After a car accident, you may find yourself traumatized, potentially injured, or in shock, and you may not know what to do next. However, this knowledge can protect you and your finances. The nine most important things to do after a car accident are to:
- Get to a safe place
- Dial 911
- Seek medical attention
- Gather evidence
- Take care of your vehicle
- Report the accident to your insurance company
- Document your injuries and damages
- Keep up with doctor’s appointments
- Protect your legal rights
Although every car accident is different, these nine steps will help to ensure your health and safety and preserve your right to seek compensation from the insurance company for any injuries and damages you sustained.
What to Do at the Scene
1: Get to a Safe Place
Your first priority at the scene of an accident is getting to safety.
This means standing well off the shoulder if you are on an expressway, or well out of the flow of traffic if the crash occurred on a city street.
If you can do so safely, you must move your car off the roadway. If possible, try to take pictures of the vehicles and their positions before you move.
If you cannot move your car, sit inside it with your seat belt fastened.
2: Dial 911
Once you are safely off the roadway, dial 911 and report the accident.
Unless the car accident was truly a minor “fender bender” (i.e., absolutely no or very little damage to either car), ask the operator dispatch emergency medical personnel. This is critical for the health of everyone involved as well as for preserving your legal right to recover compensation.
3: Seek Medical Attention
Even if you feel fine, let the emergency medical technicians check you over when they arrive.
Car accident victims often sustain concussions, whiplash, and internal injuries, most of which will not manifest immediately after the crash. You may also be in shock, which can mask symptoms or pain that would otherwise be obvious to you.
If you do not seek treatment at the scene, but later learn that you did sustain injuries, the other side’s insurer may assert that you did not sustain your injuries in the crash. This can harm your chances of obtaining a fair financial settlement for your injuries.
4: Gather Evidence
Take as many photos of the scene as possible and write down all pertinent details.
Try to take photos of each vehicle involved — from as many angles as possible — as well as the overall scene. Take photos of any road hazards, traffic signs or markings, skid marks, and any other details that could potentially provide important context later.
Get the names and contact information for everyone involved in the accident as well as any witnesses.
5: Take Care of Your Vehicle
Even if your car appears to be roadworthy, you may want to call a towing service to take the vehicle to a repair shop.
Your vehicle may have hidden damage that could make it unsafe to drive. Also, driving the vehicle could cause further harm — especially if it lost oil, water, or other important mechanical fluids or components.
If you do not have a collision damage repair shop you prefer, ask the towing service to deliver it to your regular auto mechanic.
After You Have Left the Scene
6: Report to Your Insurance Company
You must report any accident to your insurance company as soon as reasonably possible.
If you fail to report the accident, even if you do not plan to file a claim with your insurer, you may violate the terms of your policy. However, do not provide anything more than the basic details, and do not admit fault.
Note: If the other driver’s insurer contacts you, watch what you say. If the adjuster requests a recorded statement, decline until you have spoken to a lawyer.
7: Document Your Injuries and Damages
After a car accident, start keeping careful notes of your injuries and damages.
Record any symptoms you have, noting dates and times, as well as visits to the doctor or other medical treatment. Keep track of receipts and other documents that support damages you sustained, such as bills from the towing company.
In the Weeks and Months That Follow
8: Continue Medical Care
You must continue attending doctor’s appointments and obey your doctor’s orders. If you cease medical care, the insurer can argue that you are contributing to your injuries.
9: Protect Your Legal Rights
The best way to protect your legal rights after a car accident is to speak to a lawyer.
A car accident lawyer can help protect your legal rights and explain your options for filing an insurance claim, either with your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance. Your lawyer can help you determine where to get your car fixed and get you the right treatment for your injuries.
For a free consultation with a Florida car accident lawyer, contact the Law Firm of Anidjar & Levine today at 800-747-3733.