Top Five Things to Do After a Car Accident
Every car accident, no matter how minor, is an unpleasant experience. Most people will be involved in at least one such accident in their lives, whether a minor fender bender or a more serious collision. Regardless of the severity, here are some universal tips that you can use for every situation.
Tip One: Call 911This may seem a bit obvious, but if you’ve been in an automobile accident, you should always call the police. This is regardless of whether or not there is any significant damage to your vehicle. Police officers can assist you in exchanging information with the other driver, ensuring that you don’t miss getting any valuable information you might otherwise need. In many situations, they will also document the accident by writing a police report. In the event that you may decide to pursue recovery through the at-fault driver’s insurance company, this will be a vital document – without a police report, it will often be your word against that of the other driver, leaving the insurance company with an easy excuse to deny your claim.
In more serious situations, calling 911 will also result in other emergency personnel arriving at the scene, including ambulances and their accompanying EMTs. These individuals will be able to evaluate your condition and ensure that you’re not seriously injured, regardless of whether or not you feel any discomfort or pain. After an accident, it isn’t uncommon for your adrenaline to flood your system – you often won’t feel any discomfort or pain. That doesn’t mean it’s not there. Always allow yourself to be checked out and afforded care if offered, even if you don’t feel that it’s necessary.
Tip Two: Take PhotographsYou will have time before and often the police and other personnel arrive at the scene. The aftermath of an accident is not often a quick process and can take some time to resolve. You can use that time to preserve evidence that may not be available in the future. In this day and age, almost everyone has a cell phone. Those cell phones, in turn, are almost always equipped with cameras – use them. Take photographs of the damage not only to your vehicle, but the other vehicle as well.
But don’t stop there! Take photographs of the scene – tire marks, the positions of the vehicles, and the larger scene itself. This will be your only time to document the scene as it presently exists, so take advantage of it. This can be particularly important if something related to the scene contributed to the accident. For example, what if there was a missing stop sign? You want to document that before it’s replaced. Are the traffic lights not working? Document that, too. Finally, look yourself over. Do you have any cuts, bruises, or marks that are readily visible? Take photographs of those as well, as they’ll often heal in short order. You want to preserve everything you can in case you need it later.
Tip Three: Get Checked OutThe police have finally finished processing the scene and have told you that you’re free to go. However, you’ve just been asked a very important question – do you want to go to the hospital? The answer to this seemingly simple question is extremely dependent on your particular circumstances. For example, has your car been totaled, or could you drive yourself? How are you feeling now that you’ve had some time to collect yourself? Are you currently in the middle of a pandemic? In more serious accidents, such as when your car is no longer operable, you should always go to the hospital. While this may just be a precautionary measure, it’s important to ensure that nothing is wrong and to document any injuries you may already be feeling.
In situations where the accident was minor and your vehicle is still operable, it is still important to seek medical attention. This can mean scheduling an appointment with your Primary Care Physician, going to a walk-in clinic, or even driving yourself to the hospital. The job of a physician is not limited to telling you merely what’s wrong with you, but what you can expect in the coming days and whether you should seek additional care. For example, it is common for persons to experience increased levels of pain and soreness in the days following the accident, even if they felt fine the day the accident happened. Getting checked out can help prepare you for that eventuality and a physician can advise you on the best course of action to take should that come to pass. He can also prescribe pain medication to make the healing process smoother, which may become vital depending on the severity of your accident and your injuries.
Tip Four: Document the AccidentYou’ve called the police. You’ve taken photographs of the accident. You even took the ambulance to the hospital where they told you that, thankfully, nothing was broken. You’ve finally gotten back home and have a moment to sit down on your chair and think about everything that’s happened to you. But don’t just think – write it down. While the other tips on this last may seem obvious, this one is not. Documenting the events of the day may not seem a helpful thing to do, but it can be vital to you and your claim, should you choose to pursue one, down the road. Human memory is finicky – we don’t recall or remember nearly what we think we do. We tend to forget details that we deem unimportant or immaterial, not realizing that those details may be of vital importance in the future. It’s just how we’re wired.
Documenting the events that have transpired on the day of your accident can help fix that. It doesn’t have to be long and it’s doesn’t need to be complex. A few notes about your day, what happened, and what you’re feeling on a sheet of paper can go a long way. These notes can serve to refresh your recollection should you forget key details, or even serve as evidence. They can also serve to bolster your claims and your recollection by showing that you’ve documented everything that’s happened along the way. But, most importantly, they help you organize your thoughts. You’ve just been through a chaotic event and you’re likely not thinking straight as you process all the things that have just happened to you, not to mention all of the things you’re going to have to do next. Taking a few moments to jot down your thoughts can not only be a useful factual tool, but a great stress reliever as well.
Tip Five: Call an AttorneyIf you get nothing else from this list of tips, I hope you take this last tip to heart. Within the week following your accident, you need to call an attorney to discuss your next steps and whether or not you should pursue a claim for damages against the other driver. An attorney, particularly one who specializes in handling personal injury claims such as car and truck accidents, is a vital tool for someone in your situation. We can explain the nature of your claims, if any, including the difficulties you might face. Not all accidents are created equal – in Maryland and D.C., for example, contributory negligence is alive and well. That means that if you are even the smallest bit at fault for an accident, you cannot recover anything. An attorney can help you defeat that argument, as well as explain the difficulties it might pose.
Another thing hiring an attorney serves to do is to remove the bulk of your workload at minimal cost. Most attorneys that handle car and truck accidents do so on a contingency fee basis. That means that their fees are resolved at the end of the case and are a percentage of the settlement value. In other words, it is in their best interest to get you a high settlement or verdict for your case. To do so, the attorney will engage the at-fault driver’s insurance company, advise you on how to proceed and treat following an accident, and attempt to settle a matter on your behalf. Should settlement prove impossible, which is common in pre-suit matters with certain insurers, an attorney will represent you before your local court. The simple truth is most individuals wouldn’t know where to begin with any of these steps. For example, in many cases, the value of a case is derived, at least partially, from the amount of treatment an individual receives – assuming you sought treatment in a timely manner. Attorneys, knowing this, can provide the names of medical providers and other resources for you to seek treatment immediately, so as to prevent an insurer from claiming that you weren’t actually really injured and attempting to lower the value of your claim accordingly. If nothing else, hiring attorney gives you the peace of mind that your matter is being handled and guided by a professional.