A car accident is often an unexpected event that immediately changes the course of your day. In a severe accident, you could deal with lingering health, mental, and financial effects for days, weeks, or months after the incident.
The moments immediately following an accident’s impact can be confusing and emotional. There are plenty of things you should not do after an accident, but what are the most critical things you should do? Being prepared to gather the information you need and knowing the steps to take can help your lawyer make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.
In the U.S., there are more than 6 million car accidents every year. What should you do if you’re in a car accident today? Keep reading for our step-by-step guide.
A vehicle accident can cause a sudden rush of adrenaline and emotion. Your first reaction could be anger or frustration, but it’s essential to stay calm when you’re involved in an accident.
Remaining calm can help you work through the next steps in this guide. You’ll think clearer and avoid emotional confrontations with other drivers or first responders if you can calm yourself and think through the information you need and what to do next.
If you’re seriously injured or dealing with passenger injuries, staying calm can also help first responders assess and tend to injuries to help everyone to safety.
Assess Injuries and Damage
Before moving your car or talking with the other drivers, check yourself, your passengers, and your vehicle for injuries and damage. Safety is a priority when an accident occurs. Before engaging with anyone outside of your vehicle, make sure you and your passengers are safe.
No matter the severity of your injuries or damage to your car, call 911. Filing an accurate and timely accident report helps your legal team pursue your case to receive the compensation you need to repair your car or cover medical expenses.
Do not leave the scene until you’ve spoken with a 911 operator. In a severe accident, the operator will send first responders right away. If the accident is minor, the operator might advise you to move out of the roadway and wait for an officer to arrive.
Limit Engagement With Other Drivers
Try not to engage in arguments or confrontations with any other drivers involved in the accident. Collect their contact and insurance information, but keep your distance otherwise until first responders arrive.
Too much interaction can escalate a situation in a way that could work against you during a lawsuit. Stay calm, exchange critical information, then wait for the police to arrive and document the details.
It’s easier than ever to document the scene of the accident. We no longer have to draw the scene or write down location details. If your phone has a camera, take photos!
Capture the location, weather conditions, time of day, and damage to the vehicles involved in the accident. If your accident happened at an intersection, take a short video of the lights and traffic patterns. Be careful about taking photos of the other drivers or people involved in the accident.
In many cases, insurance apps have a way to file a claim and upload photos from the scene. When your car accident lawyer becomes involved in the claim, pictures and videos can help them understand what happened and prove the other driver’s negligence to win your case.
Talk to Witnesses
Be careful in your approach, but talking to witnesses can help support your claim. If people in the area witnessed the accident, ask them if they will stay to speak with the police and make a statement as a witness.
Gather contact information and a few details about what each witness saw about the accident. If their statements can be useful, your lawyer will contact witnesses and get more details.
Contact Your Insurance Company
File an insurance claim as soon as you can. Your adjuster can start the process of assessing your vehicle and working with the other driver’s insurance company. Delaying a claim can work against you when pursuing full compensation for damage or injuries.
However, do not accept a settlement without seeking legal advice. Depending on the severity of your vehicle’s damage and your injuries, you could be entitled to more than what the insurance company offers as an initial payout.
Your car accident attorney will review the offer and your expenses as a result of the accident. If it’s not enough, they can help you fight for a better amount to help you recover any financial loss.
Keep Good Records
Documentation is critical after a car accident! Your insurance adjuster and legal team will need evidence of car repair bills and medical expenses to make sure you receive full compensation.
Keep track of medical visits, doctor and medical expenses, and auto repair bills. If you’re unable to work as a result of an accident due to another driver’s negligence, keep records of your lost income.
Your final settlement amount should include any out-of-pocket expenses to repair or replace your car, medical costs, and your loss of income during recovery.
Contact a Lawyer
When you file your insurance claim, call a lawyer, too! The right legal representation can guide you through the best way to document your ongoing expenses and medical recovery. They’ll also manage your claim through the insurance companies and make sure you aren’t left with out-of-pocket costs that you never recover.
Choosing the right lawyer is critical! Choose an attorney with experience helping drivers receive the best compensation after experiencing a car accident.
Call Us If You Have a Car Accident Today
We don’t like to see anyone shortchanged for the compensation they deserve after a car accident. The Elrod Pope Law Firm team of experienced lawyers can help you recover medical expenses, lost wages, repair costs, and personal losses if you’re in an accident as a result of someone else’s negligence.
If you have a car accident today, contact us for a free consultation! We’re here to serve you in South Carolina.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.