I Was in a Car Accident – What Do I Do Now?
There are over six million car accidents in the United States each year; one in three involve personal injury to the driver or to the passengers and out of that number, two out of every ten lead to fatal injuries.
If you were involved in an automobile accident, there are certain things you should do to protect yourself and your interests:
1. Stop. You should never drive away from the scene of an accident, no matter how minor it is.
2. Protect the scene. Make sure you prevent further accidents by setting up flares on the road or keeping your flashers on so other drivers can see you. If it’s dark and your lights don’t work, use a flashlight to stay visible while you wait for help.
3. Call the police. You should call the police even if there are no serious injuries, as you may need a police report to file a claim with your insurance company, even if it’s just to make a claim for damage to the vehicle. Unless the vehicles involved are interfering with traffic, they should not be moved.
4. Have an accurate record of the events. When the police arrive, tell them exactly what happened, and if there are certain facts that you don’t know, make sure you let them know. Do not make speculations or misstate any facts. If asked about any injuries and you are not sure, tell them you are not sure. A lot of times the pain and injuries from accidents become apparent hours after the actual accidents. Also make sure that statements from other persons involved are accurate as well.
5. Take pictures. You should always take pictures of all the damage suffered by all the vehicles involved, as well as pictures of any visible injuries you may have.
6. Exchange information. This is typically done by the officers on the scene, but if the police don’t respond to the accident, it is always a good idea to get the information yourself. Get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of everyone involved, both drivers and passengers. Also get the other vehicles’ insurance information and if there are any witnesses, be sure to ask for their contact information as well in case your attorney will need to contact them in the future. If the police respond to the accident, they will provide all the drivers with a police report number (unless you are on a state highway, in which case you have to request it) that can later be used to obtain the police report.
7. Report the accident. Your insurance company should be notified of the accident as soon as possible, as many policies require immediate reporting. If you have medical benefits as part of your insurance coverage – known as “medpay”, you are required to submit any accident-related medical bills to your insurance company. Medpay coverage is primary for any accident-related medical bills, and once those benefits are exhausted, your private health insurance becomes primary. Medpay covers all the occupants of the vehicle and your insurance rates should not increase because of medpay coverage claims.
8. Seek medical attention. It is not uncommon for injuries suffered in motor vehicle accidents to not be immediately apparent – sometimes it can take hours to become aware of them. Even minor accidents can cause severe injuries, so unless you are absolutely certain that you are unharmed, always seek medical attention.
9. Keep a file of every document. Keep all the documents and information relating to the accident together. Keep everything from claim numbers and witness information to receipts for expenses incurred as a result of the accident.
10. Protect your rights. One of the most important things to do after an accident is to contact your attorney. He can protect your rights and make sure that no evidence is destroyed. Insurance companies will often want to take statements immediately after an accident, but make sure you have received legal advice beforehand. An attorney can make sure you are fully compensated for your vehicle, as well as receive the best medical treatment available. Personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that there are no legal fees to pay unless they are successful in recovering compensation for your injuries.
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