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Personal Injury -- Plaintiff Law

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What to Do After a Motor Vehicle Accident

What would you do if you were in a car accident? Panic and stress are likely to accompany potential injuries, making it hard to remember what steps you need to take. But if you are going to take action through a personal injury claim, initially taking the following steps are important.

You may consider printing a copy of the following list and keeping it in your glove box, just in case you should ever need it.

1. Stay at the Scene

This might sound like common sense, but not everyone can think clearly and logically right after getting into an accident. No matter how minor your fender-bender, leaving the scene of an accident before it’s considered appropriate could result in criminal charges or compromise future claims.

2. Check for Injuries

First, do a self-check for injuries. If you are uninjured or have only suffered minimal injuries, you should check on anyone in your vehicle or on passengers in the other vehicles to determine if they need emergency medical attention. Do not move anyone who appears to be unconscious or who may have a neck injury or back pain. These conditions require qualified medical care.

3. Call 911

If you or anyone else involved suffered from one or more injuries requiring immediate medical attention, you should call 911.

4. Call the Police

Not every car accident results in injuries severe enough to require an ambulance. You should still call the police when a car accident results in severe damage to at least one vehicle. A police officer can examine the scene, talk to everyone involved, and write up an accident report.

5. Don’t Apologize

Do not apologize when talking to either police officers or other drivers involved in the accident. Be cooperative and cordial when answering questions or exchanging information. But even polite and general “I’m so sorry this happened” may be taken as an admission of guilt.

6. Document Which Officers Arrived at the Scene

Ask the responding officers for their names and badge numbers. You should be able to get your copy of the police report within a few days. You’ll want to read it to make sure it’s accurate.

7. Exchange Information With the Other Driver

This applies to minor accidents as well. While waiting for police to arrive at the accident scene, politely exchange information with all other drivers without apologizing. Information to gather and exchange with other drivers includes:

  • Full names
  • Phone numbers
  • Complete addresses
  • License plate numbers
  • Insurance policy numbers

8. Document the Scene

You likely have a cell phone with a camera. Make sure to document the accident scene with multiple photos taken from different angles. Doing so will help your insurance adjuster when determining compensation for damage, and it could also help if you end up in court.

9. Talk to Witnesses

If there are any witnesses, you should get their names, addresses, and phone numbers, just in case they need to be contacted at a later date.

10. Call Your Auto Insurance Company

Report the accident and any injuries to your insurance company. Be factual to ensure you do not get into trouble or are denied automobile accident coverage for the incident. Also, be sure to provide your insurance company with a copy of the accident report to review with your insurer.

Most importantly, be careful about accepting any early settlement offers from your insurance company. Strongly consider talking to a personal injury lawyer before agreeing to any settlement offers presented to you.

11. Note any Pain and Suffering

Document any impact on your daily life relating to injuries from the accident. Keeping track of missed workdays and disrupted activities might be essential when documenting how you and your family life are affected.

12. Pay Attention to the Property Damage Estimation

Do not accept your insurance company’s assessment of the property damage to your vehicle if you do not agree with it. You may consider getting a few independent quotes for repair or replacement. In some cases, it may be necessary to have an attorney help with a property damage valuation.

13. Consult an Attorney

If you don’t already have one, you should consider scheduling a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney who works on contingency, especially if you or anyone else was injured. Having qualified legal representation could prove essential when it comes to recovering the maximum amount of compensation possible.