FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-04-19
From fender benders to multi-vehicle pileups, cars accidents can occur anytime, anywhere — by definition, an accident is unexpected. Nonetheless, knowing what to do in the immediate aftermath of a car accident can preserve your right to full compensation and save you worlds of frustration down the road.
At the Scene
First and foremost, in the minutes following the accident, try to stay calm. Sure, it’s a complete cliché — but it’s a good one. As coolly as you can, assess whether you need immediate medical attention, and then focus on the immediate medical needs of any other involved parties.
Of course, most motorists don’t need to be told that addressing medical emergencies in the wake of an auto accident is the first priority. But, keeping yourself collected will serve you on a number of other levels.
Sometimes, serious injuries do not begin to trouble you for hours or even days after a car accident. Treating these injuries can end up costing you thousands of dollars — and since you may require compensation for the harm you suffered in an accident, you should take steps to preserve your future legal claim.
Even if no life-threatening injuries are immediately apparent, you should call law enforcement authorities and ensure that the responding officer files a report. Your right to compensation from the at-fault driver may be reliant on the contents of the police report. Bearing that in mind, watch what you say following the accident; many of us have the propensity to babble after experiencing a traumatic event. Tell the truth, but keep yourself composed and limit your statements to a brief description of the factual events leading up to the crash. Never say anything that could be misinterpreted as an admission of fault (such as “I’m sorry” or “I just wasn’t paying attention”), and do not talk to anyone about the accident at the scene except for the police.
After the vehicles involved have been moved safely out of traffic, you may wish to engage in some onsite information gathering of your own. Take pictures of the damage and the area of the crash with a cell phone camera or some other imaging device. Make notes as to the exact location of the collision, how it happened and where the vehicles involved came to a rest. Get the other driver’s full information, including name, address, phone number, insurance company, insurance policy number, driver license number and license plate number. If there were witnesses to the accident, be sure to get their contact information as well.
Soon after the accident, you should inform your insurance company. Provide them with your version of events, but again, be cautious about what you say. If the other driver turns out to be underinsured, you may be making a claim against your own insurer, so do not downplay the full extent of your injuries.
Car accident attorneys are an extremely important resource following a crash. An experienced attorney will know how to further investigate the crash and assess the extent of your injuries. You attorney will have likely handled hundreds of cases similar to yours, and will know what your claim is worth (and therefore, what to ask for from insurers in order to disarm lowball offers). Perhaps most importantly, an attorney can help you fight for the full amount of compensation you need from all potentially liable parties, from the other driver and his or her insurer to a municipality responsible for the negligent design of the roadway.
When should you contact an attorney about your car accident? Generally, you should get in touch with a car accident attorney as soon as possible. For one thing, there is a statute of limitations that bars legal claims pertaining to auto accidents after a certain amount of time has elapsed. In addition, evidence is more easily collected shortly after the accident; because physical evidence can deteriorate, and witnesses’ memories can fade, your attorney will likely be a more effective advocate the sooner he or she can get to work on your case.
Take Action Now
If you have been injured in a car accident, do not wait to contact an attorney; of all the steps you should take following a serious crash, getting in touch with a lawyer is one of the most important. Protect your right to just compensation for you injuries and call a car accident attorney today.