Over six million car accidents occur in the United States each year and, fortunately, most are relatively minor. As personal injury attorneys, we deal with car accidents every single day. Inevitably, a client or friend will ask me, “what should I do if I get into an accident?” Obviously, there are many different things that you can and should do depending on the circumstances, but here are 5 things that everyone should do if they are involved in an accident:
- Call the police: Surprisingly, many of our clients fail to call the police after an accident occurs. They often do not want to wait for the police to arrive or do not want to inconvenience the other driver. However, it is critical that the police are called to document what happened and determine who was at fault for the accident. Sometimes stories can change: the friendly driver who rear-ended you and said it was all his fault and that he would take care of everything later calls his insurance company and says that the accident was actually your fault because you stopped suddenly on a green light. Without a police report, it becomes a he said, she said situation. Police reports not only show how the accident occurred, but can also document the damage to the vehicles, the injuries to the parties, and the contact information for any witnesses.
- Record the details of the accident: Remember to document everything you can about the accident. The names of any witnesses, the insurance information for any vehicles involved in the accident, the contact information for the police officer are all important pieces of information. A camera phone is an extremely valuable tool in a car accident. Use it to take photos of the vehicles, the insurance cards, and any other relevant documents.
- Report the accident to your insurance company: Notify your insurance company as soon as possible if you were involved in an accident. Most insurance policies have a provision that requires policyholders to notify immediately and cooperate fully in the event of an accident. You also want to find out what types of coverage you have and what the limits are for each type of coverage you have. For example, you may have medical payments coverage, which will actually pay for your medical bills following an accident, so you don’t have to pay out of pocket!
- Seek medical attention if you are injured: If you feel you’ve been injured after a car accident, it’s important that you seek medical treatment right away. Even though you may feel fine immediately after the accident, pain can develop over the next few hours and days after the adrenaline wears off. It is also important to document the pain you are feeling following as it can be difficult to remember days, weeks, or months later. The longer you wait to seek medical attention, the more difficult it can be to prove that your injuries were related to the accident.
- Protect your rights: Within days or sometimes even hours of an accident, the other driver’s insurance company may contact you to ask for a statement or to request your medical records. Before you speak to an insurance company, talk to a personal injury attorney about your case. Most attorneys will provide a free initial consultation so that you can better understand how to protect your rights and your potential claim.
Remember to drive safely and be careful so, hopefully, you never have to use these tips.
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