Being involved in a car accident can be traumatic, especially if you or someone else is injured and needs immediate care. Being prepared for a car accident can help alleviate the trauma and can be beneficial in getting you the compensation you deserve if you were injured.
If you are in an accident, the following 5 things can help you deal with the immediate situation and prepare you for any injury claims that arise.
1. Check on all drivers and passengers
In the aftermath of the collision, see that your passengers are safe. Call 911 if there is an injury or someone is trapped. Check on the other driver and parties regarding their status and if they need assistance. If you have been hurt or suspect you were injured, get prompt medical attention.
2. Only exchange information at the scene
It is against the law to leave the scene of an accident without exchanging information or leaving your contact information if you struck an unoccupied vehicle. Give your insurance and driver’s license information and take down the plate numbers. Do not discuss how the accident happened or who was at fault with anyone but the police.
3. Conduct your own investigation
You should keep either a camera in your car or have a cellphone capable of taking clear photographs. If so, take photos of the cars involved and the damages as well as of the scene including stop signs, traffic control devices or flaws in the roadway. Get the names and addresses of any witnesses and let the police know of their identities.
When the police ask for your version of the accident, include your estimates of times and speeds but do not guess. Obtain a card or other information from the officer that you can use to get a copy of the traffic accident report, which are usually available from 10 to 21 days after the accident.
4. Do not give statements to insurance adjusters or investigators
Following an accident, you should immediately contact your own insurer who will want to know what occurred. You do have an obligation under your insurance contract to cooperate with your own insurer. If you feel uncomfortable discussing the accident, retain a personal injury attorney to take care of your claim.
You may also be contacted by the other party’s insurance agent or investigator who will want you to give either a phone statement that is being recorded or a written statement. Politely decline to do so and refer them to your attorney or tell them that an attorney will be contacting them. Do not think you are benefitting yourself by talking to the other party’s insurer or representative. Many times, injured victims say things about their injuries or about the circumstances of the accident that are inaccurate or because they do not recall but will guess as to times and speeds to their later regret.
5. Call a personal injury attorney
Many accident victims feel they can handle their own injury claims and receive more compensation since no attorney’s fees need to be paid. For small cases with minor injuries, this may be true but numerous studies have found that injury claimants receive far more in compensation with an attorney than if they represented themselves, even considering the attorney’s fees.
Your case may involve complex insurance issues or proof of liability problems. You have to provide documentation of your damages and ensure that your claimed injuries were caused by this accident and not by a preexisting condition that shows up in your medical records. Also, there may be other factors or other parties responsible for causing the accident of which you were unaware.
Do not jeopardize your accident claim by being unprepared or by trying to handle all the issues of your claim without a legal representative.