You can be in a lot of pain, shock, and anger when you get into a car accident. Even though I have represented hundreds of clients in car accident claims, I still feel shock and anger when someone else hits me. But it is best to remain calm and keep several tips in mind so that you do not cause yourself any legal pain on top of the physical pain you may be experiencing. Below are some steps to follow as soon as you are in an accident:
1. If it is safe to remain in your car, assess yourself to see if you are injured. Check for wounds or any pain. You may not feel any immediate pain because of shock and adrenaline, but it is still worth a quick self-assessment. Check all passengers if possible as well.
2. If it is safe and you are able, step out of the car and take some quick photos of the accident scene, including the cars involved and landmarks showing the exact location. But you may not be able to do this if you are in the middle of a highway, for example.
3. Pull over to the side of the road if you and your vehicle are able to do so. Make sure the other vehicles involved are also pulling over and not driving away. If you see an involved car trying to drive away from the scene, take as many photos of it as possible.
4. See if there are any witnesses who may have seen the accident. Try and make contact with them. Sometimes a witness driver may pull over to offer assistance, or sometimes a customer or employee in a store front may have seen the accident.
5. Call the police. State as calmly as possible what happened. Depending on your location, the police may not come and take a report, especially if there are no reported major injuries. If the police won’t come, you will at least have a public record of your 911 call explaining what happened.
6. If possible, step out of your car and make contact with all the involved drivers and passengers. The first words that come out of your mouth should be “Are you OK?” Despite being angry and wanting to yell at the person who hit you, keep in mind that anything you say could be used for or against you in your later insurance claim or lawsuit. It is best to at least seem nice and reasonable to the other driver, despite their negligence.
7. If you are ever asked if you are injured by anyone, state where you think you are injured. If you are not sure if you are injured, state that you are not sure because you are in shock.
8. Exchange insurance information with all involved vehicles and drivers.
9. Take as many photos and videos as possible.
10. When the police arrive, calmly state what happened. The police are assessing your credibility at this time and, in the event of any dispute as to how the accident occurred, you want the police on your side.
11. Go to the Emergency Room if you are feeling any injuries. Some injuries may present themselves days or weeks later. As soon as you feel pain, go to the ER or your primary care physician. If you let an injury linger without seeking professional medical treatment, you may face some legal challenges later.
12. Call your insurance company to report the accident as soon as you are done with the police and addressing any immediate medical needs. Again, state what happened in as much detail as possible and as calmly as possible. When asked if you are injured, state your injuries. If you are not sure if you are injured at that point, state that you are not sure but will wait to see if anything develops in the coming days.
13. Call an attorney to discuss your options and potential needs for legal representation. Not all insurance companies and doctors, even your own, are on your side. An attorney can help you navigate the complicated world of auto insurance, paying your medical bills, help get you the medical treatment you need, and help you get the compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering.