Car accidents are not something to take lightly. Every year, there are over 38,000 car accidents in the US. If you’re in a car accident, there are some important things to keep in mind for your protection, safety, and legal standing. Here’s what you need to do after a car accident.
1. Call the Police
In most states, you are required by law to contact the police for any accident that caused a certain amount of damage. This varies by state, but it’s better to call and be safe. If the accident caused any injury or potential injury, call 911 right away.
This should be the first step after the accident. If you settle this without the police or an ambulance but discover you have over $1,000 worth of damage on your vehicle or the other vehicle, contact the local police department to let them know.
Also, every state requires an accident report if there was an injury, death, or property damage exceeding a certain threshold. If you’re unsure about your situation, it’s best to call anyway.
2. Move to a Safe Location
Before the police arrive on the scene, you will need to move to a safe location. Ensure that your safety is a priority, so move to the side of the road. If you have cones or bright-colored vests in your car, put them on while standing on the road.
Move your vehicle to the side of the road or shoulder if you are able to drive. You can coordinate this with people in the other car as well, just to ensure that everybody is safe. Accidents can compound to others if the vehicles (and you) are left on the road.
Once the police arrive, they can make decisions on where to move cars, directing traffic, and other car accident safety precautions. Prior to their arrival, take the initiative yourself for everybody’s safety.
3. Exchange Information
Whether it’s another car or some other type of property, it’s important to write down the other party’s information. License plates, names, contact information, and insurance information should be exchanged at the scene of the accident.
Also, if the other party is hostile or upset, wait for the police to arrive and try not to escalate the situation. It’s okay to be upset, but escalating may make the situation unsafe for everybody.
4. Be Careful What You Say
Don’t say “I’m sorry” or anything to that effect. Calmly ask the other party to exchange information, ask if they’ve called the police, and keep the conversation brief. Otherwise, what you say can be taken out of context and used against you during the legal process.
Even if you believe you caused the accident, don’t give an outward confession. There have been many instances where someone was forced to pay or even convicted of a crime for confessing. If they hadn’t, who knows what the outcome would have been?
It’s okay to make casual small talk with the other party, but be careful. If they are visibly upset, then it’s best to wait for the police to arrive before continuing the discussion.
Also, when speaking to the police, it’s critical that you don’t lie. Lying to the police is a crime. If they ask what you were doing (texting, drinking, etc.), telling the truth or not answering are your only safe options.
5. Seek Medical Attention
If you have any reason to believe you may have an injury, call 911 or go to the hospital. When an ambulance arrives at the scene, they may examine you for shock or bodily trauma. If you’re unsure whether or not you need medical attention, see a doctor anyway. When we go into shock, we may not notice certain aches or pains until later on.
Also, when you do file a claim, insurance companies will look into when you got treatment. If you did not seek treatment immediately after, it may appear that you were not injured in the crash.
6. Contact Your Insurance Provider
You will need to contact your insurance provider to inform them about the accident, even if you were not at fault. Your insurance will also being the process of filing a claim against the driver after a car accident.
Let them know all of the details of the accident and speak honestly with them. Lying or misrepresenting the truth could be considered insurance fraud. However, you do not need to share every detail. Just ensure you are stating the facts.
7. Hire a Lawyer
Even if you know for a fact that you are innocent, hiring a lawyer after a car accident is quite important. Otherwise, you won’t have a defense against any claims from the other party. They may claim that you caused the accident or acted negligently.
However, you don’t want to hire just any lawyer. An experienced car accident attorney will offer the best legal help during your case. You can take legal action by suing the other driver, but if you don’t have personal legal protection, you could end up not recovering your losses.
Don’t Wait After a Car Accident
After a car accident, it’s important to get the help that you need. Whether that’s medical or legal, you should ensure that you find the right help for your needs. Write down what happened, keep track of communications, and ensure that you get a fair deal.
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