None of us want to experience a car accident, and it’s not something we expect to happen when we head out onto the road. However, a crash can happen when you least expect it, even to the most experienced and careful drivers.
Accidents can cause stress, but knowing what happens next can help you maintain control of the situation and confidently begin the claim process. Always consult a car accident attorney about the best course of action.
Things to Expect After a Car Accident
After a car accident, you may wonder what comes next and how you can best navigate the following medical, legal, and insurance processes. This guide will walk you through what to expect following a car crash, though it is not a substitute for a legal consultation with a car accident lawyer.
Seeking Medical Attention to Get Diagnosis
After the immediate shock of a car accident wears off, it’s crucial to seek medical attention as soon as possible to diagnose any injuries that may not be immediately evident.
Whether you visit an emergency room, urgent care center, or your primary care physician, getting a proper diagnosis is essential for obtaining the right treatment and preventing further complications down the road.
Document all medical visits and expenses, as your medical records, bills, and receipts will be crucial in proving the extent of your injuries and securing compensation for all expenses.
Undergoing Treatment for Your Condition
Depending on the nature of your injuries, your doctor may recommend various treatments, ranging from rest and rehabilitation to surgery and ongoing therapy. Do your best to follow your doctor’s instructions and attend all appointments to give yourself the best chance of fully recovering.
As mentioned, keep track of all medical bills and invoices, as these will be necessary to calculate your damages and compensation. We cannot stress this enough.
Dealing with Insurance Companies When Filing a Claim for Compensation
This is where the process can become more complicated, as insurance companies may try to offer you a lowball settlement or deny your claim altogether. Be sure to document all correspondence with your insurance company and consult an experienced lawyer to protect your rights.
Navigating the Legal Process
If your insurance company fails to give you a fair offer, you may need to consider other avenues of compensation to recover your losses. Hiring a lawyer with a deep understanding of the law and extensive experience navigating this process can positively affect your case’s outcome.
Your lawyer can negotiate with insurance companies, bring legal action, and represent your best interests in front of the judge or jury.
Building a Legal Case
Building a solid legal case involves:
Talking to witnesses.
Negotiating with insurance companies.
Presenting your case in court.
This process can be time-consuming and requires attention to detail. With a skilled lawyer on your side, you can strengthen your case and improve your chances of getting the compensation you deserve.
Filing a Lawsuit
If negotiating with insurance companies does not produce a satisfactory outcome, filing a lawsuit may be a viable option to secure the compensation you deserve.
Depending on the specifics of your case, a lawsuit may be filed against the other driver, their insurance company, or other parties who may be at fault. Your attorney will guide you through every step of the legal process and represent you in court to ensure your interests are represented and protected.
Mistakes to Avoid After a Car Accident
People often do not realize this, but the decisions you make in the immediate aftermath of an accident can have long-lasting consequences and impact your ability to obtain compensation later on.
That’s why knowing the potential pitfalls and avoiding mistakes after a car crash is crucial.
Admitting guilt. After an accident, it may be a natural reaction to apologize to the other driver or say something like, “It was my fault,” “I should have hit the brakes,” or “I didn’t even see you!” However, even if you think you are at fault, don’t say anything that may be interpreted as an admission of guilt. What you say after your accident can work against you later. Instead, stick to the facts and, whenever you can, let your lawyer do the talking for you. Exchange insurance information with the other driver and cooperate with law enforcement, but do not take responsibility.
Underestimating your injuries. Often, accidents can result in injuries that may not be immediately apparent. Adrenaline can mask pain and make it more difficult to detect injuries. That’s why it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately after a collision, even a seemingly minor one. A doctor will perform a full medical exam to identify any injuries. Delaying medical treatment can not only lead to worsening your condition but can also harm your legal case. Insurers often use delay in treatment to dispute the severity of the claimant’s injuries.
Trusting the insurance company. Insurance companies’ primary goal is to protect their interests, which never align with yours. They will try to minimize payouts or deny claims whenever possible to protect their bottom line. Even if the other driver’s insurance company seems friendly and sympathetic, they are not your advocate. A lawyer can manage communication with the insurance company and help protect your legal rights throughout the claims process.
Not contacting a lawyer right away. Many accident victims mistakenly believe they can handle the matter on their own or that hiring a lawyer is too expensive. However, hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer can often result in a higher settlement or award, covering attorney fees and resulting in more compensation. Many attorneys offer free, no-obligation consultations, so there’s no harm in discussing your case with a lawyer.
