No one expects to be involved in a car accident. However, accidents may occur due to distracted driving, failure to observe traffic rules, and bad weather conditions.
Whether an accident involves a minor bump or a fatal collision, it could happen at any time and to anyone using the road. Unfortunately, immediately following a car accident, you may feel shock, fright, and pain from injuries, which can confuse you about what to do after the accident.
If you find yourself in a car accident, taking these steps can help you navigate your claim with an auto insurance company and can protect your interests against other parties involved in the accident.
In some states, you must stop your car if you are involved in an accident that leads to property damage, injuries, or death. No matter how minor the accident may seem, make sure you stop your vehicle at a safe distance that will not impede traffic or pose a danger to other motorists.
Leaving the scene of an accident is called a hit and run. In some states, this is a criminal offense, which can result in a misdemeanor or felony charge. Misdemeanor charges involve property damage, while felony charges involve injury or death.
If you are involved in a car accident that causes property damage, you should:
- Immediately stop at the accident scene
- Exchange your contact information and current address with the other driver
- Provide the other driver with your car registration and driver’s license information upon request
Suppose your accident caused property damage to a stationary car, a parking meter, road sign, or a post. In that case, you should leave a note with your information and the circumstance that led to the property damage.
If the accident results in injury or death, the law in some states requires you to stop at the accident scene immediately and:
- Provide the officer at the scene with the requested information
- Report the accident to the police or highway patrol
Penalties for violating these rules in certain states include 180 days in county jail, three years of informal probation, and court fines of up to $1000 in case of a misdemeanor.
If the accident led to injuries or death, stopping and doing the right thing can save you from felony charges that could include:
- Up to one year in county jail as a misdemeanor
- 16 months to three years in state prison
- Restitution to the victim
- Fines of $1000 up to $10,000
In addition, a person convicted of a hit and run can have their driving license revoked, have points added to their driving record, and have increased insurance premiums.
Call the Law Enforcement and Medics
After stopping, you need to call the medics if someone sustains injuries from the accident. Then contact local police or the county sheriff, especially if the accident resulted in injuries or property damage. A trained law enforcement officer provides invaluable help in the confusing situation by:
#1. Calling Medical Care
The police are likely to reach the accident scene before the medics do, offering basic medical care to anyone with injuries. Moreover, the police can clear the area for an ambulance to park and assist the EMTs in moving injured people into the ambulance.
#2. Protecting the Accident Scene
If the accident involves several vehicles, the police will secure the crash area and ensure it is traffic-free as they conduct their investigation. When the accident scene is secure, you can easily talk to the police, the other involved parties, and witnesses.
#3. Investigating and Documenting the Possible Cause of the Accident
After arriving at the crime scene, the police will gather witness reports, collect contact information of the involved parties and the witnesses, and test whether the other driver was driving under the influence of alcohol.
#4. Preparing a Police Report
The police report includes the probable cause of the crash and the extent of the damages, making it essential when pursuing a claim or bringing the party at fault to court. Ensure you get a copy of the police report and the officer’s badge number filing the report before leaving the accident scene.
Take Photos of the Accident Scene
Photographic evidence can help you establish the number of injuries you sustained from a car accident and other damages. In addition, photos of the accident scene help prove the cause of the accident instead of pointing fingers.
Photos that document the injuries and damages at the accident scene make a big difference between a successful and an unsuccessful insurance claim. Therefore, after seeking medical attention and helping file a police report, you should take photos of the scene.
Essential details to capture in photographs include:
- Damages on both cars
- Sustained injuries
- The other driver’s license and insurance information
- Essential features of the surrounding areas such as road signs and street lights
- Weather conditions such as wet roads, ice, windy or stormy day
- Date and time stamp
Tips for Taking Accident Scene Photos
While taking the pictures, use these tips to ensure you capture the most evidence as possible:
- If taking close-ups, ensure you’re at least one to five feet from the object, 10 to 15 feet for medium distance, and 20 feet or more for long-distance photos.
- Take photos from different angles to clearly show the severity of the injuries and the extent of the damages.
- If taking photos at night, make sure you use a flashlight. However, it may not be necessary if there are overhead streetlights.
- Take numerous photos to give your attorney choices when selecting the most useful in your case.
After a car crash, your car accident attorney may need to investigate who was at fault and the extent of the damages. In addition to relying on the witness statements, the photographic evidence will paint a clearer picture of the scene.
The attorney may also use expert assistance in reconstructing the accident scene using the photographs. As a result, the pictures make it easier for the attorney to advocate for you and maximize your compensation.
