From a fender bender to a serious crash, a car accident can leave you feeling sore, distressed and sometimes can result in long-lasting injuries. If you or a loved one are involved in an accident, it’s important that you know what to do to protect yourself and recover financially.
Important things to remember if you’re in an accident:
- Don’t leave the accident scene: Wait until the police have been called and they give you permission to leave. If you leave the scene, especially if someone has sustained injuries or was killed, you can face serious criminal penalties for being a hit-and-run driver.
- Check on all drivers and passengers: Before assessing property damage, make sure everyone involved in the accident is okay. Get medical attention for anyone who needs it. If a person is unconscious or has neck or back pain, don’t move them until qualified medical help arrives, unless there are extremely hazardous conditions, such as fire.
- Call 911: If there is significant property damage or physical injury to you or another person, call the police. If you cannot call, ask a bystander to call on your behalf. If you are able, ask for the names and phone numbers of the responding officers.
- Exchange information: Get the names, phone numbers, addresses, drivers’ license numbers, license plate numbers and basic insurance information from all drivers involved. If there are passengers, try to also obtain their names, numbers and addresses. In talking to other drivers, do your best to be calm and cooperative.
- Protect your liability: Don’t admit fault or legal liability for anything at the accident scene, as it my not be immediately clear who was at fault. Additionally, in some states fault does not dictate which insurer is responsible to pay for a loss.
- Speak to witnesses: If there were witnesses to the accident, ask them to speak with the police and get their names, addresses and phone numbers, if possible.
- Contact your insurance company: You are responsible for promptly contacting your insurance company after you are involved in an accident. Be honest and forthcoming about what happened and the extent of your injuries. Explain the accident clearly and concisely, concentrating on the facts. Not telling the truth to your insurance company can get you into serious trouble – you can be dropped from your policy and can be denied a policy in the future. Be sure to send your insurance company a copy of the police report as soon as it becomes available.
- Track medical treatment and expenses: Keep a list of appointments with any doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors or other medical professionals that treat you after the accident and ask each caregiver for a copy of your medical report. Track your expenses as well, and create a file with copies of all medical bills and receipts for co-pays.
- Be wary of early settlement offers: Be careful if you’re offered a settlement from an insurance company. Confirm all your physical injuries have been treated, as some injuries don’t show up or reach their greatest level of discomfort until many days, weeks or months later. Don’t settle a claim until you know you’ll be compensated for all your injuries, and consult an attorney before signing any settlement documents.
If you or a family member were injured or killed in a car accident, immediately consult with an injury attorney who has experience handling motor vehicle accident cases. An initial consultation with our injury attorneys is free. A consultation will give you the opportunity to discuss the accident with an experienced lawyer and to learn about your legal options with no upfront cost to you.