Have you been in a car accident? They are called accidents because who would plan such a thing? Whether small fender-benders or huge collisions, it is more than an inconvenience, and you can potentially suffer physical and emotional trauma.
Although you may want to return to your day, there are important details you need to follow in case the incident becomes a bigger issue for insurance purposes or legal matters.
If you have never been in a car accident, here are the steps to take.
Step #1: Check everyone for injuries
Make a quick assessment of the safety at the scene. As long as there is no potential for an explosion from a fuel leak or other safety concerns, ensure all people are safe.
Check yourself first, and if you can, check any passengers in your car and other cars involved. If they need first aid attention, call 911 and report the accident, advising them if you need police, ambulance or fire. Get vehicles to pull off the road or put out traffic cones or flares if you have them.
If you have injuries or are concerned, go to the hospital and check out. It is better to avoid caution and see a medical professional who can access your health.
Step #2: Take details of car accident
This may be the most important thing you do. Get out your phone and take pictures of the scene. You need to have pictures of:
- Damage to all vehicles
- Road conditions
- Address signage
- Position of cars on the road
Write down additional details on a pad or your phone and include:
- Street address
- Location markers (stores, houses, businesses)
- Contact information of all parties
- Time of day
- Weather conditions
- Road conditions
- Vehicle damage
- Witness information
Try to write down as many details leading up to the accident as possible while still fresh in your mind. This will help you remember things to give reports to the police, insurance companies or a lawyer.
Step #3: Don’t make any deals
After an accident, some people may offer you a deal, so it doesn’t have to be reported to your insurance company. They could offer to get your vehicle repaired or even attempt to give you cash. The other driver might not have insurance and want to avoid an accident claim.
Be polite but refuse to make a deal. You don’t know the extent of your car’s damage and if you have suffered any lasting injuries. By agreeing to settle the matter privately, you may lose out and have additional expenses down the line.
Step #4: Report the car accident
After the accident, you may be interviewed by the police at the scene and be checked for injuries by paramedics. If you can drive your car, go straight home or get your car towed away and have someone pick you up. Once everything is cleared up at the scene of the accident, you should immediately call your insurance provider.
You want to be the first one to make a claim. This lets you tell the story and allows you to fully report as many details as you need to make a proper claim. There may be a limited amount of time to report an accident, so make it a priority. Even in a minor accident, it should still be reported, and for larger collisions and injuries, it is vital to ensure you are covered for potential damages and compensation.
Step #5: Don’t take a quick settlement
Your insurance provider will want to check out your vehicle and access your medical records to see the extent of damages and injuries. Their ultimate goal is not to have to make any payout, but they may offer you a specific amount to sign a release from future claims. Never admit any guilt, place blame or talk to an adjuster if you are unprepared.
Refuse to sign anything until you know what you are entitled to. Your injuries may be more serious than you think and could manifest over time. If you settle with the insurance company, you will no longer be able to pursue additional compensation down the road. Most settlements are insufficient and leave you without the appropriate funds to take care of yourself.
Step #6: Get legal advice
Following an accident, you are usually on your own, handling all the paperwork and dealing with insurance and medical issues yourself. You need someone in your corner to help in the process.
An accident and personal injury lawyer will assist you and ensure you are taken care of. They have the legal expertise to deal with insurance companies and fight for your right to fair compensation. The insurer wants to pay the least amount they can, and you need to recoup costs for repairing or replacing your car and any medical expenses and recovery. If the matter goes to court, you also need representation.
Car accidents are tough to deal with, but knowing what to do will save you money and help take care of your long-term. Following these steps will stand the best chance of receiving fair compensation and returning to your life.