyone else is injured, call 9-1-1 immediately and do not attempt to move anyone that is injured, including yourself if you are injured. The vehicles involved in the accident should not be moved unless they are in the path of oncoming traffic. If your vehicle is in danger of being involved in or causing another accident, if no one has been injured, if your vehicle is drivable pull the vehicle off of the highway and onto the side of the road, turn the hazard lights on, and get out of the vehicle. Once you have determined the safety of everyone involved, contact the police to file an accident report.
If you were able to stay at the scene of the accident and talk to the police, as soon as you finish filing the report, it’s important that you still get checked out by a medical professional. It is common for automobile accident injuries to not be immediately apparent, but the pain may happen a day or two afterward. So, unless you are absolutely positive that you’ve not been injured, you should seek medical attention from your family doctor or a local emergency room as soon after the accident as possible. Even the most minor accidents may cause serious and permanent injuries to your brain or spinal cord, without immediate notice.
2. Gather and Document Evidence
It is important that you call the police, regardless of how minor the accident seems and whether or not there are injuries. Many insurance providers require a police report before they will pay on your claim and if you realize later that you have been injured, you will need the police report to file a claim for damages to your vehicle as well as a claim for your injuries. While waiting for the police to arrive, there is some important evidence you will need to collect, including:
- Take a lot of photos-If you do not have a camera in your vehicle, use your cell phone to take as many pictures of the accident scene as possible. It’s extremely important that you photograph your vehicle damage as well as damage to the other vehicle, but you should also take photos of your injuries, the area, such as street signs, landmarks, and the road. Try to take photos of the proximity of each vehicle involved in the accident and the damages; this may help to determine fault and it can be helpful for filing a claim for injuries and damages. Don’t forget to photograph skid marks, road hazards, and the other driver’s license plate, insurance documents, and registration.
- Exchange and record information-When the police arrive, you will need to provide a detailed description of what happened. It is important that you not speculate, misstate, or guess about what happened. The police will generally ask if you are injured, so even if you don’t think you are, it’s better to say that you aren’t sure instead of saying a definitive no. While waiting for the police to arrive, it may be helpful to use the recording device on your cell phone to verbally document what you remember about the accident, the location of the accident, and information about the other vehicle, including license plate number, color, and type of vehicle. Do not forget to ask the police when and where you can pick up a copy of the police report and the officer’s name, badge number, and the name of the precinct they are from.
- Witness information-If there were witnesses to the accident, you will want to get their information in case the insurance provider, police, and/or attorney need to contact them. Ask for their personal information, including name, address, and phone number, and if they are willing and while the information is fresh in their mind, you may want to record them talking about what they witnessed.
3. Be Careful About What You Say and Do
Along with ensuring everyone is safe and receiving the appropriate medical care, one of the most important things you should do when you are involved in an automobile accident is to avoid incriminating yourself. Do not apologize to the other driver or the police, because this can be viewed as an admission of guilt. At the time of the accident, you may think it was your fault, but find out later that the other driver was intoxicated and swerved, which may be the actual reason for the accident. If you admit blame, it will be much harder for you to file a claim for compensation for damages and/or injuries. Be mindful of what you say to others and be extra careful about what you post on social media. The insurance company will often search your social media pages to find photos and comments you made in an attempt to discredit your claim.
Maintain a record of all the evidence and documents relating to the accident. Contact your insurance company and report the accident as soon as possible and most importantly, contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible, especially if you have been injured.
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