Did you know that over six million car accidents happen each year in the U.S.? If you are involved in a car accident, taking the right steps could help you make an insurance claim and protect yourself. Read on for nine steps to follow after an automobile accident.
The first thing to do when involved in a car accident, whether a minor or severe one, is to stop. Whether you are at fault or not, driving away is considered an offense under the Road Traffic Act. Instead, keep your hazard lights on and set up reflective emergency triangles or flares to alert other drivers to prevent more accidents. Be sure to stay at the accident scene until law enforcement releases you.
Determine whether anyone is hurt
Check to make sure you and the other parties are safe. If you or your passengers are severely injured, have someone contact 911 and request emergency medical assistance. Avoid moving if you are injured as you wait for medical personnel.
Contact the police
Whether you are involved in a severe or minor accident, you should contact the police. It is a legal requirement that all accidents be reported to relevant law enforcement in most states. If the police cannot come to the accident scene, be sure to visit the nearest police station to report the incident. A police report can be used by your Clearwater auto accident lawyer as evidence when filing an insurance claim or establishing a legal case when necessary.
Make an accurate record
Give an accurate account of exactly what happened when the investigating police officers arrive. If you are not sure about specific facts, let the officers know. Avoid guessing, misstating, or speculating any happenings as this could hurt your insurance claim. For instance, if you are not feeling any pain and are asked whether you are injured, say you are unsure instead of no, as the injuries may become apparent long after the collision. Ensure that the other parties involved also give an accurate account of the accident.
Typically, the investigating officers collect basic information such as names and addresses from the parties involved. However, if the police do not respond, you should ensure that you gather crucial information such as:
- Names, addresses, phone numbers of all parties involved, including the passengers, witnesses, and drivers
- The driver’s license and license plate number
- The vehicle type, model, and color
- Insurance information, including the company and policy number
- Location of the accident
- The relationship to the vehicle owner where the driver’s name does not match up with the insurance papers or vehicle registration
Be careful not to make any deals, apologize, or admit guilt when exchanging information with the other driver.
Document the incident
Gather as much information as possible regarding the accident, including what happened before and after, to protect your rights. Insurance companies also demand a detailed account of the accident before compensation, so you should keep an accurate record of the scene. To document the accident, you should:
- Take pictures or video footage of the physical damage of the vehicles involved, how and where the cars are located, property damage, visible injuries, and other crucial elements such as tire tracks, smashed guard rails, broken glass, and signs of the nearest crossroads.
- Obtain the badge numbers and names of the investigating cops
- Write down addresses and names of all parties involved, including the passengers of the other vehicle
- Record the time and date of the incident
- Talk to the witnesses and write down their names and contact information.
- Write down your recollection of what happened on the scene while your mind is still fresh to avoid forgetting some details.
- Request for a copy of the police report
Notify your insurer
It is crucial that you call your insurance company and report the accident as soon as possible, regardless of the severity of the incident or whose fault the collision was. Ensure that you are the first to contact your insurer before the other party does for your protection.
Often, the effects of a vehicle accident become apparent days or even weeks after the incident, and the other parties may decide to file a legal suit against you. You may be denied insurance coverage and compensation if you had not reported the accident, so ensure that you notify your insurer immediately after you leave the accident scene. Be sure to give accurate details of the accidents so that the insurance company can start building a claim for you. They may even send an insurance adjuster also to assess the scene.
See your doctor
It is tempting to avoid the hassle of a trip to your physician after a car accident, especially when you do not feel any pain or the collision is not severe, which is not a good idea. An accident creates a rush of adrenaline and endorphins as your body’s fight or flight response sets in, which could dull your pain and injuries for hours, days, weeks, or even months after the accident. You should visit your doctor to have a complete evaluation to avoid severe complications in the future.
A trip to your doctor also allows you to have a medical report which can be used as evidence in a court of law or when making an insurance claim. To avoid reducing the amount on your eventual settlement or the court dismissing the severity of your injuries, book an appointment with your physician within 72 hours of the car accident.
Call a car accident attorney
Car accident cases get complicated quickly as insurance companies look for ways to reduce how much they compensate you. Some may even deny compensation altogether. The other party involved in the car accident may also file a legal suit against you, which is why you should consider hiring an experienced and reliable car accident lawyer.
Vehicle accident attorneys can effectively represent you in court and handle all communication and negotiations with your insurer to ascertain that you get maximum compensation. Ensure that you provide your lawyer with medical and police reports, detailed accounts of the accident, and any other relevant information that helps them build a strong case.
Follow the above steps after an automobile accident to protect your rights. What you do could mean the difference between getting compensation or taking the blame for the accident.