In 2017, there were over 6.4 million car crashes in the United States. Of those, 34,247 resulted in a fatality, 1.9 million resulted in injuries, and 6.4 million resulted in property damage.
Car accidents, even minor fender benders, have the potential to be a significant financial burden. Insurance deductibles, car repairs, increased insurance costs, medical costs, etc. all add up quickly. If you’ve been involved in an accident, there are some things you should do afterward to protect yourself.
Read on to learn more about what you should do after a car crash.
Determine the Extent of the Damage or Injuries
Determine how much damage was done during the accident. If it is a minor fender bender, you can move the cars out of the roadway if they are interfering with traffic. For more serious accidents, though, you should wait until the police arrive before moving vehicles.
If there are any injuries and someone needs urgent medical care, call 911. Getting medical care for any injuries parties takes precedence over the other steps you should take following an accident.
Call the Police
Calling 911 will typically send first responders, including EMTs and police, to the scene of the accident. If it is a minor accident, you can call the non-emergency number for the local law enforcement agency.
Even a minor accident could benefit from police presence, as they can help secure the area, divert traffic if needed, and gather necessary information for the police report.
Take Pictures and Get Contact Information for Other Drivers and Witnesses
Grab your cell phone and take pictures of the accident. Take pictures of the damaged vehicles, the entire scene of the accident, and any other damage that was done (property damage for example).
If there were any witnesses to the accident, get their contact information. This might be necessary later for your insurance company to determine who is at fault and might be necessary if you seek legal action.
In addition to contact information for the witnesses, you’ll also want the contact information for other drivers. Get their name(s), address, phone number, insurance company name, and policy number. This information will typically be included in a police report, but you should get it yourself as well.
Taking a picture of their driver’s license and insurance card is an easy way to collect this information.
Seek Medical Attention if Needed
Even if you don’t need urgent medical attention, you could have injuries that show up later. Car crashes often result in a surge of adrenaline that could be masking the pain from internal injuries, whiplash, or spinal injuries. Many car accident injuries take a few days to really manifest themselves, so it’s important to get checked out.
Most primary care physicians don’t handle car accident injuries, so you’ll want to go to the ER or get a referral for a doctor who specializes in car accident injuries, as your car insurance company, not your health insurance company, is billed for this medical care.
Don’t Make Small Talk or Admit Responsibility
Avoid making small talk with the other drivers or witnesses. Don’t admit responsibility, apologize, or otherwise make it sound like the accident was your fault. Let the insurance companies and police determine who was at fault.
You don’t want to say something that the scene of the accident that can later be used against you.
Get a Police Report
Calling the police right away is generally the best course of action, but it is possible to file a report later on if you didn’t call right after the accident. Some states give you a certain number of days to file a report. It’s not wise to do this, though, because after both cars have left the scene of the accident, the information that can be collected is limited.
Some states (like Oregon) require you to call, even if no one was hurt if the damage exceeds a certain amount of money. In California, though, you are only legally required to call the police if the accident causes a fatality or injury.
The police report is typically available from the police department a few days after the accident.
Notify Your Insurance Company
You should notify your insurance company and file a claim as soon as possible. If you were not at fault, your insurance company will likely go after the other driver’s company to get them to pay for your car repairs, medical expenses, property damage, etc.
When you are not at fault, your insurance company will handle getting payment from the other driver’s company.
Contact an Attorney
If you were injured, you should strongly consider contacting an experienced car accident attorney. Remember that insurance companies are looking out for their bottom line so the opposing insurance company will typically offer you a settlement that is often much lower than the compensation that you are entitled to based on your injuries and damage.
Don’t accept a settlement before you talk to an attorney. They will advise you on what an appropriate settlement is and they will also negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. If you cannot agree on a settlement amount, you may want to take the case to trial, where your attorney will represent you.
Take These Steps After a Car Crash
Car crashes can have serious long-term impacts on your finances and physical health. If you’ve been involved in an accident, you know that damage can be long-lasting. As difficult as it can be to remain calm and think straight after an accident, it’s imperative that you do these things after an accident to ensure that you are protected.
If you or a loved one has been in a car crash and are seeking an experienced attorney, contact us today. Sweet Law Firm has a team of effective, successful attorneys who will provide a free consultation on your case.