The First Steps You Should Take After a Car Accident
Unfortunately, no matter how experienced a driver is, car accidents are bound to happen. Though emotions are often high immediately following an accident, it is important to remain calm and remember the steps you need to take not only for your health and safety, but for your future financial security, as well. If you plan to file an insurance claim, or a lawsuit for damages, make sure that you:
1) Remain at the Scene: Even if you have somewhere to be, it is crucial that you remain at the scene following any significant accident. Be sure to check on everyone involved in the accident to assess injuries before you look at the damage to the vehicles. If someone needs immediate medical attention, tend to that to the best of your ability before taking the next step…
2) Call the Police: If there’s significant damage and/or injuries to any person, the next step to take is to call the police. When the police have arrived, document their names (and badge numbers, if possible) and don’t be afraid to ask them to file a police report. You may wish to call the police and report the accident even if the damage to the vehicles is minor or no driver or passenger was injured.
3) Speak With the Other Driver(s): The most important thing to remember here is that you should remain calm, and do NOT apologize to the other driver or claim responsibility for the accident. The cause of an auto accident; or who was at fault; is not always clear or apparent, especially immediately after it happens. A kind and cordial approach is the best way to get the information you need from the other driver(s). From each involved driver, you’ll need their:
- Phone number
- Drivers’ license number
- License plate number
- Insurance information
Note: You should be prepared to share this information with the other driver(s), as well.
4) Take Photos of the Scene: Take clear, detailed photos of any damage to your vehicle before you leave the scene of the accident. The photos will help document the damage, and they may be helpful to your insurance adjuster so your insurance company can determine how much you should be compensated for damage to your car.
5) Call Your Insurance Company: It’s imperative that you report your accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. You should be prepared to share the facts involved with the accident, as well as any injuries to you, your passengers, and damage to your vehicle. The insurance company may also want to review the filed police report, to determine if any traffic laws were broken. The company will then complete a damage valuation on your vehicle. Know that it is within your rights to seek out an independent repair estimate from outside contractors if you are not happy with the insurance company’s valuation.
Bonus Tip: If there are witnesses present at the time of your accident, try to speak with them to get their account of what happened. If they are willing to stay at the scene and speak to responding police officers, that will help provide an unbiased opinion to go into the police report. If possible, take down the names, phone numbers, and addresses of the witnesses, just in case you need it later.
If You Are Injured in the Accident:
If you were hurt in the accident, it is your responsibility to keep impeccable records of any medical appointments, consultations, and treatments that are necessary to assess and treat your injuries. Keep a file with your bills and medical reports from each provider you visit. It may be helpful to also keep track of days you had to be out of work as a result of the accident, as well as any other ways the injuries have affected your daily life following the accident.
If you were injured, take careful consideration of any settlement offers you may receive. Although sometimes it may be tempting to take an offer just to put the accident behind you, it’s important to consider all of your options. For instance, a settlement may cover your initial medical visits and treatments, but not take into consideration the fact that you will need surgery or specialized medical care in the future. Before agreeing to any settlement, it is wise to consult with an attorney.
If you’ve been involved in an accident, the experienced attorneys at Lemire, Johnson & Higgins want to help you maximize your recovery. Let us know how we can help.