What Should I Do After an Auto Accident?
After an automobile accident, the ensuing moments can be highly stressful for everyone involved. There are many important concerns that should be addressed following an accident. Below is an overview of those concerns.
If There Are Injuries, Then Call 911
First and foremost should be the safety and concern for any injured individuals. If one or more individuals begin experiencing pain, then immediately call 911 to alert paramedics to your location. After calling 911, it is important to call the police to notify them of the accident.
Document the Scene
Besides contacting the police, it is also important to document the accident. Use a camera or a phone that has camera capabilities to take photographs of any damage to your vehicle and any other vehicle that was involved in the accident. Also, take down the names, phone numbers and addresses of any witnesses, passengers and individuals involved in the accident. Try to avoid discussing the accident with other drivers or witnesses. If you admit liability, this may be used against you later. If the police complete an accident report, make sure to carefully read it for it accuracy before signing it.
Secure Your Vehicle
If your vehicle is inoperable and needs to be towed from the scene, then make sure to remove or secure any valuables located in the vehicle. Be sure to get detailed information as to where your vehicle is being taken to and any charges associated with the transportation and storage of your vehicle.
Write Down Notes
After you return home from the accident, write down some notes and diagrams of how the accident occurred. Try to reconstruct the chain of events and how each vehicle was positioned before and after the accident. Also, contact your insurance agent and report the accident. Your insurance company may investigate the accident, take statements and inspect damage to the vehicles involved in the accident as part of their claims process. In order to protect your rights, you may want to contact an attorney prior to giving any statements to your insurance company. An experienced attorney can help explain the claims process assist you through each step.
Create Emergency Preparedness Kit
Although no one expects to be involved in an auto accident, a little preparation ahead of time may save a lot of headache should one occur. Below are items to include in a basic emergency preparedness kit which may assist you if involved in an auto accident:
· Cell phone
· Pen and paper
· Disposable camera
· Contacts names and numbers (emergency numbers and relative contacts)
· First aid kit
· Emergency flares and small road cones
Be Wary of Insurance Companies
It is also important to be wary if an insurance company contacts you and offers to settle your claim. As many injuries reach their greatest discomfort weeks or months after an accident, you shouldn’t settle a claim until you are fully compensated for all your injuries. If an insurance company provides you documents to sign, consult an attorney before signing those documents pertaining to any settlement.
Know Your Rights
While laws vary widely from state to state, it is important to determine the specific types of auto insurance coverage you have in effect and the laws applicable to the jurisdiction where the auto accident occurred. Many states have enacted laws limiting or prohibiting payment for medical treatment sustained in the collision if specific prerequisites are not complied with.
For example, in the state of Florida, every insured driver is required to pay premiums for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. PIP coverage pays a portion of the insured’s medical expenses and wage loss for any injuries received as a result of an automobile accident, regardless of who was at fault. A new law passed by the Florida legislature went into effect on January 1, 2013. The new law limits the amount of benefits an injury individual may receive based upon when they started treatment for their injuries or the specific diagnosis provided by a medical professional.
Seek Legal Assistance
Many times serious injuries do not manifest symptoms until days after the accident. It is important to remember that if you begin experiencing pain following an accident, then you should seek medical attention promptly. If you begin experiencing an injury, especially a serious one, you may want to consider contacting an attorney with personal injury experience in automobile accidents to preserve your rights.