What to Do Immediately After an Accident: Step by Step Guide
Hopefully you will never be in a car accident but if you are you probably don’t know what to do. After a car accident you might be stunned or in shock and not know what to do. Here’s a general to do list of what you should do immediately after being involved in an accident. This list is a great resource you can reference after an accident. Feel free to print this list and keep it in your car and share it with your loved ones.
1. Don’t Leave the Scene
Under no circumstance should you ever leave the scene of the accident. If you leave someone else will tell the police officer what happened, and your side of the story will be lost. In addition, you could also face serious criminal charges for leaving the scene of an accident.
2. Check on Passengers and Drivers
Immediately after the accident, you should check to see if anyone is injured and whether 911 needs to be called. You shouldn’t move the vehicles unless leaving them puts someone is immediate danger, in that case the vehicles should be moved to place of safety. Also, anyone who is injured should not be moved unless they have to be moved for safety concerns. For instance, if a car is on fire then everyone should move far enough away from the vehicle to be safe.
3. Contact the Police
If anyone is injured, there is property damage, or anyone leaves the scene of the accident the police should be called, and a report made. Make a note of the officer’s name and badge number. You’ll need to get a copy of the police report. Sometimes you will be able to get one from the officer at the scene and other times you will need to request a copy at a later date.
4. Information Exchange
At the scene of the accident you should get the name, phone number, and address of every person involved in the accident. You should also get their license plate number and exchange insurance information. When you talk to the other drivers, be nice and try to get as much information as possible. Generally, people will tell you more information if you are friendly and helpful and not demanding.
It is also important to remember that why you should be nice and friendly, you should not apologize for anything, you might say “I’m sorry” and meaning you are sorry this happened but that could later be interpreted as you are sorry for something you did or causing the accident. With that mind, you should just avoid apologizing.
If you see anyone at the scene of the accident, ask them if they witnessed any part of the accident. If they saw anything get their names and contact information and keep that information in a safe place in case, you need it later.
6. Contact Your Insurer
You should contact your insurance company within 24 hours of any accident. This will allow your insurance company to timely complete an investigation. Tell them exactly what happened to the best of your knowledge and keep notes about what you saw and said to them. Memories fade as time go so keeping notes of how you talked to, when, and what was said is a great way to have a peace of mind that if you’re asked years later about the days immediately following the accident you will be able to honestly and accurately answer those questions.
7. Keep Accurate Records of all Your Medical Bills and Treatments
Keeping accurate records of your injuries, doctors’ appointments, and medical expenses is one of the most important things you can do to protect your claim. You will need to document expenses so that you can be properly compensated by the insurance carriers. Keeping a diary of daily activities, specifically any events or activities that you are not able to participate in is also important. For instance, if your family goes hiking and you cannot go because you hurt your foot in the car accident it’s important to make a note of that.
While medical bills and expenses are easier to document, pain and suffering is harder. That’s why it’s important to keep a diary of how you feel on a day to day basis. Pain and suffering effects everyone differently, for some people it means they will not be able to work or participate in social events with friends and family. For others, they will still go to social events and functions, but they won’t enjoy the way they would have if they weren’t in pain. You should document how your pain and suffering effects your daily life so that you can receive the compensation you are entitled to.
8. Take Lots of Pictures and Video
Photos and videos should be taken of all the damage, all the vehicles involved and general pictures of the scene. Photos are very important later if you need evidence of who caused the accident and what damage was caused. It’s always a good idea to also have before pictures of your car so you can show the condition of your car prior to the accident. There of course is no way to predict an accident so you should regularly take pictures of your vehicles so that you will have them if you even need them.
9. Figure Out How Much Property Damage You Have
Your insurance company will prepare a damage valuation, you should obtain a copy of that report for your records. If you disagree with their evaluation you can get other estimates and quotes and submit them to your adjuster. If the insurance company will not present, you a reasonable damage assessment you should contact an attorney and schedule a consultation.
10. Only Discuss the Accident with your Lawyer
It is very tempting in this day and age to share everything with everyone, however it is better to only speak to your lawyer, your insurance company, and the police about your accident. If an insurance company attempt to contact, you that is not your insurer you should refuse to talk with them outside the presence of your lawyer. But don’t forget to be polite in your refusal. If you don’t have a lawyer now’s a good time to start finding one. Report any attempts to contact you about the accident to your attorney.
11. Be Concerned About Settlement Offers that come too Early
Insurance companies often try and get victims a settlement offer quickly so that they may take it not knowing everything they may be entitled to. Make sure you evaluate all your future potential losses before agreeing to a settlement. The best to insure you are not settling for too little is to consult with an experience attorney who handles cases similar to yours.
12. Hire an Attorney
You should consult, and potential hire a qualified attorney, if any injuries resulted from the accident it’s even more important to hire an experienced attorney. An attorney will maximize your potential recovery are in the best position to defend you if you are or are being accused of being at fault.
Typically, attorneys who handle accident cases for victims will handle the case for a contingency fee. That way you only have to pay them if they are successful in either securing you an agreed to settlement or they win your case in court. Most attorney who handle these types of cases will sit down with you for a free consultation to go over your case.