5 Critical Steps After You’ve Been in a Car Accident
Regardless of the severity of the crash, if you’ve just been in a car accident, you are probably feeling overwhelmed, disoriented, and a bit out of control. After doing your best to stay calm, assess your own physical state and call 911. Next, check on the condition of those around you and in the other vehicle(s) involved if it is safe to do so. Provide assistance if you are competent and able, and remember not to move anyone who may have a neck or back injury.
But after these initial, straightforward emergency steps, what should you do?
Never leave the scene of a crash. If you leave, you could face fines and/or jail time. If you are able to, move your car to the nearest shoulder to prevent obstructing traffic. This will also help reduce the risk of further collisions or further injury.
Hopefully you’ve already given yourself an initial once over, but now that you’ve had a few moments to take some deep breaths, check for any missed injuries and assess how you are actually feeling now that the adrenaline has died down. Often, the body’s response to stressful, traumatic situations like a car wreck prevents you from feeling the full extent of your injuries until later. Don’t ignore pain, however slight it may be. Your injuries may be more serious than you realize.
Request medical help as soon as possible regardless of how you’re feeling; it’s your safest bet for many reasons, not the least of which is having an experienced medical professional examine you for injuries you may not be aware of. If you don’t get medical help as soon as possible, it can not only affect your physical recovery, but also your ability to receive compensation for your injuries in a personal injury claim.
3. Exchange Information
Once the police arrive (or while you wait for them to arrive), the following key information should be shared among all involved parties:
- Name and address
- Vehicle license plate number
- Contact information
- Driver’s license number
- Any and all insurance information
You should also politely ask any witnesses if they would be willing
to share their contact information with you as well. These individuals could be valuable in helping to corroborate your position and make your personal injury case stronger, should the other driver be at fault and you pursue a claim.
When the police do arrive, be helpful, patient, and cooperative. Assist them with the completion of their report. The officer’s report is the official documentation of the incident, and it will be helpful down the road when speaking with insurance companies or filing a personal injury claim. You can gain access to this report at the police station (or sometimes online) – usually for a small fee.
4. Document the Scene
Use your cell phone and/or camera to take pictures of the scene. Document vehicle damage and any circumstances in the area surrounding the crash such as construction, weather, or time of day. Often forgotten are small injuries, such as minor cuts and bruises. They can disappear quickly but the effects may be felt for quite a while, so make sure to photograph those too.
5. Don’t Talk about It
You’ve done your due diligence, addressed your immediate health and safety concerns, and exchanged and documented the necessary information. Now, assume that your accident will become the subject of a personal injury claim. It can be difficult NOT to get into conversations about a frustrating situation, especially on social media. But don’t do it. Posting your thoughts or pictures on social media can often lead to negative effects in your potential lawsuit, even if you weren’t at fault.
Discussions with the other driver, talking to witnesses, or getting upset with the police are all equally harmful. Simply answer the questions the police have, but don’t make polite conversation with the other driver. Your words can be taken out of context, and they could be entirely misinterpreted. Your best bet is to stay calm, remain quiet, and seek the help of a reputable personal injury attorney as soon as possible – before insurance adjusters start calling your home; you are not obligated to talk with them, either.
Hossley & Embry: Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys
Ultimately, your best course of action after a car accident is to contact a personal injury attorney. At Hossley & Embry, we can help you evaluate the details of your situation and provide guidance as you pursue your claim. Please don’t hesitate to get the help you need. Call our offices at (866) 522-9265 right away.