Most people consider themselves good drivers and thus believe they will never get into a car accident. However, this line of thinking doesn’t really match up with reality. Anywhere from 20 million to 50 million people are hurt or injured in automotive collisions each year, making them far more common than you might have suspected.
If this happens to you, you might find yourself unprepared, likely due to the fact that you never expected to face this situation. However, although it can be an overwhelming experience, the hours and days immediately after your crash play a pivotal role, as they are largely responsible for whether you’ll be able to file a personal injury claim to collect compensation for your damages.
Knowing what to do in this period could make the difference between a valid claim and out-of-pocket expenses, so consult the guide below. Here, you’ll learn exactly which steps to take to protect your right to take legal action.
6 Crucial Steps to Take Immediately Following a Car Accident to Increase Your Chances of Filing a Successful Personal Injury Case
1. Contact the Police
First, check yourself and any other passengers to ensure your health isn’t at immediate risk. Then, get out when it is safe to do so (surveying traffic around you) and check on the other driver. Once you have confirmed no one is in immediate danger, call 911 and request a police officer report to the scene. Give them your location, providing any notable landmarks or buildings around you to help the officer find you.
If needed, and if possible, pull the car off to the side of the road to get out of the way of traffic. However, it’s crucial you do not move for the main point of the accident; instead, simply reposition your car to allow other drivers to get around you and avoid a traffic jam.
2. Survey the Damage
While you are waiting for the police officer to arrive, take a more detailed survey of yourself, any other passengers, and your vehicle. If you notice any injuries, make note of them for treatment later on. Take pictures of your injuries to ensure you have adequate documentation. Then, evaluate your car, and take note of any damage there, as well. You can also take photographs of the other person’s damage, as well as pictures of the surrounding area and any notable traffic signs or markings.
3. Talk to the Police Officer
Once the officer arrives at the scene, they’ll speak to you and the other party separately. This will allow them to put together the pieces of the accident and determine factors like the cause and who they believe is liable. Calmly and clearly explain to the officer what happened, using as much detail as possible. Avoid any statements that could potentially make you seem liable such as “I’m sorry,” “I didn’t see them coming,” or “I didn’t know that was going to happen.”
After providing your statement, give the office your insurance information. They will take this down to include it in the police report. Request a copy of the other party’s policy, and ask when you can expect a copy of the police report to become available for your use.
4. Get the Contact Information of Any Eyewitnesses
If there were any people present at the time of the crash, ask for the contact information. Explain that you’d like to have their information in the event you need to file a personal injury claim and that having them provide a statement with their opinion on what happened could be highly beneficial to help you recover the compensation you deserve.
5. Request Medical Attention
Even if you initially feel fine after a car accident, it’s crucial you allow the officer to have you evaluated by a medical professional. More often than not, car accident injuries take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to make themselves known.
Having proof that you were proactive about getting care will prove invaluable down the line when you want to build a case; this will show that you took every measure possible to exercise caution and due diligence. That way, when the time comes to request compensation from the other party, the opposing attorney won’t be able to insinuate that you were partially responsible for your damages due to lack of care.
6. Look for a Personal Injury Attorney
The final and most important step you’ll need to take is to hire a reputable personal injury attorney to represent your interests in the upcoming proceedings. This person will handle all communications with the other party’s lawyer, which will mitigate stress as well as the potential for accidentally saying the wrong thing.
They will also work with you to understand the true value of your claim. They’ll calculate any immediate expenses, such as the cost to repair your vehicle, as well as medical bills. They’ll also help you figure out what your potential expenses could be in the future, such as loss of income or disability. Additionally, they’ll help determine if you are eligible to recover non-economic damages, such as loss of consortium or pain and suffering.
Opt to work with an attorney who has extensive experience handling cases like yours. They should have a broad range of past clients they can call on who will speak to their expertise and their satisfaction working with said lawyer. They should also have a high percentage of cases won; this will serve as a strong indicator that they are a skilled legal professional.
Moving Forward After an Accident
Although the immediate aftermath of an accident can be nerve-wracking, stressful, and scary, it’s important to stay calm and focused. By following the tips outlined in the guide above, you’ll alleviate the stress of the unknown. And by working with a reputable lawyer, you’ll stand the best possible chance of filing a successful personal injury claim and getting the compensation needed to fully recover physically, financially, and emotionally.