Accidents happen. Knowing what to do immediately after a car accident can help minimize the damage, both physically and legally.
On average, there are more than 6 million traffic accidents a year. Your odds of being in one or more car accidents in your lifetime is roughly 75 percent. Whether you're the driver or passenger, car accidents can be traumatic and often leave you shaken and unsure of what to do next. Having a game plan will help you as you begin the recovery process. The following eleven tips will keep you focused on what you need to do.
Never Leave the Scene of an Accident
It would be best if you never drove away from the scene of an accident, no matter how minor it may seem. Leaving the scene of an accident is a misdemeanor at a minimum and a felony if you leave the scene knowing that someone was injured. In addition to facing criminal charges, leaving the scene of an accident may result in an automatic suspension of your license.
Turn on Your Hazard Lights
Turning on your hazard lights should be done whether or not the other driver is doing the same. Doing this will warn other drivers of your accident and cause them to slow down. Often the most severe injuries in an accident happen after the initial impact. By turning on your hazards, you will be letting others know that the road ahead is not clear and to proceed with caution.
Make Sure Everyone is OK
As a rule of thumb, anyone involved in an accident should check to see that everyone else is ok. Passengers can be in shock, but they may also be suffering from injuries. If you are not sure that everyone involved is unharmed, call emergency services.
Call the Police
It is also essential to call the police after an accident. You may not feel like it, but it's vital to ensure you get an official record of the incident. Even if the accident was a minor fender bender, you should still call the police so that they can come out and record all of the information concerning the accident. If you don't report the accident to the police, you risk having your claim denied because your insurer may say the police filed no official report.
Provide an Accurate Report of the Accident
It's important to remember what happened in a car accident so that you can report it accurately. Write down the time of the accident, the make, model, and license plates of the vehicles involved, any damage sustained, and the names of the occupants. Record as much information as you can without jeopardizing anyone's safety.
If possible, take photographs of any damage done to your vehicle and other vehicles involved in the accident (whether you're at fault or not), as well as any injuries sustained by yourself or others. You may need to show this to the police or your insurance carrier.
Ensure you have a full, detailed exchange of information between yourself, other drivers and passengers, and any witnesses to the accident. The information you need includes names, addresses, phone numbers, insurance information, driver's license numbers, and license plate numbers.
Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
Your insurance company will want to know about any accidents you may have had in the past. Therefore, you should file a report with your insurance carrier as soon as possible after an accident. The company you file with may also help you work with the other driver's insurance company to settle any damages.
Seek Medical Attention
You should get medical attention if you've been injured in an accident, even if it doesn't seem serious at the time. Your injuries may not become apparent until hours or days later, so make sure a medical professional can check for any problems that may arise. Failure to do so could affect your ability to collect damages from others involved in the accident.
Keep a File or Collision Report
Car accidents are stressful enough without a run-in with the police, insurance companies, and countless other distractions. Make sure you have a file of all the details surrounding your accident so you can give them to courts and insurance companies when necessary. It may also be helpful to keep track of witnesses and their contact information for future reference.
Know Your Rights
If you've ever been in a car accident, it's essential to know your rights. If you get injured in a car accident, you might be able to recoup money for your medical bills. However, you may also be entitled to damages for pain and suffering or lost wages. Contact an attorney who may be able to help you recover any compensation.
Getting back to normal after a car accident can take a few weeks or many years. While the accident itself may only last a few seconds, the aftermath can last a long time. In accident situations, there are often more costs than just car repairs. You may need medical treatment or be unable to get to work or school until your vehicle is back from the shop. Ensure you give yourself time to recover from a car accident before you try to jump back into responsibilities you had before the accident.
I am not a lawyer or legal advisor. Accordingly, the information provided on this website does not constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. As always, I wrote this article for a general audience.