Steps to Take After a Car Accident
It isn’t something that most people plan. However, tens of thousands of people experience a car accident in the U.S. each year. Do you know the steps you need to take after you’ve been in a car accident? Read on for more information.
Be Prepared in Case it Happens
No, most of us don’t plan for an accident. But maybe we should. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety offers the following tips as to what you can do so that you will be more prepared in the unfortunate event that you are involved in a crash:
- Keep relevant documents in your car, such as registration and proof of insurance. Additionally, you should keep a list of medical information that may be important if you are ever seriously injured and unable to give the information to emergency workers yourself. Examples of the information you may need include any allergies you have and the name of your regular doctor.
- Keep emergency items in your car, such as flares, cones, and blankets. Also keep a pen and a notepad handy in case you need to jot down names and contact information for witnesses or the license plate number of a car.
- Ensure that you have the right type and amount of auto insurance for your car to cover expenses if you’re involved in an accident.
1. Safety First
The first thing you should do in an accident is to make sure that the occupants of your car and the other car are uninjured. Any injuries should be reported to 911 immediately. Additionally, you should move your vehicle from the roadway if possible to avoid a chain-reaction collision. Have the occupants exit your vehicle if they are able, and stand a safe distance from the roadway.
2. Don’t Leave the Scene of the Accident
Georgia law requires several things to happen after an accident before you are permitted to leave the scene:
- Exchange contact and vehicle registration information with the other driver, if your injuries permit
- Show your license, if requested by the other driver
- Provide reasonable assistance to anyone who is injured at the scene, if you can
- Contact emergency medical services or the police
Leaving the scene before you have fulfilled these obligations could result in being charged with hit-and-run, which is a felony offense.
3. Make a Report
If you have not already done so, contact 911 to report the accident. If the accident is not serious and there are no injuries, it is sometimes possible to do this online or at the police station rather than waiting for the police on the side of the road. If the police do respond to the scene, be sure to get the name and badge number of the officer conducting the investigation and ask where you can get a copy of the police report when it becomes available.
4. Collect Information and Evidence
Collect the names and contact information from all witnesses to the accident. Also ask the driver of the other car for his or her name, license, car registration, insurance card information and the vehicle make and model. It is sometimes faster to take photos of this information. You should also take photos of the accident scene, including damage to your vehicle and to the other vehicle, the weather and traffic conditions present at the time of your crash, and any other points of interest at the scene.
Be sure when talking to the other driver that you avoid discussing who is at fault for the accident, as these statements can be used against you when it comes time to file a third-party insurance claim.
5. Seek Medical Treatment
Even if you don’t “feel” hurt, you should seek medical treatment. The reason to do so is that the adrenaline rush you experience could be masking the symptoms of injuries in the hours immediately following the accident. Additionally, some injuries present with delayed symptoms, making it hard for you to know for sure whether you’re injured. Seeking prompt medical treatment is the best way to discover any hidden injuries that you have.
During your initial medical evaluation and with all further appointments, ask for copies of records including medical reports and bills, as well as an accounting of any medications you receive. Additionally, keep a record of missed work days as well as a journal of how the injuries have impacted your daily life.
6. Notify Your Insurer
While the details are still fresh in your head, report the accident to your own insurer as it is likely required in your insurance policy. Answer all of their questions completely and truthfully, and be sure to inform them of the extent of your injuries. Lying to your insurance provider may lead to penalties that include a denial of coverage.
7. Use Caution when Discussing Your Accident
The only individuals you should be discussing your accident with are your attorney, your insurer, and your doctors. Use caution in discussing the details of your accident with anyone else, including the other driver’s insurance provider. Don’t give a statement to the other driver’s insurer or sign any documentation for them until after you’ve spoken to an attorney. Don’t post about your accident on social media. Remember that any statements you make about the accident can be used against you during the claims process or a personal injury lawsuit.
Further, while agreeing to a quick settlement may seem like an easy way to get the money you need for your injuries, that settlement likely doesn’t take into consideration your future medical needs or the impact your injuries will have on your quality of life. Once you’ve signed an agreement to a settlement offer, you may not be able to collect more money if you need it in the future.
8. Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
Having the representation of someone who is well versed in the legalities surrounding car accidents and personal injury claims can prove invaluable to your case. For a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys, contact us online or by calling (404) 596-8044.