What Should I Do If I Am In an Auto Accident?

by Eric Pearson

Being in an automobile accident is one of the most stressful experiences imaginable. Car accidents can cause severe life altering injuries as well as fatal injuries to drivers and passengers.  They can also cause costly financial damage to vehicles or other property.

As stressful as car accidents can be, it is important for drivers who have been involved in an accident—regardless of whether they may have been at fault—to follow some important steps in the aftermath of a collision.

1.       Check drivers and passengers for severe injuries

Before you worry about damage to a vehicle or other property, the most important step in the wake of an auto accident is to check and make sure that all drivers and passengers involved in the crash are okay. If anyone has been seriously injured, seek immediate medical attention by calling 911. If any drivers or passengers are unconscious or experiencing significant neck or back pain, they should not be moved except by emergency personnel unless there is a fire or other safety hazard caused by the accident.

2.       Stay at the scene

Until police or emergency personnel have arrived or you have exchanged information with other drivers involved in an accident, you should never leave the scene of an accident unless it is appropriate to do so. If you leave the scene of a crash—especially if other drivers or passengers have been injured—you could face criminal charges for hit and run.

Before talking with other drivers or contacting police or emergency personnel, drivers involved in an accident should make an effort to get their vehicles off the road if there is a danger of getting struck by oncoming traffic. If you are unable to move your vehicle safely, please move to an area a safe distance from traffic and wait for a tow truck to move the vehicle for you.

Drivers involved in an accident can help to prevent further accidents by setting up flares, keeping their hazard lights on, or using a flashlight to alert oncoming vehicles that a crash has occurred.

3.       Call the police

If the car accident has caused serious property damage to any vehicles or other property, serious injuries to drivers or passengers, or fatalities, contact the police. Once a police officer has arrived at the scene of the accident, they can fill out a police report, which may be necessary to file an insurance claim. Police reports can also prove important for proving whether drivers involved in an accident broke any traffic laws resulting in the crash.

4.       Take pictures and make an accurate record of the accident

Cell phone cameras have made it easier than ever to take photos at the scene of an accident. These photos can be vital later for establishing the facts of your case. If possible, you should try to take photos of:

  • Scene of the accident
  • Damage to your vehicle
  • Other vehicles involved in the crash
  • Drivers, passengers, or other individuals involved in the accident
  • The driver’s license of drivers, passengers or witnesses

It is vitally important to record information about other drivers and passengers involved in the crash, as well as any witnesses who may have seen what happened during the crash. Talk to anyone who was involved in the crash, as well as witnesses and bystanders to obtain the following information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Make, model, and year of the vehicle (if applicable)
  • License plate number
  • Insurance carrier and policy number

After police have arrived at the scene, you should also obtain the following information from any officers:

  • Name
  • Badge or ID number
  • Phone number
  • Copy of the police report

5.       Keep track of your medical treatment

If you require medical treatment following your accident, it is important to preserve records concerning your medical treatment for future use. Even if you have not suffered obvious injuries, it may be advisable to seek medical attention in order to insure that you have not been injured during the accident.

6.       File a claim with your insurance company

It is important to notify your insurance company as soon as possible that you have been in an accident. Many insurance policies require immediate notification and full cooperation. You insurance agent can help you determine whether you have medical coverage as part of your policy to help cover hospital or other medical expenses.

Your insurance company can also provide you with a valuation of the damage to your vehicle caused by the accident. If you are unsatisfied with the valuation that you received from the insurance company, you can obtain an independent repair estimate or replacement quote. If you can’t reach an agreement with your insurance company, an attorney may be able to provide you with legal advice to help you with your claim.

It is also important to be wary of early settlement offers from your insurance company. Accepting an insurance settlement before all of your injuries have been treated or diagnosed may leave you unable to recoup medical expenses from your insurer. Before signing any insurance documents and settling your insurance claim, it may be advisable to speak with an attorney, who can advise you about your legal options.

7.       Use caution in discussing the accident

Although you may have to talk with others who were involved in the accident and the police, you should exercise caution in talking about what happened. Do not talk about what happened during the accident except to the police, your insurance company, or your attorney. Although you should be truthful when discussing the accident with your insurer, remember that it is the insurance company’s job to minimize the value of your claim. You should not sign any accident-related documents or give any statements about the accident except to the police.

Likewise, talking about your accident with another insurance company can give your insurer grounds to invalidate your claim. If you are contacted by another insurance company, do not discuss your accident with their representatives; instead, direct them to contact your attorney or insurance company, and tell your car accident lawyer or insurer about the call.

8.       Maintain a file of documents related to your accident

It is important to keep a file containing documents and other information related to your accident. These documents can include the police report concerning your accident, contact information for witnesses and others who were involved in the crash, insurance information (including the claim number and claim adjuster handling your case), medical documents, or any other important information that you have received after the crash. These documents may be vital to establishing the facts regarding your accident.

9.       Talk with an experienced attorney about your legal options

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, you may wish to speak with an attorney regarding your legal options. An experienced attorney can advise you regarding bringing a case against the other driver, the property damage to your vehicle, rental cars, your medical care or possibly making a claim under your policy for underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage.

If you are making a claim against your own insurance carrier, and you believe you are not being treated fairly, you should consult with an attorney experienced in pursuing “bad faith” lawsuits against insurance companies. The insurance company has an army of lawyers looking after its interests. It only makes sense that you have a lawyer looking after your interests.

Our law firm’s success stems from the fact that our attorneys are trial attorneys in the truest sense and have tried hundreds of cases to verdict. The attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have the financial resources to handle personal injury cases from beginning to end. In fact, there are many instances when we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a case in order to take it to trial. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we are committed to achieving justice for our clients, whatever the cost.

If you have suffered a serious personal injury or a loved one has suffered a serious injury or death as the result of the actions of another person or entity, you may have a claim for compensation. For a free legal consultation about your case and to find out more about filing a lawsuit, contact the legal team at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling us toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following this link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few simple questions to get started.

by Eric Pearson

Eric Pearson is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P who handles commercial and personal injury lawsuits. Eric has been selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication.