When most of us worry about car crashes, we’re concerned about the physical injuries we might receive.
However, research shows that these injuries aren’t the only trauma that accident survivors face. Fear and PTSD are common after a crash, with around 50% of drivers experiencing anxiety or driving phobia.
Because our emotions can run so high after a car accident, it’s important to know what to do at the collision scene. No matter what’s happened, taking a few key actions can help you deal with the aftermath.
From talking to the police to the hassle of dealing with insurance companies, there will be a list of steps to take to preserve your legal rights and recover compensation.
1. Ensure Your Safety
Before anything else, ensure your safety. Call 911 or emergency services to report the accident. Also, request medical assistance if you need to be immediately treated for serious injuries.
If your car has stopped in a way that creates a road hazard, move it to a safe location if it’s still drivable. However, don’t leave the scene of the accident, as this could be viewed as a hit-and-run accident; an exception is if you have suffered life-threatening injuries. Again, safety must be a priority.
2. Gather Information
Exchange information with all other involved parties. These details will be essential as you speak to the police, the insurance company, and a car accident attorney. Here’s what to gather:
- the other driver’s contact details and insurance information
- the other driver’s license and license plate number
- the make, model, and color of the other car
- the contact details of any witnesses
- photo or video evidence of the accident scene
- photo or video evidence of the damage to your car and the other driver’s car
In addition, write about the car accident details, so they are not forgotten later. Our memories are more likely to fail us when we try to recall sudden or traumatic events. Having a written record of the collision can help you remember the details later.
In this written record, try to jot down anything you remember that might be relevant later. Note the condition of the road and the current weather, for example. You should also note down any signs of distracted driving from the other party, such as seeing them swerve into other lanes or using their phone while driving.
3. Talk to the Police
When the police arrive, give them an honest report of what happened. If you were able to get photos of the collision scene before moving your car, show them to the officer.
At this time, you should never apologize or admit guilt, even if you think you may be at fault. Instead, offer a focused statement of what happened from your point of view.
Be aware that you don’t have to answer all of the officer’s questions, nor do you have to speak to them at all. If you prefer, you can tell the officer you won’t answer questions until you’ve talked to a car accident lawyer.
Either way, be sure to get the name and badge number of the responding officer before they leave the scene.
4. Get a Police Report
You will not receive a copy of the police report at the accident scene, so ask the officer how to get a copy later.
If your accident took place in San Jose, you can get a copy online, by mail, or by visiting the SJPD Records Unit in person.
The police report will provide the officer’s opinion on which party is at fault for the accident. If you decide to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company or hire a lawyer, this document will be important.
The police report provides an objective summary of the events of the collision. Though telling your side of events can be helpful, this summary can help you get compensation after an accident.
When used as evidence, police reports can prove that a collision really occurred, that the other party was involved and at fault, and that the damages to your person and your car happened as you say they did.
5. File a Claim Within the Allotted Timeframe
An insurance claim can often be the fastest and most effective method of getting compensation after an accident. These claims can help cover the cost of not only the damage to your vehicle but also medical bills to treat injuries you received in the crash. Without filing a claim, you may end up paying out of pocket for a collision that wasn’t your fault.
If the other party was at fault for the crash, a claim can be filed with their insurance company. However, you will need to begin the process by informing your personal auto insurance company of the crash. Once a claim adjuster is assigned, your insurance will begin pursuing damages against the other party.
Even if you were partially at fault for the crash, you can still recover compensation, so do not delay filing a claim. If you sustained injuries, you only have two years to file a personal injury claim, per California’s statute of limitations. Additionally, the longer some delays in filing a claim after a car accident, the more difficult it will be to build a case against the other party.
6. See a Doctor
Whether or not you think you’ve been injured, it’s important to see a doctor after your accident.
Sometimes, car accident injuries won’t be obvious right away. Worse, internal injuries are hard to identify on your own. Some symptoms, such as the symptoms of whiplash, may not appear for hours, days, or even weeks after a crash.
Visiting a doctor can help you identify subtle injuries that could worsen later. This can protect your long-term health from the repercussions of a crash.
In terms of your claim, visiting a doctor is crucial because it helps you document your condition. While your insurer or the court will consider your own account of your injuries, objective documentation always helps. Just like with the police report, a doctor’s documentation can act as essential evidence from a credible source that proves the validity of your case.
7. Contact a Car Accident Attorney
If you’re struggling with car damage and medical bills, working with an insurance company may not be enough. Your insurer’s goal is to pay out as little as possible on any given claim. This means they may offer a far lower settlement than you deserve.
For legal help during the settlement process, contact an experienced car accident attorney. These experts can help you get the compensation you need after a collision. They are also crucial partners if you’re struggling to prove you weren’t at fault.
If the other party does not admit fault, it can be difficult to identify who caused the crash. In legal terms, “negligence” will have to be proven, and it will take the knowledge of an experienced professional to effectively prove this.
In addition, you should always call a lawyer if negotiations with the insurance company have grown complex or frustrating. Insurance companies are known to reduce settlement offers and not compensate victims fairly.
Know What to Do After a Car Accident
From the first few minutes after a car accident to the next few weeks of dealing with doctors and insurance companies, it’s important to know what to do. It’s often hard to think straight after a sudden and traumatic collision, which is why it helps to understand the best path forward in advance.
If you’ve been involved in a car accident, it’s important to reach out to an expert for help. A free, no-risk consultation with our team can help you understand how we can get you the compensation you need. Contact us today to learn more.