No matter what state you live in, these 11 to-dos will set you firmly on the path to healing and preserving any claims you may have after a car or truck accident.
If you cannot safely exit your vehicle, do not. Wait for emergency personnel to assist you. If your vehicle is still running, turn it off.
Is Anyone Seriously Hurt?
Check with your passengers first and then the occupants of other vehicles to see if they are injured. Call for medical assistance if there are obvious injuries.
In Georgia, O.C.G.A. 40-6-2745 requires drivers to move operable vehicles from the roadway to a safer location like an emergency lane, median, or shoulder immediately after an accident if no serious injuries have occurred, the car is operable, and the car can be safely driven. Your continued safety comes first, so move over if you can to prevent impeding traffic, non-compliance with local laws, or being the victim of a secondary crash.
Even if you do not think you need to call the police, it is absolutely necessary to document the accident. One in seven drivers in Georgia are driving without proper insurance. The information another driver gives you may or may not be accurate. Get the police to take an accident report at the scene to protect your claim to be compensated for injuries and property damage. Reporting an accident is required under Georgia law O.C.G.A. 40-6-273 and can only serve to protect you and your loved ones.
Don't Flip Out
Be polite, try not to get upset, and keep apologies to yourself. This is not the time to get angry at another driver or be accusatory. Ask the other driver what happened and listen to what they say. It may come in handy to tell the officers when they arrive. This is not the time to apologize for looking down for a moment, daydreaming, or talking on your cell phone.
Almost everyone has a cell phone camera these days. Now would be a good time to use it. Take photos of the damage to your vehicle and the other vehicles involved in the collision. If the inside of your vehicle is a disaster after the accident, take a picture of that too. Morbid as it may seem, photos of injuries at the scene can be powerful tools in settling or litigating a case. If the vehicles are still where they came to a stop after the accident, walk far enough away from them to get a couple of good pictures, showing the positions of the vehicle in relation to each other and the roadway. If there are skid marks on the road, a photo can be helpful documentation. Be observant. When you photograph the other vehicles in the collision, keep your eyes open for things which might explain the accident and document those as well. A cell phone in another driver's car with the text or email screen up might otherwise be overlooked.
Georgia law requires that drivers exchange insurance, vehicle, and personal information under O.C.G.A. 40-6-273.1. Take this time to also get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of other people involved in the collision or witnesses at the scene.
Get Medical Treatment
It is not uncommon for people to think they are okay and "just shaken up" after an accident--even when there are significant injuries. When an accident occurs, your adrenaline skyrockets and can mask injuries which may only become apparent hours or even days after an accident. Some of the most insidious injuries which aren't always apparent include closed head injuries and internal bleeding, either of which could cause permanent injury or death if undiagnosed. Documentation is key. Go to a local emergency room or urgent care facility as soon as possible.
Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company but Do Not Give a Statement
Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Insurance policies can be made invalid if you fail to report the accident to your insurance company within the first day or two. When you are involved in a collision, the insurance companies involved are not your friends. Definitely do not give a statement to the other party's insurance company, and speak with your attorney first about giving any recorded statements about the accident.
Call a Personal Injury Attorney
Can you settle your case yourself without hiring an attorney? Yes, you can. But why would you want to?A report from the Insurance Research Council titled "Auto Injuries: Claiming Behavior and Its Impact on Insurance Costs," found that, on average, personal injury settlements are 3.5 times higher for clients who have hired an attorney than for those without one and 85 percent of money paid out by insurance companies for injury claims are paid to clients who have hired an attorney to represent them. Do you think you cannot afford to hire an attorney? You cannot afford to not hire one. Find a personal injury attorney who will personally handle the insurance company and your personal injury claims with expertise and insight. They should handle your entire situation including helping make sure you are getting proper medical care so you can focus on your recovery and all the other things you need to attend to. Most personal injury attorneys will give you a free consultation.
Be aware of people contacting you immediately after an accident. It is almost always against ethical guidelines for an attorney to directly contact you after an accident to solicit your business. Under O.C.G.A. 33-24-53(a) it is illegal for an attorney to use and/or pay a third party to contact you about hiring them. Attorneys have been disbarred for this behavior. Make certain the attorney you choose is both ethical and experienced. And don't forget to ask if the attorney files suit on cases that don't settle. If so, what are their guidelines for filing suit? Do they have trial experience? Unfortunately, there are personal injury attorneys out there who generally do not file suit and/or have no trial experience which can very negatively impact your financial recovery in a case. You should feel confident in your attorney's ability to help you at every stage of the case.