Car crashes happen fast. There’s often very little time to process what happened, how it happened, or whether you and your loved ones are okay. Accident scenes can be chaotic and the consequences – devastating.
While it may be difficult to focus and think clearly at that moment, it’s important to protect yourself and your loved ones to ensure you don’t limit yourself to the compensation you rightfully deserve.
Whether you get into an accident on 45 or any other road in the country, there are certain measures you need to take to protect your rights. This article explores everything you need to know about what to do when you get in a car accident.
1. Make Sure Everyone Involved Is Safe
The first thing you need to do at the scene of a crash is to ensure that you, your passengers, and anyone else involved in the collision, are safe. Here are some steps you can take:
- Turn on the hazard lights and exit your vehicle if you can.
- Check if anyone involved in the crash is injured, in which case, dial 911 to get an ambulance and police officers on the scene.
- Even if the accident was minor, it’s still a good idea to call the non-emergency police hotline and report the incident.
- Stay at the scene of the accident until police officers and emergency services arrive.
Keep in mind that the health and safety of all parties involved trump any potential financial considerations resulting from the accident. You first need to make sure everyone is safe and alive.
2. Do an Assessment of the Scene
Once you’ve established that everyone is physically safe, the next step involves taking inventory of what just happened. While doing this, you need to ensure that you take the necessary precautions to protect your rights. Here’s what you need to do:
- Take photos of the accident scene. Ensure you capture details like the damage to the vehicles and any debris that might be present.
- Once you’ve taken pictures, you will need to move the cars safely off the road. You should only attempt to do this if it is safe to do so.
- As impolite as it may seem at that moment, do not apologize for what happened or admit to any wrongdoing. This could affect your chances of getting the compensation you deserve if the case ends up in court. Apologizing is an admission of fault, and this will be used against you when the time comes to demand compensation – whether or not you were responsible for the crash.
- The next thing you need to do is exchange contact information and the car insurance details with the other driver(s) involved in the crash. This is an important step if any claims relating to the accident need to be launched. The information to collect includes:
- The driver’s name, phone number, and address
- Their insurance information, more specifically their policy number
- The license plate of the vehicle(s) involved in the crash
- The model, make, and year of manufacture of the vehicle(s)
- Photographs of the accident scene, capturing the damage to the vehicles and any other property
- The details of the police officers who showed up at the scene, including their respective names and badge numbers
- The reference number of the car accident police report filed by the officers
These are arguably the most important steps you need to take, especially if you intend to pursue legal action at some point down the line. As disoriented as you may be at the time, do not leave the accident scene before you’ve captured all this information.
3. Determine Whose Car Insurance Will Pay For the Crash
The insurance provider responsible for covering the costs associated with the crash will depend on who was at fault and the kind of policy each driver had. There are two potential scenarios you could be looking at:
Scenario 1: The Other Driver Was at Fault
In an instance where the accident was that the direct result of the other driver’s actions, their insurance coverage would be responsible for:
- Paying for the damage to your car as well as damage to any other property up to the policy limit
- Paying for you and your passengers’ medical bills and expenses related to any physical car accident injury up to the policy limit
Some states allow drivers to carry personal injury protection insurance in addition to conventional car insurance. The policy kicks in to protect you regardless of the party at fault. It can cover medical expenses, lost wages, and funeral expenses in the case of a fatal car accident.
If the other driver was not carrying sufficient insurance, your provider’s uninsured/underinsured coverage would kick in to cover the costs of medical expenses and property damage to your vehicle and any other belongings.
If your vehicle was totaled in the crash or damaged and in need of repairs, your car insurance will cover the cost for a rental car until you can purchase a new one or until your existing one is repaired.
Scenario 2: You Were at Fault
If your actions were the cause of the crash, your insurance coverage would be responsible for:
- Paying for the property damage to the other driver’s car and any other belongings they may have had up to your cover limit
- Paying for the other driver’s and their passengers’ medical bills and expenses up to your cover limit
If the limits on your policy end up being insufficient to cover the other driver’s costs and medical expenses associated with the crash, their insurance coverage will kick in to cover the deficit.
4. Get in Touch With Your Insurance Company
The next step involves contacting your insurance provider to report the accident. It’s always in your best interest to be the one who reports the accident first, rather than let the other driver’s insurance provider report the claim.
Provide them with all the relevant information pertaining to the accident, so they can start building a claim on your behalf. Insurers usually send an insurance adjuster to the accident scene to collect pertinent information about your claim.
