Each year, about six million car accidents occur, with three million people in the US sustaining injuries. About 27% of crashes result in non-fatal injuries, with 72% resulting in property damage. If you’re ever in a crash, the steps you follow after a car accident can affect your ability to fight for compensation.
Without compensation for your losses, you’ll have to pay out of your own pocket.
Follow these do’s and don’ts the next time you’re in a crash. Reading this guide will prepare you, ensuring you can maximize your claim.
File a Police Report for Car Accidents
Don’t drive away from the scene of a car crash. Leaving the scene without filing a police report could be a crime. In some states, you’re legally obligated to report a car crash.
In states like Florida, car crash victims are required to remain near the scene of the accident until they’ve fulfilled legal requirements. When a hit-and-run accident occurs, the act of departing from the scene without fulfilling legal obligations can result in either misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the circumstances and laws of the state. Stay put.
First, try to collect yourself. Avoid saying anything or acting out of anger.
Instead, move your vehicle away from oncoming traffic to avoid further injuries or damages. Make sure the other driver remains close by. If they begin to leave, try to capture a photo of their license plate.
Call the police to report the accident. When they arrive, walk them through what happened leading up to the crash.
Before the police leave, ask for their names and badge numbers. Ask if they can provide you with a copy of their police report as well. If they’re not done filing the police report at the scene, try to get a copy afterward.
Filing an official police report will also benefit your ability to fight for compensation. Your accident attorney can use the official police report to prove the other party was at fault for the accident. For example, perhaps they were driving while under the influence or ran a red light.
The police report will also indicate if anyone witnessed the crash and can corroborate your version of events.
Don’t Embellish for Car Accidents
When speaking with the police, don’t embellish. Instead, stick to the facts as you know them.
Mention what direction you and the other driver were headed in before the crash. Note any conditions that might have contributed to the auto accident (like the weather or potholes).
After speaking with the police, write down everything you remember. It’s normal to forget small details that can have a big impact on your case following an accident. Writing everything down will ensure the details remain fresh in your mind.
You’ll have an easier time explaining what happened to your accident lawyer, too.
Gather Evidence for Car Accidents
Before leaving the scene of a car crash, take the time to gather evidence. The information you gather will help support your version of events.
First, collect the following information from the other driver:
- Phone number
- Driver’s license number (take a photo)
- License plate number (take a photo)
- Name of their auto insurance company
- Insurance policy number
Exchanging information with the other driver will allow you to file an insurance claim with your adjuster. It will also allow you to seek compensation from the driver’s auto insurance company.
Look around the scene of the accident to determine if anyone witnessed the crash. Ask for their name and contact information (if they’re comfortable).
Take a photo and video footage of the accident site. Keep an eye out for skid marks and road conditions. Take photos of both vehicles involved in the crash and your injuries as well.
Note the location, day, and time of the accident, too.
Don’t Engage in Small Talk
Don’t engage in small talk as you wait for the police to arrive. Remember not to say anything out of anger, either. Don’t apologize for the accident, which the other driver might view as an admission of guilt.
If the other party asks about your injuries, say only a medical professional can make an assessment.
However, you should determine if anyone sustained serious injuries that require immediate medical attention. Call for emergency medical attention to ensure immediate treatment. Otherwise, leaving injuries untreated could result in permanent injury or death.
Visit a Doctor
About two million drivers sustain permanent injuries after crashes every year. Even minor injuries could leave you out of work for a period of time. During that time, lost wages and medical expenses will stack up.
Once the police officers clear you to leave the scene of the crash, visit a doctor (even if it seems like you only have cuts and bruises). The doctor’s assessment can strengthen your personal injury claim.
Some injuries aren’t noticeable at first, though they can get worse when left untreated for an extended period of time. For example, perhaps you sustained a whiplash or head injury.
Your insurance adjuster will require you to seek medical treatment within a specific period after the accident. Otherwise, expenses related to the crash won’t be eligible for personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.
Keep track of all medical expenses relevant to your case (medications, surgeries, specialist appointments, etc.). Bring these documents to your accident attorney. These documents can help your lawyer determine the full amount of compensation you’re due through a personal injury claim.
Don’t Skip Appointments
After your initial doctor’s appointment, don’t skip your follow-up. Continue visiting your doctor for as long as they recommend.
Skipping follow-up appointments will create a gap in your treatment plan. The other party’s insurance company might argue your injuries weren’t severe enough to require serious treatment. The insurance company might not pay the full amount of compensation you’re due as a result.
File a Claim
Make sure to report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible.
Report the accident to your insurance carrier to begin filing an accident claim. Otherwise, you won’t receive coverage. The insurance company will have legal grounds to deny your claim as well.
Don’t Speak to the Other Insurer
Don’t make the mistake of speaking with the other party’s insurance company without your accident lawyer present. Your lawyer can speak on your behalf during these meetings.
Your best interests aren’t the other party’s insurance company’s concern. Rather, the insurance company will want to pay you as little as possible. Consulting a lawyer will protect your rights and your best interests.
Otherwise, you might say something that can hurt your personal injury claim. The insurance company might undervalue or even deny your claim.
They might stall to pay off your claim, too.
Hire an Attorney
After speaking to your insurance company, call an accident lawyer.
Look for a law firm that specializes in personal injury claims (you can browse this website for options). Determine how often they take auto accident cases.
Auto accident lawsuits include car, truck, motorcycle, bike, pedestrian, and rideshare accidents. Look for an attorney with experience winning cases like yours. Their experience and expertise will increase the likelihood of maximizing the payout.
Otherwise, you might need to pay for a percentage of your losses on your own.
Determine how many cases like yours the lawyer won in the past year. Ask about the payout for each case.
Ask the lawyer what outcome they expect for your personal injury lawsuit. Instead of a guarantee, they should help you review your legal options. Weighing the pros and cons of each decision will ensure you make an informed choice.
Read client reviews for each attorney on your list to gauge their reputation. Finding an attorney with an already-glowing professional reputation can help you feel confident in your choice.
Hire Based on Costs
As you narrow down your options, ask each lawyer about their fee structure. Look for lawyers who accept cases on a contingency fee basis. These attorneys will only expect you to pay their legal fees if they win your lawsuit.
If they win, you’ll pay them a percentage of your winnings.
Don’t make the error of hiring a cheap accident lawyer. Instead, look for someone with relevant experience winning cases like yours. Their track record will indicate if they’re capable of winning your case.
Hiring an experienced, knowledgeable lawyer will help you maximize your claim.
Follow These Do’s and Don’ts After a Car Accident
Don’t rush to leave the scene of a car crash without following these tips first. Following these do’s and don’ts after a car accident can benefit your claim. You’ll have an easier time fighting for the compensation you’re rightfully due.
Follow these steps and trust your accident attorney.
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