First Things First: What Are Practical Steps to Take Immediately After an Auto Accident
Many people are unaware of the critical practical steps that should be taken to protect your rights and interests if you involved in an accident.
So, you were just in an auto accident. What are the first steps you should take?
Assess the situation (injuries and property damage)Above all, don*t panic. Panicking could lead to further injuries and property damage. Assess the situation, for example: observe the scene of the accident, your injuries, and the condition of the vehicles. If you are able, check on the injuries and condition of the parties involved in the accident.
Call for first responders/emergency services(A.) Call the local police department or highway patrol office using their nonemergency numbers. If the accident and injuries are serious enough, dial 911. If your injuries are significant enough, or you feel like you need to be transported immediately to the hospital, allow yourself to be transported to the hospital on an ambulance. With significant injuries, time is of the essence.
(B.) It is important to create an official record of the accident. The police report will document the location of the accident, the parties involved and their insurance providers, and typically who is at fault/liable for the accident. Many times the other party will insist that you not call the police, however, it is important to get the facts of the accident officially documented by the police.
Take pictures of the scene of the accident (without moving the cars if possible)If your injuries are not significant enough to warrant immediate transportation to the hospital, take pictures of the accident. If possible, take pictures of the vehicles as they were positioned in the accident. Make sure to take pictures of everything i.e. your injuries at the scene, the damage to both vehicles, the road conditions, the surrounding area, traffic conditions, any other damaged property, etc. If the vehicles were moved to the side of the road, still make sure to take pictures.
Exchange information with the other driver (make sure to get contact and information)You*ll need to exchange insurance and contact information with the other parties involved in the accident. Police in Utah will often times facilitate this by gathering all of the information (insurance and personal contact information) and then provide each party with a printout exchange of information sheet. If, for whatever reason, this is not the case, make sure to gather the person*s insurance information (take a picture/make a copy of their insurance card if possible). Also, obtain as much personal contact information such as full name, address, phone number, and take a picture of the other party*s license plate.
Seek medical attention immediately(A.) If your injuries are severe, or you might have a possible head injury, proceed to your nearest hospital or emergency room. Make sure to provide a complete description of all of your injuries to the doctors so that they can adequately treat your injuries.
(B.) If your injuries are less severe, such as neck and back pain, schedule an appoint with your primary care physician or go to the InstaCare as soon as possible. Again, make sure to tell your medical provider about all of the aches and pains that you have to ensure that you receive adequate medical attention. If needed, your care provider will provide you with a referral to a chiropractor, physical therapist, or other care provider for further treatment. If you do not have a primary care provider, or are unable to obtain a referral for additional treatment, search for a local chiropractor, physical therapist, or other health provider in your area.
(C.) make sure to be honest about your pain and injuries when receiving care from these other care providers. Consistent medical treatment immediately after the accident may prevent future injury or a decline in your medical condition. Sometimes people who are involved in an accident don*t want to admit they are in pain, or believe that the pain will go away on its own. However, many times soft tissue injuries will not heal without treatment. Furthermore, injured muscles may start having a negative impact on your skeleton system or other organs.
Contact your insurance provider to open a claim(A.) Despite who is at fault, contact your insurance provider to open a claim. Your insurance provider will help give you direction about how to approach your property damage and your medical care. Also, if you are not at fault for the accident, they may assist you in opening a claim with the liable party*s insurance.
(B.) Additionally, Utah law mandates that each insurance policy carry at least $3,000 of Personal Injury Protection (*PIP*). This is a benefit that you have already paid for. PIP, or no fault coverage, is just that. No matter who is liable for the accident your insurance provider must pay at least $3,000 of your medical treatment. Some policies may have more coverage than just the $3,000 minimum. Opening a PIP claim will not increase your premiums. If you are not the liable party, this amount will be reimbursed to your insurance provider at the end of the insurance settlement process. This money is there to protect your health and interests, so don*t be afraid to use it.
(C.) It is best to contact an attorney to open a claim with the liable party*s insurance. Many times the opposing party*s insurance will try to obtain a recorded statement from you to use against you in the future.
Document everythingAs you complete these first few steps make sure you document everything as you proceed through the healing process and dealing with the insurance providers. Document lost wages, all of your health care providers, all of the treatments provided, if there is any possibility for the need of future medical care (such as future surgeries or therapy), mileage to and from your health care providers, and anything else that may arise from this accident that you would like the insurance providers to know.
If you have any difficulties or questions with this process, contact an attorney immediatelyIf you have any difficulties, or are overwhelmed by this process, contact and/or hire a local personal injury attorney. Most of these attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that they are paid from a portion of the insurance settlement at the very end of the process. In other words, they will not charge you an hourly rate or upfront. If an attorney cannot get you a settlement you will not owe them any money for their time and money spent working on your case.