Car accidents can be scary and disorienting. Unfortunately, making the wrong choices immediately after a car accident can prevent you from receiving fair compensation for your injuries. If you follow the steps in this guide you can ensure that you protect yourself and your right to recovery.
What do I do after a car accident?
There are several steps you should take after any car accident:
File a Police Report
No matter how insignificant the accident might seem, you should always call the police to file an incident report. A police determination of fault is usually persuasive to insurance adjusters and having a police report on file can help avoid situations where the only evidence is your testimony.
Under Texas Transportation Code § 550.026, you are legally required to immediately inform law enforcement if you are involved in a motor vehicle crash that results in any of the following:
- Injury to a person
- Death of a person
- Damage to a vehicle to the extent that it cannot be normally and safely driven
Photograph the Scene
After contacting the police, you should take photos of the vehicles involved in the crash from every angle — as well as close-up and far away — if you are safely able to do so. It’s crucial that you ensure the pictures document all of the property damage, the scene of the accident, and any street conditions that might have contributed to the crash. You should even photograph the other drivers involved if you can. There have been cases where defendants have denied they were in an accident.
You should also photograph any injuries you suffered in the accident, even seemingly-minor bruising, scratches, cuts or bleeding. All of the pictures you take after the accident can be used to support your side of the story.
Get Contact Information
Make sure to obtain the following information from any other drivers involved in the accident:
- Address and phone number
- Driver’s license and license plate numbers
- Auto insurance information
You should also document the names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses to the accident, even if the police also interview them. Again, take pictures of everyone involved in the accident if you can safely do so.
What should you do after a car accident if it’s not your fault?
If an accident is not your fault or it’s unclear who is at fault, it’s even more critical to file a police report. Many defendants deny being at fault and will lie to their insurance company. For example, in a side-impact accident or a T-bone collision, a police investigation can help determine who was at fault. Documentation of witness statements is much more critical than if you were rear-ended. No matter how the accident occurred it is always best practice to call the police.
What should you do after a car accident if it is your fault?
Car accidents are traumatic events. Just call your insurance company and report the accident. That is all you need to do. Even if you think you may have caused a car accident, you should never admit fault or apologize to the other driver. Don’t offer to pay for the other driver’s damages or sign any documents immediately after the accident. You should also avoid discussing the details of the crash with the other driver, their insurance company, or their attorney.
When do I contact my insurance company?
Most car insurance policies require you to report any accidents to your insurance company even if you don’t believe it was your fault. Any time you’re involved in a car crash that involves property damage or injury you should contact your insurance provider as soon as possible to inform them about the accident.
While it’s generally advisable to contact your insurer within 72 hours of any incident your policy may have specific notification deadlines you are required to follow. Make sure you review your policy and adhere to any deadlines after an accident.
Should I go to the emergency room?
You should always go to the emergency room if there is any chance you are injured.
Even if you feel fine after a car accident you could be injured and just not realize it yet. After a traumatic event like a motor vehicle crash adrenaline can stop pain signals from reaching your brain. Preventing you from feeling the full extent of your injuries. Additionally, some injuries are not immediately visible, and some may seem to be minor right after the accident but get worse as time goes on.
If you are offered an ambulance, you should agree to take it to the emergency room. Do not try and drive immediately after a car accident. You may not know the extent of your injuries and your symptoms could suddenly worsen, putting yourself and other drivers in grave danger.
Also, if you refuse an ambulance to the emergency room or otherwise delay treatment, you could seriously reduce the compensation you can receive. Later on, when you try to negotiate a fair settlement offer from the insurance companies, the adjusters will point to your refusal or delay as evidence that your injuries are not very serious.
You should take an ambulance to the emergency room if you are experiencing back pain. A back injury is serious and may be evidence of more significant internal injuries.
You should take an ambulance to the emergency room if you are experiencing head pain. Even so-called fender benders can result in a concussion and traumatic brain injury. Do not drive if you have a headache after a car accident.
Other injuries that indicate you should take an ambulance to the emergency room include:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
You should also ride in an ambulance to the emergency room if you hit your head on the window or our airbags deployed. Even after a minor collision, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Any delay in seeking treatment can diminish the value of your claim.
When do I contact a car accident lawyer?
You should contact an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. A personal injury attorney can handle all communications with the insurance companies, so it’s essential to schedule a consultation as quickly as possible. You want to avoid any potential missteps with your insurance claims. Insurance adjusters are trained to manipulate you into admitting information that can damage your claim. It’s much better to have a seasoned car accident attorney deal with them.
Do I need a car accident lawyer near me?
While there is no legal requirement that you hire a car accident lawyer to receive compensation for your injuries, a skilled attorney can help you maximize the value of your insurance claim and negotiate a higher settlement. If the insurance companies refuse to offer you fair compensation, a car accident lawyer can take them to court to recover the money that you deserve.
Have questions? We protect victims like you every day.
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