I Have Been in a Car Accident, Now What?
Being in a car accident is not pleasant. Thankfully for me, both accidents I have been in were very minor and slow moving and did not cause any serious damage to my body. Not everyone is so lucky.
The first thing that you should do if you have been in a car accident is exchange vital data. This means get the person’s name, insurance policy number, and license plate number. This allows you to make a claim—either to your own provider or their provider.
After getting all the vital data you should then take a picture of the accident scene if you have not had to move the vehicles for safety purposes and take pictures of the damage to your vehicle. This is a crucial step as these photos can be used to reconstruct the accident and establish who is liable.
Finally, you must determine if you should call 911. Not every accident warrants calling for emergency help, but if you believe that you have been injured it is best to err on the side of calling for help that might not be necessary than waiting to receive medical attention.
There is both a medical and practical reason for requesting emergency help. The medical reason is that it is very difficult to self-diagnose how badly you are injured. I have had a case where a client shattered his wrist (causing permanent damage) and still tried to pick up his motorcycle afterwards simply because the shock made him unable to feel pain. For that reason, at the scene of the accident you may be more badly hurt than you realize and if you delay in treatment you may aggravate your injuries.
The practical reason is because an insurance company will use the fact that you did not call for emergency attention as an admission that you are not as hurt as you claim to be. Further, by requesting emergency assistance there will most likely be a police report written that will include statements from the various witnesses as to what happened. Again, this can be crucial in establishing liability.
Further, after an accident it is not uncommon for injuries to emerge days or even a week afterwards. As a result, it is important for you to seek medical attention immediately upon discovering each injury.
Once you have a full understanding of your injuries, you should then make a claim to the insurance company. Keep in mind, they will want to settle with you early and cheaply. In most circumstances an attorney can get you significantly more out of a settlement than you can by yourself, but attorneys also come at a significant cost. As a result, if the increase in the settlement offer is not at least as much as your attorney fees, you will actually get less money back than if you just accepted the settlement offer without retaining an attorney.
After you make the determination as to whether you want to retain an attorney you should immediately try to find one. If you delay too long you may end up losing your right to sue or in some other way irrevocably harm your case.