What should I do immediately after an accident?
This is a very common question, and whether you've been in an accident before or if this is your first experience, it can be overwhelming. When you’re involved in an accident, and even for some time after the accident, it’s difficult to get enough clarity to know what you need to do next. You may be injured and the on-scene portion of the aftermath may go by in a blur because of that or because you’re experiencing some level of shock. We’ve put together a list of things to do after an accident (if you’re able) for your convenience and protection.
- Stay at the scene.
One of the most important parts of dealing with an accident is to stay at the scene until it’s appropriate to leave. If you do leave—particularly in the case that someone else involved was injured or even killed—you can face serious criminal charges and be labeled a “hit-and-run” driver.
- Check on the other drivers and passengers involved.
The first thing to do before looking over the cars involved is to make sure everyone is okay. Get medical attention immediately for anyone who needs it and, if a person is unconscious or feels pain in their neck or back, don’t move them until a qualified EMT arrives unless they are in immediate danger staying where they are and need to be removed from their vehicle.
- Call the police.
If the accident is significant in damage to the vehicles, injuries, or has been fatal to someone involved, call the police immediately. Ask that a police report be filed in incidents where officers are present and, if possible, jot down the names and badge numbers of the responding officers just in case. It’s always better to have more information than you need at the ready.
- Exchange information with others involved in the accident.
Names, numbers, addresses, drivers’ license and license plate numbers, basic insurance information, and whatever else you might need for later reference should be collected from the other drivers in the accident—even getting passengers’ names and numbers isn’t a bad idea. While you should be polite and cooperative with the other drivers at the scene of an accident, it’s not advisable to apologize for anything at the scene—in doing so, you may be admitting legal liability for what happened when it’s possible that the cause of the accident isn’t yet clear.
- Take and keep photographic evidence.
Snap some quick photos of any damage to your vehicle after the accident. Photographic evidence is crucial in helping your insurance adjuster determine your compensation amount and can also help your case if it moves to court. Taking a picture of your car as it is now is also a good idea in order to provide a side-by-side “before and after” sort of shot in case you ever get in an accident, just to show the extent of the damage.
- If there are witnesses, talk to them.
If you’re not seriously hurt and don’t need to make an immediate trip to the hospital, talk to anyone nearby who saw the accident. Get their information—names, numbers, and addresses, if possible—and ask if they’ve ever seen other accidents happen in the same spot in case there’s a liability in the area that caused the accident rather than another driver.
- Call your insurance company.
The time to let your insurance company know that you’ve been in an accident is promptly after the accident itself—be honest about what happened and if you have any injuries, including any details about the severity of those injuries. If your insurance finds out you’ve lied about anything you told them, there can be serious repercussions, including being denied coverage for the accident. If you can have the police report nearby for reference on specific legal details, do so.
- Keep a record of your medical recovery.
Whether you’re seeing doctors, chiropractors, or other medical professional for any recovery from injuries sustained during the accident, keep track of those visits and also keep notes of the medical providers who refer you to those professionals. Retain a detailed record of any treatments or medications you receive and request copies of any and all medical reports and bills as those will come into play later on with getting compensation for those visits. Expenses for injuries have a paper trail, so they’re easier to keep documented, but pain and suffering is tough to prove—on that note, keep some notes on the side on how your injuries influenced and inconvenienced your daily life, including missed workdays, parts of your routine that had to be foregone due to injury, and how these injuries have affected your family.
- Exercise caution in discussing the accident.
Don’t talk to anyone about the accident other than your lawyer, insurance company, and the police. Don’t talk to a representative of another insurance company without the knowledge of your attorney or insurer. If called by the insurance company of another individual involved in the accident, be polite, but ask them to call your attorney or insurer to arrange an interview—and then let your lawyer or insurer know you received the call.
- Consider settlement offers thoroughly before taking them.
If you’re offered a settlement from an insurance company, be sure to confirm all your physical injuries have been treated—some damage won’t announce itself or reach their worst until days, weeks, or even months after the time of your accident. Be sure to consult an attorney before signing off any settlement documents.
- Consider hiring an attorney.
If anyone was injured in the accident, it’s always a smart move to consult an experienced car accident attorney, as they can help you maximize your recovery if you were injured or defend you if you were at fault. If you or a loved one has been in an accident, contact us today for a free consultation.