See a Doctor
After talking to the police, you should consider visiting a doctor soon afterward. Having a check-up helps you establish your injuries and ensures that you receive the treatment you need for all of your injuries
Importance of Seeing a Doctor After a Car Accident
After an accident, you will likely experience an ocean of emotions like confusion, shock, and fright. All of these emotions lead to a surge of stress hormones, which may mask your injury symptoms for hours or sometimes days.
Identify Delayed-onset Injuries
- Concussions occur when the brain slams into the inside of the skull. You may not realize you have a concussion until after the accident. Seeing a doctor as soon as possible helps detect and address a concussion.
- Whiplash injuries may involve the muscles, nerves, bone, and other soft tissues in the body. They happen after the backward and forward movement during an accident. Whiplash symptoms can be delayed, making it necessary to see a doctor soon after the accident to identify these injuries.
- Back injuries are often dismissed as minor pains but can pose severe pain and difficulties long after an accident. Instead of ignoring the pain until it gets worse, you should visit a doctor soon after the car accident for an examination.
A Doctor’s Examination Can Expedite Your Claim
Before they process your claim, most insurance companies want to know whether you’ve sought medical attention or not. They also need to know how long it took you to do so.
In most cases, the insurance company requires you to have seen a doctor 72 hours after the accident. Therefore, visiting the doctor shows the insurance company that you sustained injuries during the accident.
Improves Your Legal Claim
If the accident happened due to someone else’s negligence, that person’s insurance company would need your medical bills. Your attorney will rely on your doctor’s reports to prove which injuries you sustained in the accident. Just like your insurer, the other driver’s insurer will need to know how long it took you to visit the doctor after the accident.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney
After a car accident, it is normal to believe that the insurance companies will handle the car damages and injuries sustained. The truth, however, is that insurance companies may not prioritize your interests. Therefore, insurance companies may not appropriately compensate you for your damages.
An experienced car accident attorney will protect your rights by taking the necessary steps to get you the fair and maximum compensation you deserve. A qualified attorney can help you by:
#1. Collecting Evidence for Court
Whether you agree to settle your car accident claim through negotiation or in court, your attorney can help you prove liability. The attorney may do this by collecting evidence related to the crash, such as police and doctor’s reports, photos of the accident scene, and witness statements. If need be, the attorney can issue subpoenas to access significant evidence such as mobile phone records and CCTV footage.
#2. Proving Liability
Another driver or a third party can cause a car accident, but sometimes you may be partially at fault. The amount of compensation you recover partially depends on your contribution to the accident. An experienced car accident attorney can help you understand the fault rules and how much you may collect from the accident.
In addition, the attorney may sift through the evidence to determine who or what caused your injuries. He or she will then use this evidence to build a strong case on your behalf.
When necessary, the attorney can obtain evidence by:
- Consulting medical experts to determine the extent of your injuries
- Using the photographic evidence to reconstruct the accident scene
- Using police reports to determine who was at fault
- Interviewing the witnesses
#3. Negotiating With the Insurance Company
Insurance companies have experience in negotiating, and it may be hard for you to arrange a settlement with an insurance company on your own. Your attorney understands all the tactics of insurers and other attorneys involved in the case.
An attorney can make a big difference in your case by:
- Negotiating with the insurance adjuster
- Handling the details of your claim
- Preparing verbal or written statements to help with your case
#4. File a Lawsuit
While you can settle your car accident claim outside the court, some cases are complicated and are more suitable for handling in court. After analyzing your case, your attorney will determine the complexity of your case and can advise you whether to settle it in or outside of court. Then, if your case goes to court, your attorney represents you by answering questions directed to you, filing documents on your behalf, and presenting evidence.
#5. Determining the True Value of Your Injuries
It may be hard to determine how much your injuries and damages from the accident are worth. An insurance company may offer you a low amount that barely covers your damages.
However, an experienced personal injury attorney understands the extent of your injuries and damages. They will gather all the necessary evidence to show the severity of your losses and ensure that you get the compensation to which you are entitled.
If you deserve it, the attorney can help you recover compensation for:
- Realized pain and suffering
- Incurred medical bills
- Lost wages and inability to return to work
- Future medical treatments
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
Every road user, whether a motorist, cyclist, pedestrian, or passenger, needs to practice reasonable care to protect their safety and that of others. Failure to do so may lead to an accident where the person responsible is deemed negligent.
If you get in a car accident, don’t get confused. Instead, use this guide to get justice and secure fair compensation after the accident. Working with a professional and experienced car accident attorney can increase your chances of getting the justice you deserve.
Contact a car accident attorney today for free consultation and answers to any of your questions.