What to Do after an Automobile Accident
Being involved in an automobile accident is a time of extreme emotions. While you may think you will know what to do, often, in the chaos and confusion of an accident it is easy to forget, especially when injuries or even fatalities are involved.
These practical steps can help protect you and your family immediately following an automobile accident and in the days following.
- Stop your vehicle as close to the impact area as possible. Never drive away from the scene of an accident (even a minor one); it is against the law to leave the scene of an accident and it becomes a “hit and run.”
- Begin with immediate medical emergencies and call 9-1-1. Assess your own medical needs along with your passengers, other drivers and their passengers, pedestrians, motorcyclists or bicyclists. If you are able, assist in attending those injured by keeping them warm and conscious. Don’t move anyone who has been injured until medical help arrives.
- Make the roadway safe and prevent additional injuries by setting up flares or using a car’s flashers to let other motorists know there is a problem. Keep vehicles involved in the accident where it occurred unless they interfere with traffic.
- Call the police and report the facts. Serious injuries or not, best practice is to call the police to ensure a police report is filed. Police reports, typically needed when filing a claim with your insurance carrier; give you an official person to help gather the accident details. When giving your information, realize you may not know all the facts so do not speculate or guess about accident details. Be sure to get the officer-in-charge’s full name, badge number, and report number.
- Exchange information. Typically, one of the responding officers will take care of this for the report, but make sure you have basic information from all drivers involved including full name, address, driver’s license number, and insurance carrier. You will want the same information from all passengers and witnesses as well. NEVER admit fault or apologize for anything at the scene.
- Gather details. Write down the model, make, color, year, and license plate number of every vehicle involved in the accident. Describe the damage to each vehicle.
- Make a drawing of the crash scene and take pictures. In your own drawing you can use arrows and other elements to show where witnesses stood, the vehicle’s movement (such as doing a 180 or 360), and skid marks. Photographic proof can help with your insurance claim or if you end up in court.
- Seek medical attention. Many injuries may not be visible until later so it is always best to be evaluated by a doctor. Hidden injuries, such as whiplash or concussions, may not present signs or symptoms for 24 hours or more. Even in minor accidents, you can sustain injuries to areas such as your spinal cord.
- Contact your insurance company. Notify your insurance company as soon as possible, answer any questions, and provide them with the police report number. Ask for any special instructions.
- Keep track of any medical expenses. Accidents can cause injuries ranging from minor conditions such as lacerations, bruises, and sprains to serious injuries such as broken bones, internal organ damage, spinal cord or brain injuries. Expenses might include medications to help control pain, surgery, or physical therapy depending on your injuries.
- Seek legal advice. If the accident was due to the negligence of another driver or motorist, product failure or highway defect, you should talk with an attorney familiar with personal injuries. He or she can help you recover compensation for accident-related injuries, including lost wages.
Do you need a personal injury lawyer?
Serious injuries occur in automobile accidents, some of which may not show up until weeks after an accident occurs. Some of the most common injuries include:
- Neck pain, including whiplash
- Head injuries, which tend to be more visual such as bruises and scalp wounds
- Brain injuries, including concussions, are hard to detect with the naked eye. A CT scan may be required to determine if there is internal bleeding/brain hemorrhage or bruised brain tissue.
- Back pain
These injuries can be life altering and a financial drain. When accidents are caused by the negligence of another, a personal injury lawyer will negotiate a financial settlement on your behalf.
Receive a Free Case Evaluation
If you have been seriously injured or lost a family member in an automobile accident, contact the attorneys at Nash & Franciskato for a free, no-obligation evaluation of your case.