9 Steps to Take After a Car Accident
You've been in an auto wreck, now what?
You have been involved in a car wreck, now, what do you do? The decisions made within the first few moments following the wreck could greatly help or hinder you in the future in regards to insurance coverage, medical care, and the law.
Before you do anything else after the wreck, do not leave the scene. Leaving the scene of the accident could be used against you and filed as a hit-and-run case, causing you to face serious legal repercussions. If you do not have a cell phone to call the police and your insurance company with, ask the other driver involved, or witnesses in the area, if you can borrow a phone so you do not have to leave the scene to contact anyone.
Check for Injuries
All drivers and passengers should immediately check everyone for injuries. If anyone mentions head, neck, or back pain, have them stay stationary until medical care arrives. Call for medical assistance immediately if anyone needs attention. While some injuries may appear mild in the beginning, as the days proceed, they can develop into severe situations. A few injuries to pay attention to include: head, neck, or back pain, abdominal pain (which could mean internal bleeding), vision or hearing problems, persistent headaches (as this could indicate a possible blood clot or concussion), and psychological issues (such as memory loss, sudden aggression, and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). If any of these issues present themselves days, weeks, or even months after the wreck, seek out medical care, and contact your lawyer and auto insurance company to inform them of the medical change. Delayed injuries could greatly impact the way your claims are handled following the wreck; therefore, they should always be reported to the appropriate entities.
Move Vehicles to Safe Location
If the wreck was minor and minimal to no injuries have occurred, moving the vehicles to a safe location should be the next step. Further damage and injuries can occur if the vehicles are left in areas with traffic. However, if it is believed that injuries have been sustained, proceed to call local law enforcement, and try to avoid further harm. Hazard lights should be turned on immediately to warn fellow drivers that the vehicle isn’t operational. If traffic cones are available, use them to provide further warning to other drivers about the state of your vehicle and the surrounding area.
Notify Law Enforcement
For minor accidents, where no injuries occur, no public property is damaged, and the vehicle damage is at a minimum, involving law enforcement may not be necessary. However, in many cases, calling the police after a car wreck is one of the first steps the people involved should take. Having law enforcement arrive to the scene, even when the wreck was minor, can help the drivers and passengers ensure that they can smoothly and effectively file their insurance claims and get the medical treatment needed.
Once all persons involved have been confirmed to have minimal to no injuries, gathering information is the next step in ensuring everything is handled correctly after an auto accident. The information that will be needed includes:
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers of the drivers and passengers involved
- Make, model, and year model of the vehicles
- Auto insurance policy numbers and providers
- Drivers’ licenses and license plates numbers
- Accident location
- Names and contact information of witnesses
- Photos of the vehicles and scene
When you’re gathering information, keep discussion of the accident to a minimum. Only acquire and exchange the information that is pertinent for the individuals involved. This also includes not signing anything unless it’s for the police or your insurance (not the other driver’s insurance) company.
Keep Discussion to a Minimum
It’s vital that you do not discuss details of the accident to anyone other than law enforcement, your insurance company, and your lawyer, if a lawyer is necessary. Discussing details of the accident with anyone other than those three entities can cause you to be held liable for further damages.
File a Claim
File a claim with your auto insurance company. This should be done within the first 24 hours of the accident. It is best to file the claim immediately while still at the scene of the accident, but in some cases, this isn’t possible. If you must delay filing the claim due to injury, notify your insurance agent of the accident and file the claim as soon as possible. Be completely honest with your insurance agent and tell them every detail. Also, include details such as your injuries, witness information, and how the wreck occurred.
Get Vehicle Assistance
Some vehicles are no longer operational after a wreck. Once all the other points have been covered, seek out assistance in moving your vehicle from the scene. If your insurance coverage includes roadside assistance, discuss with your insurance agent about possibly having your insurance company removing the vehicle. Otherwise, discuss with law enforcement about your options in removing your vehicle from the area.
Regardless of the severity of the accident, it’s important to keep records of everything involved with the accident and the reports and information received after. Keep thorough documentation of any medical evaluations and bills.
Hire an Attorney
Depending on the brevity of the accident, an attorney may not be necessary. However, if there are injuries involved, serious automotive damages, or public property damage, hiring a lawyer after a car accident may be a good option. An attorney will also be able to assist in navigating the processes of working through insurance claims, handling medical bills, and dealing with any police filings that may have incurred from the accident.
Steps to Staying Safe and Secure
By following these steps, you vastly improve your chances of receiving the proper medical care you and everyone involved may need. You will also be more apt to receive all the coverage and benefits you are allotted based off your insurance coverage. Lastly, by following these steps, you will have the peace of mind in knowing that you took all the legal steps necessary to cover you in case the accident requires legal action.
Automotive wrecks are stressful enough. If you experience one and don't follow the proper steps to ensure your medical, financial, and legal safety, a mild wreck can become an absolute nightmare. By following these steps, and whatever additional steps law enforcement, your insurance, and your attorney suggests, you can leave the scene of the wreck knowing that you are safe and protected.
Did you follow these steps (or similar steps) following a car accident? Leave a comment sharing what you did.
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