Sutton & Murphy
What To Do After A Car Accident
1. CONFIRM THAT EVERYONE IN THE VEHICLE IS OK
You have an obligation to stop your car when you are involved in an auto accident, especially if there is any type of property damage or bodily injury. The very first thing you should do after an auto accident is to make sure that you, your passengers and the people in the other car are OK.
If someone appears injured or is unable to get out of the vehicle, call 911 immediately. Be very cautious about approaching a car or moving an injured victim. There is always the danger of a fire from burning gasoline. There is also the risk of worsening an injury by moving someone who is hurt.
2. SECURE THE ACCIDENT SCENE
The next thing that you should do is to secure the accident scene and do everything possible to prevent anyone else from getting hurt. If it is safe to leave your cars where they are, you should do so in order to allow law enforcement to get a clear picture of what occurred. This is especially important when the accident was serious. Set up cones or flares if you have them in your vehicle. If the accident was a minor one, if the vehicles can be moved and/or if they are in the way of traffic, pull over to a safe location near where the accident happened. Stay in your car or out of the way of traffic while you wait for law enforcement to come.
3. CONTACT THE POLICE
You should call the police right away after you are involved in a car wreck. You will want the police to come even if you initially don’t believe you’ve been seriously hurt. Property damage and injuries can both turn out to be worse than you first thought. The police will take an accident report and will assess the scene to determine what they believe occurred.
In some cases, they may issue a citation or ticket to one or more of the drivers involved in the crash if they believe any driving laws were broken. This information from the police will prove invaluable when you make an insurance claim or when you try to collect compensation after a car wreck.
Often, people will have differing stories about exactly what happened in an accident. This can make it harder to uncover the truth. The police report and other information provided by law enforcement can be very helpful in situations where it is your word against the word of the other driver.
The police report could mean the difference between being able to prove fault and recover damages or being left to cope with your own bills or even being held responsible for a crash you didn’t really cause.
Remember: You should contact the police even if the other driver accepts responsibility and says he’ll pay for everything. Sometimes, people want to avoid having an accident on their insurance and may try to convince you that it is a good idea to handle things yourself. It isn’t. You have no reason to trust the other driver to keep his word. Simply put: You jeopardize your recovery if you do not call the police.
4. CONTACT YOUR INSURER
You should report the accident to your insurance company right away. The telephone number should be on your insurance card. Reporting the accident right away is necessary because you may need your own insurer to pay out a claim. For example, the person who hit you may not have any insurance or may not have enough, so you may need to make an uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) claim. Your insurer will instruct you about where to take your car and what to do next.
If the insurance company of the other driver wants to ask you questions, you are under no obligation to talk to the company or to settle your case. In fact, you should always speak with a lawyer before doing so.
5. EXCHANGE INFORMATION WITH THE OTHER DRIVER AT THE ACCIDENT SCENE
You should be prepared to provide your contact information and insurance details to the other driver. You should expect that driver to do the same. You can exchange this information through the police, who will also want to get these details. Law enforcement will write down the information and make copies for all drivers involved.
In many cases, it is better to leave this information exchange process to the police, so you don’t risk getting into a confrontation with the other driver or say something you shouldn’t However, if the other driver tries to leave the accident scene before police arrive, be sure to get a detailed description of the license plate and the make, model and color of the other vehicle.
6. OBTAIN THE CONTACT INFORMATION FOR ANY WITNESSES TO THE ACCIDENT
People aren’t always honest about what happened in an accident. Your ability to obtain compensation after a crash could come down to your word against the word of the other driver. Having witnesses to support your position and back up your version of events will help you to build a strong case so you can be confident of obtaining the compensation you need after a crash.
7. GET A COPY OF THE ACCIDENT REPORT FROM LAW ENFORCEMENT
You may not be able to obtain this report. Still, you should ask police how to get a copy. Be sure to get the name and the badge number of the officer(s) who responded to the scene and who are preparing the car accident report. This will help you to get the report, and it can also be useful in case you need the officer to be a witness for you.
8. RECORD INFORMATION ABOUT THE SCENE
Ideally, if you have a camera with you, you can take pictures of where the cars are, where the accident happened and any debris or skid marks on the roads. You should also take pictures of the damage to all of the vehicles involved and write down details of exactly what occurred. When you make a car accident claim, and the case goes to court, it is your burden to prove the other driver was at fault. The more evidence you have, the better. Taking pictures of any injuries that occurred is a good idea for the same reason.
9. GET CHECKED OUT BY A DOCTOR
While getting medical help is the first thing you should do if you are seriously injured, you should always go to a doctor even if you don’t really think anything is wrong. There may be injuries that don’t manifest symptoms right away or something that seems minor and inconsequential could quickly become much worse.
If you see a doctor right away, you could potentially avert a catastrophe. The doctor can catch injuries like internal bleeding or brain injury that may not have obvious symptoms. Your doctor can also document your injuries so that it is clear they were caused by the crash. If you wish to recover compensation for the injuries from the driver who caused the wreck, this documentation will be crucial.
10. CALL A LAWYER
This is one of the most important things you can do after an auto accident. Your lawyer will look out for your interests. Your lawyer will represent you in any dealings with your own insurance company and the insurance company of the other driver. The reality is that insurance companies care more about their profit than you. They want to settle a claim quickly and cheaply. Your attorney, on the other hand, will want to make sure you get the money you need to pay your bills and cover your losses.