Being in a car accident is an emotionally trying experience to say the very least. There’s a great deal of shock that comes with the initial impact and chaos can ensue quickly. It can be frightening. As such it’s very easy to lose the details or forget exactly what happened and sort everything out correctly.
Stop! Don’t Go Anywhere
When you are in an accident the first and most obvious thing you should remember is NEVER LEAVE. If you walk away, especially without getting with the other driver you will most likely be involved in a hit and run, and it can be dangerous to both of you if one flees the scene. Both Cars should remain where they are unless of course they are blocking traffic.
Preserve The Scene
Close it off like a crime scene so to speak. You’ll want to start by establishing visibility by setting up flares and/or turning on your four-ways. If it’s dark and lights are no longer functioning utilize a flashlight (which you hopefully have on hand for emergencies) and keep your area well lit while waiting with your car.
Call the Police
ALWAYS call the police even if no one’s been seriously hurt and even if you’ve both agreed who’s at fault. It’s possible that you will need to file a police report when you go to file with your insurance company. This could be true even if you’re only getting your own damages taken care of. Keep in mind that both or all cars involved should stay exactly where they are until the police arrive, unless of course they’re in traffic. The police will keep track of valuable information and act as an unbiased source when all the final damages and insurance details are being hashed out.
Keep Accurate Records.
Make sure to the let the police officer know the full story exactly as you remember it. Tell the officer if you’re unsure of certain details and try avoid guessing or speculating. If you’re asked if you have sustained any injuries answer honestly. If you don’t know indicate that you don’t know. Remember that sometimes the pain doesn’t come with the initial shock and injuries may surface later. It’s most important to take care of yourself just in case. Also, make sure the other driver gives an accurate account as well.
Use a good camera or cellphone that can snap photos of any visible damage to your vehicle or injuries to yourself. Keep these for later but remember not to get in the way while the police are investigating. By recording all damage you’ll be able to make sure that your lawyer (if it comes to that) as well as your insurance company best represent you and get you anything you may be entitled too.
Remember to exchange contact and insurance information with the driver every time. Normally the police will do this for you providing the information along with a police report number you may need for your insurance agent later on. Also remember to record any information from nearby witnesses.
Let your insurance company know what happened ASAP. In some cases you need to provide the report immediately and supply full cooperation as well as detailed answers to any questions you may need to answer. Also make sure you find out everything you’re entitled to from your insurance company. Sometimes medical injuries are included.
Defend your Rights
When you’re able you should immediately contact an attorney. A lawyer can represent your interests and stand up for your rights, ensuring that all evidence remains and you get anything you might be entitled to during an accident. Your lawyer will also make sure to preserve your side of the story, and in most cases injury lawyers will not require you pay unless they win you your due compensation.
See a Doctor
Seek medical attention right away. Even minor injuries can cause long term damage if not looked after properly. Don’t wait two or three days like most, but if possible go in ASAP. Especially take note if you have a head injury, which can lead to serious problems down the road if not tended to right away.
Keep a File
For organizations sake, it’s best to keep all document and recorded information about your accident in one place. Some documents should include (but not be limited to):
- Your Claim number
- Adjuster contact information
- Contact info for all parties involved in the accident
- Any receipts, like those for a rental car if applicable
- Receipts involving any expenses related to the accident