Know the First Steps Before, During, and After a Car Accident

The circumstances surrounding a car accident are stressful enough not to remember the appropriate steps to take after one occurs. Knowing the right steps to take after a traffic accident will not only reduce stress, it will preserve your story of the accident and your rights.

Immediate steps

The rule for any car accident scene is that you should not abandon the site of the crash until the scene is resolved. If you leave the scene of an accident after someone was injured or killed, you will likely not only face civil penalties but also criminal penalties.

Before taking any other step, check on all drivers and passengers, and obtain medical help for anyone who may need it, but do not apologize at the scene of the accident. Also, do not move anyone who complains of neck or back pain or someone who is unconscious. Individuals with neck and/or back injuries should not moved until medical personnel arrive on the scene.

If anyone was injured or if property damage occurred because of the accident, contact the police. Once the police arrive, ask them to complete an accident report and collect the identification information of the reporting officers.

Obtain and exchange information from involved parties and witnesses

Once injuries are evaluated and paramedics and police are called, then information can be exchanged. Obtain the names, insurance information, contact information and drivers’ license numbers and license plate numbers from any driver involved in the accident. In addition, obtain contact information from any passengers. Also, politely talk to any witnesses and get their contact information and ask them if they have ever witnessed prior accidents at the scene of the crash. Again, do not apologize or admit to any fault at the accident scene. Do not sign anything.

Assessing damage and communicating with your insurance company

Catalog the damage of your vehicle immediately after the car accident by taking pictures. Also, take pictures of the other vehicles involved and pictures of the scene of the accident. Photos of your vehicle and the accident scene are important not only for insurance purposes but may also be used as evidence if a lawsuit is filed.

Keep track of medical treatment you receive from any medical professional and keep a record of treatments and medical expenses. This information is important for your insurer and your lawyer.

Your insurance company should be informed of the accident as soon as possible and be truthful when communicating with your insurance. Not being straightforward or omitting crucial facts will likely not work to your favor because hiding what occurred may result in the denial of coverage for the accident. Indicate that you will be seeking the assistance of a lawyer so that you can make educated decisions about what your rights are. This will also help ensure that the insurance company will communicate your rights to you.

If your insurance company offers a settlement, be skeptical of the offer. Because some injuries may not manifest or be painful soon after the accident, do not agree to an offer of settlement until the offered compensation fully covers all injuries. Importantly, before agreeing to any settlement, contact a lawyer who can review the thoroughness of the settlement.

Again, the only parties you should discuss the accident with are your lawyer, the police and your insurance company. Do not discuss the accident with another insurance company without speaking with your lawyer first.

Consult a lawyer

Whether you believe the accident was your fault or the other driver’s fault, consult an experienced personal injury lawyer. More than often the public does not fully understand civil liability or fault. What may appear to be your fault under the Highway Traffic Act rules with even a traffic violation (ticket) may not necessarily impede your rights to compensation for your injuries and any losses that flow from the injuries. Personal injury law is complicated and requires a personal injury lawyer with experience to guide you through the process from start to finish. It is especially important to understand your right to recovery before agreeing to any settlement with your insurance company.