Any time you’re in a car accident, you should always notify your insurance company, even if the accident appears minor. You will need to do this within a reasonable time frame as well. Not only does this give you an additional layer of protection, but it might also be an insurance requirement in your policy contract. The failure to do so might jeopardize your right to get the compensation you deserve.
Here’s why this is important:
- The effect of a car collision, even a minor one, may not be immediately apparent at the outset. You may develop accident-related injuries later on that would need to be covered by an insurance provider. This possibility also applies to the other parties in the crash.
- Depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, the other driver may decide to pursue legal action. If you fail to disclose an accident to your insurance provider, they may deny you coverage, at which point you would be required by law to foot the damages of a claim lodged against you (should you lose).
How to Report a Car Accident to Your Insurance Provider
If you’re wondering how to file a car accident claim, you can do this directly with your insurance company or through your insurance agent.
It’s important that you report a car accident to your insurance provider as soon as possible, preferably within a 24-hour window. Your agent may be able to help you, but in most cases, they will likely direct you to the insurance claims department, who will then assign an insurance adjuster to your case.
Some companies may direct you to their website to fill an online claim form. When you do, it’s always a good idea to follow up with an email or phone call to confirm that they have received your claim.
Your insurance provider will then conduct their own independent investigations into the incident and may look at the information you provided, such as the photos and medical records. They will usually send a representative to do this.
It’s important to comply with the requests they make to the best of your ability. Insurance companies are notorious for denying claims on the basis of people failing to cooperate with them when they don’t submit the required paperwork.
If some of the requests seem unreasonable, a qualified attorney can help you decipher them to ensure you don’t lose your rights to coverage by complying.
5. Call Your Lawyer
As soon as you’ve notified your insurance provider of the crash, the next call you make needs to be to an experienced car accident lawyer. Once again, it doesn’t matter how minor you think the collision was; you just never know what unprecedented consequences may crop up a few weeks or months down the line. Retaining the services of a qualified attorney ensures that you’re protected against any potential future liability.
Remember, insurance companies look out for their own best interest. While insurance coverage is supposed to protect you in times of crisis, these companies are always looking to pay out the least possible amount.
On the other hand, a lawyer only has your best interests at heart. Having them ensures that your rights are protected every step of the way.
In short, if you’re wondering when to get an attorney for a car accident, the answer is –immediately after you speak to your insurance provider.
6. Gather Evidence
Always keep accident records. You just never know when a claim or lawsuit will rear its ugly head. Having detailed records protects you against any potential liability. Here’s a list of some of the documentation you should have on hand:
- Any income-related reports that indicate the time off you took from work to recover from your injuries and seek treatment. Ensure the documentation you have shows the limitations your injuries imposed on your ability to do your job properly
- Any medical records, including treatment documents, bills, and any record from your trip to the emergency room. These are usually available on request
- Car accident police report
- Your vehicle’s inspection and damage reports, including any receipts and repair estimates. If your vehicle was totaled in the crash, ensure you have all the associated invoices and valuations
It’s always a good idea to create a folder to store all these documents in one place. That way, if you ever need to use them, they will be readily available.
7. Don’t Agree to a Quick Settlement
If the other driver was at fault, you might get a call from their insurance asking you for a quick settlement. They may offer you a sum of money and get you to sign a release that absolves them of any future claims related to the accident. The amount on the table might be a large sum to tempt you into signing the release.
Don’t do this until you have been fully evaluated by a physician and chiropractor or before you’ve given your body enough time to recover to ensure no additional injuries crop up later. Always talk to a lawyer before signing anything to ensure the settlement offer on the table is fair and reasonable.
Which State Has the Most Car Accidents
According to the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), more than 33,000 people lose their lives every year due to fatal car crashes. That’s an average of 11 deaths per 100,000 people.
The top three states in the country that record the highest number of fatal road accidents are California, Texas, and Florida, with 3,316, 3,294, and 2,950 crashes reported in 2019.
Now that you know what happens after a car accident, the key takeaways are as follows:
- Notify your insurance provider as soon as possible
- Get in touch with a competent attorney from a credible car accident law firm to ensure your rights are protected at every stage in the claim process
Whether you’re involved in an Uber car accident, a truck accident, or a collision in which you were the driver, consulting an attorney before you respond to any request for information could be the difference between getting the compensation you’re rightfully entitled to and getting your claim rejected.
In the case of the latter, you would be financially responsible for the ensuing damages. A car or truck accident lawyer will hold your hand every step of the way.
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