Being involved in a car accident is a terrifying thing. It can be disorienting, especially if one has suffered a head injury or lost any amount of blood. However, in the midst of such a traumatic event one must keep their wits about them. In an attempt to remove any small measure of that heavy burden from you, the experienced car wreck attorneys have created a step by step list of what you should do following a car accident.
- The first thing one must do is determine the extent of the damage and injuries. An important part of this process is staying calm. The scene of an accident becomes extremely more dangerous when one panics. Evaluate the damage and injuries in order to figure out if anyone needs immediate medical attention.
- In the case of a minor car accident, it is safest to move the cars involved to the side or shoulder of the road. In cases of major accidents, or where the cars simply cannot be moved, it is best for everyone to remain in the car with their seatbelts hastened.
- Call 911 immediately! The police may or may not have to be called separately depending on where you are. Wait for emergency personnel to arrive. Also, call you insurance provider.
- File an accident report with the police. Talk about the accident with the police only and your insurance provider only! After an accident, it’s just best not to talk- otherwise you could mistakenly claim fault.
- Exchange information with the other parties involved. Make sure to get their name, their phone number, and their insurance provider information. It is important to get more than just a license plate number. Often insurance companies do not list car on the license plates, so the additional information is very important. Be polite and calm, but remember not to discuss the nature or events of the accident with anyone other than your own insurance provider and the police.
- It is essential to seek immediate medical attention following an accident: That does not mean you need to call an ambulance. Rather, it would be wise to follow up with a physician to rule out the possibility of serious injuries. Please tell your physician everything that is wrong with you at your initial appointment. I cannot stress how important it is that the physician lists every single complaint in their notes. This helps to avoid the situation wherein the insurance carrier will state that your medical records are not consistent.
Although people rarely think about having an accident until after it occurs, being prepared can prevent stress after a crash. Keep a copy of your insurance information as well as a pen and paper in your car; it will make the post-accident process much easier. Some insurance providers suggest keeping a disposable camera in your glove box to take pictures in the event of an accident; if you have a camera on your phone this works just as well. Always wear your seatbelt and ask that the passengers in your vehicle do the same. Additionally, place objects such as books on the floor rather than in the seats; this will prevent them from sliding or flying up to hit and injure someone in the event of an accident.
Get Off the Road
After an accident it is important to get to safety as quickly as possible. Before you start gathering information from the other driver involved in the crash, move your vehicle to the side of the road if possible. Park your car in an area that is easily visible to upcoming cars so you don’t raise your chances of getting hit by passing vehicles. If you stay in your car, keep your seat belt on at all times. If you get out of your car, try to exit it on the opposite side of passing traffic, even if that means crawling to the passenger side of the car. When standing outside to exchange information or look at the damage, try to stand in front of or behind your car, but not beside it on the traffic side. Remember to try to stay as visible as possible.
Watch what you Say
First and foremost try to stay calm. Panic can make others panic and only makes the situation worse. There needs to be a calm individual to determine the extent of the damages and whether there are any injuries that need immediate medical attention. You should speak with the other driver only to get his or her information and to make sure the driver is OK. Discuss the accident only with the police and your insurance agent only; it is important to limit your discussion of the accident and not admit to any fault or liability. Even in a minor accident make sure a report is filed with the police; don’t leave the scene until a full police report is filed.
As soon as you and your vehicle are out of traffic and harm’s way, take a moment to record every detail you can remember about the accident. Your insurance company will need information to process your accident claim and you may need information from the other driver(s) involved, the name of your insurance representative, whether your vehicle is damaged, and how badly. When you’re in a collision, write down the following information of the people involved:
- Phone number
- Email address
- Make, model, and year of the car
- License plate number and vehicle identification number
- Insurance carrier
- Insurance policy number
If possible, take these photos:
- Damage to your vehicle
- Accident location
- People involved in the accident
Get information from the police officer on the scene:
- Badge or ID number
- Phone number
- Police report number
Ask the police officer for a copy of the accident report; it may take up to a couple of days before it is filed. The officer’s opinion of the accident will be useful if the drivers have a dispute about who is to blame. The police report will also have the officer’s information in case he or she is needed to testify.
File Your Claim
Call your insurance company immediately after a crash to start processing your claim; your insurance company’s phone number is likely staffed 24/7. Many insurance companies have time limits on when a claim can be filed, so get on it right away. It’s best to know what your own insurance covers ahead of time; you don’t want to find out you’ll be paying for a rental car out of pocket. Also, remember you have the right to send your car to any repair shop of your choosing. Don’t be afraid to stay on top of the insurance companies too. Keep in constant contact with them and the repair shop. After all, you want to get this resolved quickly and correctly so you can get on with your life.
Things you shouldn’t do:
- Leave the Scene: Regardless of whether a wreck looks serious, you always have to stop, check on the other person involved, exchange insurance information and report it to law enforcement. If you don’t, you’ve committed a crime.
- Lose Your Cool: When you’re dealing with the other driver, the first thing to ask is, “Are you alright?” Don’t start laying blame on them or yelling at them. It’s not going to fix anything and it’s not doing anyone any good. Take some deep breaths and stay calm. You need to be in a good frame of mind to assess the situation and do everything you need to do in terms of documenting the accident.
- Forget Proper Documentation: Don’t forget to properly document the wreck and get the right insurance information from the other motorist.
- Neglect the Aftermath: The hardest part of a wreck often comes in dealing with the aftermath; it is important to follow up on everything that needs to be taken care of. This can sometimes include getting legal and medical advice.
The best way to handle an accident is not to be in one. Drive safely- and do not drink and drive or operate a vehicle while text messaging. However, no amount of safe driving can insure that one won’t be involved in an accident. Make sure everyone is wearing seat belts and make sure that children are properly hastened in an age/weight/ height appropriate child safety seat. Also, make sure your cars are properly maintained. It is better safe than sorry.
However, if you do wind up in an unfortunate car accident, the next thing you should do is call an experienced car wreck attorney at the Dolman Law group. Our dedicated attorneys and staff are here to help you and your loved ones. Please call us today to discuss your legal rights and options. You can contact our injury law attorneys at: 727-451-6900.
The Dolman Law Group is a nationally recognized Clearwater personal injury law firm located in Pinellas County and only a short drive from Tampa and St. Petersburg. Matthew Dolman was named 2013 Florida Superlawyers by Thompson Reuters Publications.