Car accidents are common in the United States with numbers in the past years totaling millions. While some of the accidents are due to circumstances that are totally unavoidable, most of them are preventable. If you are involved in an accident that was not your fault, you have the right to claim compensation for any damages or injuries. The compensation should be done by the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The things you do immediately after the accident will determine how successful your claim will be. Below are some of the steps you can take after an accident to ensure your claim is successful.
Firstly, ensure that you and your passengers, if any, are safe. Check yourself for injuries and call for help immediately if you have injuries that require urgent medical attention. If you aren’t able to use the phone, have someone call on your behalf. Don’t forget to turn off the engine and also put on the hazard lights to alert other drivers on the road that there has been an accident.
Call the Police
It’s always a good idea to report a car accident to the police even when the accident is minor. In some states, it is a legal requirement regardless of the extent of the damage. If you have sustained injuries and damages, calling the police is beneficial because the police report can strengthen your claim. Once you call the police, they may or may not come to the scene of the accident depending on the seriousness. If they do come, answer all the questions they may have without leaving out any details. And once they are done, make sure you get their names and badge numbers. If they don’t come, it’s your responsibility to go to the police station to record a statement regarding the accident.
Get the Other Driver’s Information
Make sure you get the at-fault driver’s name, phone, plate number, car model, and insurance details. However, don’t make the mistake of extending your conversation beyond the key detail exchange. Anything you say to them could be used against you. For instance, if you tell them you feel fine, but end up realizing you sustained some injuries days later, it could be argued that your injuries were as a result of something else. Also, if you use words that suggest you are apologetic such as ‘I’m sorry’, they could be used to turn the case against you and make you the at-fault driver. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t help if they are hurt. You can do so by simply calling for help without engaging them in too much conversation.
Interview the Witnesses
The names and statements of the witnesses can also be helpful in a claim. Hence, if there were people nearby when the accident happened, talk to them and get their names, contact details, and statements. If you can, request them to stick around until the police arrive.
Collect Some Evidence from the Scene
If you have a smartphone with you, take photos and videos to show the scene of the accident. These too can be some solid evidence for your claim. In addition to that, write a narrative of how the accident happened. Don’t assume you will remember. It is so easy to forget especially when you are traumatized.
Call Your Insurer
Even when you are not the at-fault driver, you should call your insurer soon after the accident. They can help you with the checklist of things you need to do. It’s also important to let them know early because the at-fault driver can be uninsured or underinsured. In such a case, your insurance company may come through if you have uninsured coverage for that. The other driver can also try to turn the case against you. Therefore, let your insurance company know as soon as the accident happens.
Go To the Doctor
Even with minor injuries, it is still important to have them checked by a doctor. They may be minor on the surface but major on the inside. Therefore, ensure you see a doctor immediately. Getting medical treatment is firstly important for your health and wellbeing. Secondly, you will need the medical exam report when filing your claim. Therefore, go to the doctor as soon as possible. Delaying treatment can cause your claim to be rejected.
Seek Help from an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer
It is possible to work through the claim by yourself, but with an attorney, the outcome can be better. According to Brian White, a personal injury lawyer in Houston, TX, “A car accident lawyer can help you in preparing evidence to prove liability, identifying the exact damages you are entitled to, and they can represent you should the case move to court.” Working by yourself can be tough considering insurance companies typically act to minimize or deny your claim. Also, unless you take your time to research and consult widely, you may not know all the damages you are entitled to. Thus, your claim can go through, but you could end up with less than you deserve. Experienced car attorneys understand the laws well and they have experience in dealing with insurance companies.
But, you will only get that help if you hire the right attorney. When choosing an attorney, look for experience in handling similar cases, proper and prompt communication, a good track record, and a decent reputation. Also, inquire about the fee structure. You don’t want an attorney who will bank all your compensation money. At the same time, don’t settle for a cheaper fee and poor service. Look at the right service at the most affordable fee.
Since accidents can be traumatizing, it is easy to forget things that you should do and the information you collect in the event of an accident. Thus, consider creating a checklist, and saving it on your phone or printing it out and keeping the printout in your car. You can do both since your phone may crash or go off at any time. In such a case, the printout will help. Finally don’t forget to keep a notebook and pen for taking notes. Most importantly, drive safely, and consider defensive driving.