You've just been in an auto accident. Your emotions are going wild and you just want to make sure everyone involved is okay. This is the time to keep calm and do things the right way. Do you call the police? Do you take pictures? What if the other driver doesn't have insurance?
There are many variables when an accident happens. Make sure you follow these important steps.
Stay at the Scene of the Accident
Don't leave the scene, even if the accident wasn't your fault. If you leave, you may face serious criminal charges. If the accident happened in a deserted or particularly unsafe area, drive to the nearest safe place to call the police.
Check on Passengers and Visually Assess Damage
Serious injuries happen when cars collide. Make sure everyone involved is okay or call 911 to get medical help if needed. It may be tempting to play the hero and pull someone out of the car, but be cautious as they may have a head or neck injury and moving them may cause further injury. If they absolutely need to be moved, try to move them slowly and steadily while supporting their neck and head. Once you know everyone is okay, you can visually assess the damage.
Call the Police
In most cases, the police will need to be involved especially when there is significant property damage or serious injuries. Call the police. When speaking to them, make note of the names and badge numbers of the police officers at the scene. Also ask for a police report to be filed and request a copy.
Talk to the other drivers involved. Ask for their name, phone number, address, driver's license number, license plate number, and basic insurance information. If you have a smartphone, you can simply take a picture of their driver's license and insurance card. It's important to be friendly and cordial, but do not jump out of your car apologizing right away. Let the police determine who is at fault. If you admit guilt at the scene, it will be more difficult to shift fault to the other drivers even if they do share it.
Take Pictures at the Scene
Pictures can be helpful for your insurance company to assess damage in order to determine how much you should be compensated to get your car fixed. They can also be used as evidence later on if your case goes to court. Be sure to get various angles of the accident.
What to do After You Leave the Scene:
Tell your insurance company. Let your insurance company know of the accident as soon as possible. Cooperate and be truthful. They will more than likely deny your claim if they find out you have not been truthful. Send them a copy of the police report. The report will point out who is at fault and if any traffic laws were broken and by which party.
Consider hiring an attorney. An attorney can help you navigate the complicated world of insurance, medical bills and financial hardship that can follow a car accident. They have experience dealing with companies and will get you the help you need.
Keep track of your medical treatment. If you sustained an injury from the accident, be sure to track all medical treatment and document all bills and payments. Document both the professional that treated you as well as who referred you. Your attorney, the insurance company or the court may ask for this information, and having it written in one place will help you stay organized.
What to be aware of:
Early settlement offers. If the insurance company calls you and offers a settlement amount quickly, be cautious. Wait until you are able to assess all of the property damage and physical injuries before you settle. Many times, injuries don't present themselves until weeks or months.
Talking to people about the accident. Be very cautious when talking about the accident with anyone other than your attorney, the police, or your insurance company. If a representative from the other insurance contacts you, refer them to your own insurance company or your attorney to set up an interview.
If you haven't been in an accident, keep this post handy in case you do. We care about what happens to you and your loved ones.