The moments after the collision can be chaotic and scary. As a victim, you may be feeling frustrated and helpless. However, you should do your best to avoid these mistakes to ensure you set your insurance claim up for success rather than failure.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) When Trying to Figure Out What to Expect After a Car Accident
Getting into a car accident can be a traumatic experience that may leave you with a lot of unanswered questions and specific concerns. In the FAQ section below, we will try to answer some of these questions to help ease your worries and ensure you know what to expect after the crash.
Do I need to report the accident to the police?
One of the first things you should do after a car accident is call 911 (that, of course, after you get to safety and check for injuries).
Even if no one suffered injuries, contact the police. They will document the accident scene and record information that can help establish how the accident occurred and who is at fault. If the police do not come to the scene (this often happens if the accident is not a priority to them), you may need to visit the nearest police station to report the accident immediately.
Note: Accident reporting requirements vary by state. For example, motorists in Georgia must report accidents in which anyone gets injured or dies and/or the apparent extent of property damage exceeds $500 (Georgia Code § 40-6-273).
Should I report the accident to my insurance?
You should report a car accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Failure to do so may result in your insurer denying you coverage for damages or injuries sustained during the accident.
Provide accurate information and include essential details such as the date and time of the accident, location, and the names of the other drivers involved. However, do not admit fault or say anything that can remotely sound like your admission of guilt, as this can derail your case.
Note: The period within which you should notify your insurer of the accident varies from one insurance provider to another. Generally, insurance companies require policyholders to report accidents within 24 to 48 hours of the date of the incident. Check your policy details to find out exactly what the time limit is.
What information should I document about the accident?
Documentation is crucial after a car accident, as the more documents and evidence you can collect, the higher the likelihood of a favorable outcome during the settlement process with your insurance company.
The information you should document includes:
The names, phone numbers, and addresses of all drivers and passengers involved in the accident
The make and model of all vehicles
The insurance information of the other drivers
The weather and road conditions at the time of the accident
Pictures of the damage to all the vehicles involved and the accident scene, as well as injuries suffered by the parties (if anyone suffered an injury)
The names and badge numbers of the police officers who responded to the accident
Witness statements and their photos of the incident (if any)
Some of that information may be in the police report, but it cannot hurt to document these details individually from your own perspective.
Will my insurance company cover all my bills after a car accident?
No, your insurance company will not necessarily cover everything after an accident.
The coverage you get depends on:
The type of insurance you purchased, and
The type of accident you were in.
For example, liability insurance covers damages and injuries you cause to other drivers, while collision insurance covers your vehicle damages resulting from a collision with another car or object.
For this reason, it is essential to understand your insurance policy and coverage before an accident occurs or – at the very least – immediately after it.
If you are unsatisfied with your insurance company’s coverage, hire a lawyer to negotiate with the insurer on your behalf and ensure you get the compensation you deserve.
If you have suffered injuries in a car accident, you will likely have medical bills that need coverage. If the injury is serious, your medical expenses may go through the roof and start causing financial hardship before you know it. But how do you deal with all that?
Who pays these bills will depend on the type of insurance you have.
If you have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance and live in a no-fault state, your insurance company will typically cover your medical bills up to policy limits, no matter who was at fault for the accident.
If you live in a fault state, such as Georgia, you must typically file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company to cover your medical expenses.
Will I lose my driver’s license after the accident?
No, your driver’s license will not be suspended or revoked after a car accident unless you receive a citation that puts you at risk of losing your driving privileges.
In Georgia, a lengthy list of offenses may result in license suspension, including driving under the influence (DUI), driving with no insurance, hit and run, and others. However, you should keep your driver’s license if you did not receive any citations in the accident.
Can I decline the insurance company’s settlement offer if it’s unfair?
Yes, you have the right to refuse the insurer’s settlement offer if you believe you are entitled to a higher payout.
Remember that insurance companies are businesses and will try to settle for as little money as possible. If you feel that the settlement offer does not adequately compensate you for your damages and losses, you can negotiate with the insurance company or hire a lawyer to get a fair settlement.
What can I do if my insurance payout doesn’t cover all my damages?
If your insurance payout is insufficient to cover all your expenses and damages, you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. This is especially true if you have incurred significant medical bills and lost income or suffered debilitating injuries.
Additionally, if the at-fault driver does not have insurance or is underinsured, you can file a claim with your insurance company if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Yes, there is a time limit, called the statute of limitations, in which you can bring a claim after a car accident. The statute of limitations varies by state but is typically between one and three years. File your claim as soon as possible to ensure you do not miss the deadline, as this will result in losing your right to compensation. In Georgia, people who suffered injuries have two years to file a lawsuit for compensation.
About the Author
The Champion Firm is a full-service personal injury law firm serving the greater Metro Atlanta area. Our award-winning team of attorneys specializes in car accidents, wrongful death, premises liability, and slip-and-fall cases. Learn more about our team here.