You never get behind the wheel expecting to be involved in a car accident. Unfortunately, accidents can happen even if you’re being extremely careful. When you’re injured in an accident and someone else is at fault, you’ll probably have the right to file an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. However, you may not realize that the things you do immediately after the crash will affect your case.
Car accidents are stressful. However, it’s important to be mindful of the things you do after the crash. Missteps can hurt your personal injury case and limit the amount of money you get. Here are the six things you should do to protect yourself and your lawsuit after an accident.
Call the Police and Stand Back
Call the police as soon as possible after your car accident. An officer will be dispatched to the scene to assess the situation and write a report. This report may not be admissible in court, but it will contain evidence and information that may be critical to your personal injury case. Details like the weather, traffic conditions, and witness names may be lost or forgotten over time. The police report will preserve these details and be available when your attorney begins to investigate your case.
If possible, leave your vehicle and stand as far away from the site of the accident as possible. Many times, one accident often leads to others. Distracted drivers may not see a wreck in front of them and crash right into your vehicle. If you’ve moved away, you’re much less likely to get hurt.
Get Checked Out By a Doctor
Always seek medical attention after a car accident, even if you don’t believe that you’ve been injured. A thorough medical evaluation will make sure that any injuries are identified, diagnosed, and treated promptly. Undetected injuries can be incredibly dangerous to your health. Complications, including internal bleeding and infection, can develop and threaten your life. In many cases, these complications can be avoided with a simple screening after an accident.
The purpose of your hospital visit isn’t just to get checked out. Your visit will also generate medical records that can be used to support any legal claims you decide to pursue. The details of your medical reports can help to prove that your injuries were a result of your accident. This will be crucial if you file a personal injury lawsuit and argue that another driver was negligent.
Report the Accident and Your Injuries
Calling the police is a great first step when you’ve been involved in an accident. However, failing to report your accident to certain companies or state agencies could threaten your ability to recover compensation.
Insurance Company: You’ll generally have a couple of years to file a personal injury lawsuit after your accident. However, insurance companies aren’t as generous. Many insurers will refuse to honor your personal injury claim if you fail to:
- report the accident to them, or
- file a claim within a “reasonable” amount of time after the crash.
You can protect your right to recover compensation by simply notifying relevant insurance companies that an accident has occurred. Call your own insurer as well as the insurer of any other at-fault parties. A simple phone call or email can preserve your insurance claim.
State Agencies: You may be required by law to report your car accident to a state agency. In some states, including California, accidents causing extensive property damage, bodily injury, or death, must be reported to the state within a few days. Reports must include information about all drivers involved, insurance coverage, and descriptions of damage, injury, or death. Failure to report your accident to the state could do a lot of damage if you want to file an insurance claim. Reporting your accident can help to preserve important evidence and support your demand for compensation.
Document the Accident and Your Injuries
Photographs and videos can be invaluable if you decide to file an insurance claim or lawsuit. If you’re not immediately transported to the hospital, take a few moments to document your accident and injuries. Consider taking pictures or video footage of:
- The scene of the accident
- Damage to any vehicles or property involved in the crash
- Tire marks
- Traffic conditions
- Road hazards, and
- Injuries sustained by you and others.
Photographs will ultimately help your attorney to better understand your car accident lawsuit. The evidence you gather can be carefully evaluated by experts and used to create a strong personal injury case.
Remain Silent and Refuse Early Offers
Insurance companies may be quick to contact you after an accident. This is particularly true if there’s ample evidence to show that their insured driver is at fault. The purpose of the insurer’s call will be to get you to accept an early offer. More often than not, these early offers are insultingly low. Insurers hope that you’ll be unaware of how much your case is really worth and/or eager to settle. They’ll use your emotions against you and try to manipulate or scare you into accepting an unfair offer.
You need to know that you are under no obligation to speak with an insurer after your accident. In fact, outside of reporting the fact that an accident has happened, talking with an insurance company can be incredibly dangerous. They’ll try to take the things you say out of context and use them against you. The best thing you can do is remain silent and be patient. You’re much more likely to get the money you deserve when you take your time and make sure that your case is investigated and valued properly.
Contact an Attorney
You can certainly pursue compensation on your own after an accident. However, the laws and procedures that apply to your car accident case can be complicated and overwhelming. If you’re struggling with a painful injury, the last thing you need to do is divert attention away from your recovery. You may find that it’s very difficult to negotiate with stubborn insurers to get the money you need.
Hiring an attorney will put you in the best position to get the money you need and deserve after an accident. Your attorney will be your advocate. They’ll handle the complex legal case while you take the time you need to get better. Together, you’ll increase the odds of recovering a fair and reasonable settlement or award.