In order to protect yourself, it’s important to know the steps to follow after being involved in a car accident.
After an automobile accident, the first thing you need to do is make sure that everyone is okay. The second thing you need to do is call the police and request an officer come to the scene to make an accident report. If no one is injured and the vehicles are still driveable, move them from the roadway. Above all, the most important thing is to remain calm and to be as helpful as possible to authorities (and to the other drivers if they need help).
Don’t get into an argument with the other driver, as it may cause you further problems when the police arrive. You’ll also want to make certain that you do not take the blame for the accident or apologize if there is any doubt in your mind with regard to fault or liability.
Get the driver’s information.
As soon as you can, get their plate number and write it down. If they decide to turn it into a hit-and-run, you’ll want to make sure you give the police some way to track them down.
Gather as much relevant information as you can after the accident. Write down the time, place, and type of auto accident and supply your claim with actual photographs from the site. Prepare a rough sketch of the accident site and also note the weather at the time of the accident. Take a photo of their face (if possible), their drivers license, and their proof of insurance.
Contact your insurance company.
If you were NOT injured in the accident, call your insurance company and report the collision. They will guide you through the process of repairing your vehicle and obtaining a rental. If you were injured in the crash, it’s strongly advised that you call an attorney for a free consultation before even speaking with the insurance company.
Contacting an attorney.
If you were injured in the car accident, contact a car wreck lawyer as soon as possible after seeking medical care. Most accident attorneys will be willing to meet with you for a free consultation. Accident attorneys (including us) frequently work on a contingency agreement, which means that you don’t have to pay them unless they win your claim. During your initial consultation, the attorney will evaluate the strength of your case and discuss your options. If the attorney doesn’t feel as though you have a strong case, he or she will likely decline to take you on as a client.
There are limitations on how long you have to file a lawsuit after the accident. Because of this, it’s imperative that you contact an attorney as quickly as possible so that they can tell you how long you have, and advise you of your next steps. If you miss your window of opportunity, you have no chance of ever recovering any compensation in relation to the accident, so it’s best to speak with an attorney and ask them before anything else.
The reason for contacting an attorney before you contact the insurance company is simple: the insurance company does not want to pay any claims if they can avoid it. They’ll work very hard to avoid it, too. This means that anything you say to them (even something as simple as replying “fine” when asked how you’re doing today) may come back to haunt you later. An attorney will let you know how to handle them and make sure you know what to say and what not to say.
The best policy is to speak with your attorney about everything having to do with the case and to not speak with the other driver (or their insurance company) at all, even if they contact you. If they do contact you, tell them that they need speak with your attorney directly and hand up.
For more information, see our comprehensive car accident checklist.