Ten Steps to Follow after a Vehicle Accident
- Stop Your Vehicle
No matter how minor you think the accident was, you must stop. Failure to do so can result in serious criminal consequences. Stop your vehicle as close to the scene of the accident as possible, but without blocking traffic any more than necessary.
- First Aid
If anyone is injured, administer first aid if you are qualified to do so. Do not move an injured person in any way that may make their injury worse. Stop any bleeding, and call an ambulance, a doctor, or both.
- Properly Warn Other Drivers Of The Accident
Do what you can to warn other drivers if there is any obstruction of the road. If it is nighttime, try to light up the scene, and use the flashing hazard lights on vehicles to warn approaching cars.
- Call The Police
State and local police are trained in investigating accidents. Their skills may be invaluable in determining why and how the accident occurred.
- Get Information and Write It All Down
Don’t trust your memory. Write down everything, including the names and addresses of witnesses, skid mark and distance measurements; and the names, addresses, license plate numbers, insurance information, drivers’ license numbers of all drivers involved.
- Carry A Camera
It is often very helpful to carry a camera in your car. Being able to take pictures of where the vehicles were at the time of an accident can help you greatly if there is ever a dispute about liability in the future.
- Be Careful What You Say
Statements made during the excitement of a car accident may be misconstrued or misquoted by others later. Discuss the accident only with the investigating officer, your attorney, and your insurance company.
You have no obligation to give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company.
- See Your Doctor
Many times, muscular injuries do not present themselves until a few days later. Insurance companies love to take statements within hours of an accident when people feel “shaken up” but otherwise alright. Later, insurance companies use these statements when even against you when even they know it was too early to feel injury from the accident. Serious injuries sometimes occur even without immediate pain or blood. Consult a doctor or a hospital if there is even the slightest chance you may be injured.
- Inform Your Own Insurance Company
Your insurance company has trained investigators who will try to develop all the evidence for your defense. Failure to notify your insurance company may void your policy and leave you without coverage for damages resulting from the accident.
- Consult An Attorney Promptly
The sooner you contact an attorney, the better he or she can advise you and protect your rights. Your lawyer can use a private investigator to get statements from the witnesses while their memories are fresh and ensure that the facts are preserved.
Under the law, you are allowed one settlement for your injuries for your entire life. Insurance companies have lawyers who advise them on their claims, but you speak to the adjuster. You should not ever settle your claim without the advice of your own attorney.
There is a reason that insurance companies tell people they don’t absolutely need a lawyer: It is because they know that people do not know the full value of their claims and will often settle without taking into account all of the issues surrounding their injuries.
The business model of an insurance company is to make profits by taking in a premium and to pay as little as possible to people who are injured. Insurance companies will not do you any favors in resolving the claim and it is not in their best interest to compensate you adequately.