The last thing anyone wants to happen is to get into an accident. While most people try to avoid accidents, in some cases, they are just not avoidable.
In some cases, someone else causes the accident. In other cases, your vehicle might malfunction, or you could have a medical emergency and can’t stop an accident from happening. Regardless of the cause, if you can, take these steps after an accident.
Immediately After You Get into a Wreck
Check the condition of any passengers in your vehicle. Get a verbal response from them. Check yourself to see if you can move without causing additional injuries to yourself. Slowly move your extremities. Try to turn sideways in the seat as if you are getting out of the vehicle. If you can move without feeling pain or feeling minimal pain, try standing.
If you don’t feel pain or feel minimal pain, you can try to check on those in other vehicles. At the same time, call first responders to let them know that you were in an accident and how many possible injured people are involved.
The one exception to this rule is if the person who caused the accident was exhibiting signs of road rage. If you believe the other person was having a road rage fit, it’s better if you stay away from that person. Let the police know that you believe you are a victim of someone else’s aggressive driving or road rage incident.
Never admit to fault after an accident, even if you aren’t sure who caused the accident. Let those who know the law and how to read an accident scene determine who bears the responsibility for the accident.
Others who could share responsibility for an accident include:
- The municipality is responsible for road maintenance.
- A vehicle manufacturer.
- A part manufacturer.
- An auto technician who recently worked on your vehicle.
- Someone’s pet or child that runs into the road.
- Debris in the road.
- Company owners, maintenance techs, and dispatchers when a commercial vehicle causes you to hit someone else.
While Waiting for First Responders
Tend to those in your vehicle, if possible. If someone is bleeding, staunch the bleeding if you can. Instruct those who have injuries not to move. Let people know that you called first responders.
If it is safe to do so, take photos of the accident. While the police will also take pictures, your car accident lawyer will have a second set from another perspective. Make sure you include damage to nearby property, including fences, mailboxes, and lawns. You should also make sure any skid marks are included in the pictures before the vehicles are moved.
Speak with witnesses to get their version of what happened, and their contact information. At a minimum, obtain a working phone number. If possible, obtain an email address and a mailing address for anyone who saw the accident.
Finally, if the other driver is not intoxicated, aggressive, or injured, swap information with the driver—or drivers—who were involved in the accident. Be sure to obtain contact information, registration information, and insurance information for each driver involved. Also, give your information to other drivers.
Seek Medical Attention
Allow first responders to check you, even if you feel that your injuries are minor. After the police release you from the accident scene, go to the emergency room for more extensive tests. Let the doctors know that you were in an accident and that you need them to check you from head to toe for internal injuries, head injuries, and other injuries that you can’t see or might not feel right away.
Speak With a Car Accident Attorney
A car accident injury attorney works to make sure your rights are protected:
Working With the Insurance Company
Some people often wonder why they should contact an attorney instead of settling their claim themselves. In most cases, when you try to work with the insurance company, you end up leaving money on the table.
Insurance companies are for-profit businesses, which means that they are in business to make money. The risk they take is that their client doesn’t get into an accident, and they get to keep all of the premiums you pay, or that if you do get into an accident, the damages are less than the premiums you’ve paid over the years.
Every claim they must pay out reduces their bottom lines—the claims decrease the insurance companies’ profits. This is why some people who might seem more at risk have to pay higher premiums.
An insurance company representative may try anything to deny your claim or to offer a minimalistic settlement amount, including twisting your words to use what you say against you. If the insurance company can put full or partial blame for the accident on you, it can deny your claim or offer you a partial settlement.
In many cases, especially those that involve severe or catastrophic injuries, the pittance the insurance company offers to an individual trying to settle his or her own claim doesn’t cover all of the damages you have a right to. Attorneys know this tactic and can avoid being led into this trap, which translates into a fairer settlement for you.
Settlement or Litigation
In some cases, even an attorney cannot convince the insurance company to come to a fair and reasonable settlement. When you retain an attorney to help you through settlement negotiations, but the insurance company doesn’t do the right thing, the attorney already has most of the information he or she needs to start working on a case strategy for litigation.
The attorney also knows the circumstances around the accident, which means that you most likely don’t have to go through recounting it again—at least not for the attorney that handled your settlement negotiations.
Retaining an attorney for the settlement negotiations means that you have a smooth transition to the litigation phase, should doing so become necessary.
Ensuring You Aren’t Wrongfully Blamed
Others involved in the accident will look for someone to blame, even if they were at fault. If the police officer agrees with the others, you should have an attorney who can hire investigators to determine who was actually at fault for the accident.
Your car accident lawyer has the resources to hire investigators to get to the bottom of the truth as to who was at fault, and can help protect your interests through every stage of the post-accident process.
Injuries You Passengers Could Suffer in a Car Accident
Depending on where your vehicle is hit and what hits it, accident injuries could range from minor to catastrophic. Getting hit by a big rig carries a higher risk of suffering catastrophic injuries because of the size and weight of the truck. A passenger sitting at an impact point has a higher risk of suffering injuries than someone sitting on the other side of the vehicle.
- Bumps, bruises, cuts, scrapes, and scratches.
- Sprains and strains.
- Pulled and torn muscles, and other soft tissue injuries.
- Road rash.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries, including mild concussions.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Internal injuries.
Drivers and passengers alike could also suffer secondary injuries, such as infections. Any open wound is susceptible to becoming infected, including those from surgeries to repair car accident injuries.
Those who have underlying conditions, including diabetes and immunodeficiencies, or those who are taking treatments or medications that lower their white blood count are at a higher risk of suffering secondary infections and slower recovery times.
It is important to discuss your underlying conditions, treatments, and medications for underlying conditions with both your physician and your attorney. Those issues could cause injuries that would normally heal within a few weeks or months to take longer, possibly becoming long-term or permanent disabilities.
Because you would not have had these types of injuries and/or disabilities if it were not for the accident, the at-fault parties should have a responsibility to cover those medical expenses and other damages you might recover.
Three Types of Recoverable Damages
After a car accident, you have the possibility of recovering three types of damages. The first two are compensatory damages, which the court orders in an attempt to make you whole again. The court only orders the third type of damages—punitive damages—in cases of misconduct or recklessness.
Special damages, usually referred to as economic damages, include:
- Past medical expenses for those incurred in the accident and before a settlement or a jury trial.
- Future medical expenses for those incurred in the accident and after a settlement or a jury trial.
- Past lost wages for those lost from the time of the accident to the time you settle or receive a trial award.
- Future lost wages for those lost after the settlement or trial award. Future lost wages might include partial lost wages if you can work, but you take a pay cut because the disabilities caused by your accident injuries prevent you from returning to your usual job.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property.
- Funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses if you lost a loved one in a car accident.
General damages, usually referred to as non-economic damages, include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress if you were injured in the accident. Generally, to receive pain and suffering, your injuries have to cause long-term or permanent disabilities or cause you to need cognitive or some other psychological therapy because the accident was tragic.
- Emotional distress if you lost a loved one in a car accident.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as an arm or foot.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight.
- Loss of quality of life.
- Loss of companionship.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Disfigurement and/or excessive scarring.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, including shopping, lawn maintenance, and home maintenance and repair.
Still have questions about what to do after an accident that injures someone? A personal injury lawyer near you can answer them, and most offer free consultations—so you have nothing to lose by calling.