If you drive, you probably have an idea of what to do after a car accident. You may have even been in an accident and dealt with your insurance company at some point. But, are you doing it right? Are you unwillingly making mistakes that can cost you dearly?
What are the right steps to take after a car accident? Let’s take a look.
Before we discuss what to do after a car accident, we should say a few things about what you should do before you even hit the road. By being prepared, you can save yourself many headaches and a lot of money down the road.
- Read these tips, top to bottom.
- Keep a copy of our free auto accident checklist in your glove box, available in our auto accident handbook.
- Keep an emergency kit in your car. Your emergency kit should include at minimum:
- A cell phone,
- A disposable camera (or a smart phone camera on your phone),
- Pen and paper to take notes,
- Medical card / allergy card if you have special medical conditions or allergies which require specific handling,
- A flashlight,
- Cones, warning triangles and emergency flares are added bonuses to your kit.
- Raise your insurance policy limits to whatever you can afford. You should always purchase as much coverage as you can reasonably afford. The difference in coverage can mean a smooth recovery or enormous unpaid medical bills, all for a small monthly premium increase.
- Get medical payments coverage (MedPay). Here’s why.
When There Are No Injuries
When nobody is injured, follow these steps:
- Stay safe by moving your vehicles off to the side of the road, or if not possible remain in the vehicle buckled in until help arrives.
- Turn on your hazard lights and set up cones, triangles and flares if available (especially at night).
- Call the police (even if it’s a minor accident). The report made by responding police officer can help settle disputes with your insurance company.
- Keep your cool, don’t say much. Do not apologize or get angry. Simply exchange information with the other driver as calmly as possible. Apologizing is the same as admitting fault, while being angry won’t help the situation.
- Exchange information – get the other person’s license information including license number, name and address, contact information. Write down the make, model and year of the vehicle, license plate number insurance policy number.
- Get contact information from any witnesses to the accident.
- Be honest with the police officer, and don’t exaggerate. Tell them exactly what happened.
- Take pictures of the accident scene and damage to your vehicle as evidence in case there is a dispute with your insurance company.
- Report the accident to your insurance company.
- In California, report traffic accident to the DMV if there was property damage of more than $750, if anyone was injured (no matter how minor) or if anyone was killed:
When Someone is Injured
- Make sure to get medical treatment. When anyone is injured in an accident, follow the same steps as when there are no injuries, except be sure to put extra emphasis on getting medical care first. It is important that you get treated in order to recover faster and better, and to get a detailed report of your injuries.
- Speak to an attorney. When injuries are involved, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney as soon as possible, before talking to the insurance company. If you are injured, claim payments can skyrocket, making it a priority of your insurance company to lower the payout when you need the money most.
Attorneys can help make sure you get the maximum compensation for your injuries, time off work and medical bills. You only get one chance at compensation, once you accept a lower amount without consulting an attorney there is no going back.
If the driver or passenger dies, you or your family members should always speak to an attorney. Claims involving fatalities are more complex and have a higher possibility of being lowered significantly without the help of an attorney.
Other Driver’s Insurance Company
The easiest way to deal with the other driver’s insurance company is not to deal with them. Avoid taking, giving any recorded statements or trying to settle anything with the other driver’s insurance company. They are not looking out for your interests and there is nothing to be gained by talking to them. It’s that simple.
Your Insurance Company
If the damages are to the vehicle only, you can deal directly with your insurance company to make a claim.
However, if injures are involved, you should contact an attorney first. When you are injured, your insurance company is not necessarily your friend. They will seem fair and offer compensation, but often that amount will be reduced from what you really deserve. You never know when your injuries will last past initial medical treatment and what kind of other conditions may be exacerbated by the accident. Auto accident attorneys have experience needed get you the maximum compensation you require and deserve.
What You Should Never Do
- Never flee the scene of an accident. Not only is it rude to not check to see if everyone is okay, it is also a crime to leave the scene without reporting the accident. No matter who is at fault, you should always stop and follow the steps outlined above.
- Never make “gentlemen’s agreements” to handle the accident on your own with the other driver without calling 911. There needs to be third party proof that the accident occurred. You never know when the other driver is lying, has no auto insurance or carries fake insurance and or identity. Do yourself a favor and look out for your own interests by calling 911. This will also go a long way in making sure your injuries are properly documented, no matter how seemingly small, which will help with your claim.
- Do not talk to the other driver’s insurance company or give any recorded statements.
- Do not admit fault by apologizing to the other driver, or admitting fault verbally through a direct statement. Even when you may think you are at fault, you may not be.
- Do not lose your cool. Staying calm will help you assess the situation better and make good decisions that won’t come back to haunt you.
- Do not forget to exchange information and document the accident. Your memories are freshest immediately after an accident. Waiting or forgetting to document the damage and conditions which lead to the accident may hurt your claim.
- Never avoid medical care, even if you don’t have medical insurance. Without proof of the accident causing your injuries, you may be hard-pressed to get money from your auto insurance company to cover your medical bills. Even if you’ve delayed getting treatment and have yet to settle with your insurance company, it is always best to contact an attorney to figure out what your options are.
- Do not wait until it’s too late to talk to an attorney if you are injured. Maximum compensation is contingent on circumstances and time. If you wait too long, you diminish the chances of getting the money you deserve. If you are unsure whether you’ve waited too long, call an attorney anyway.
Get a Free Legal Consultation
If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, contact attorneys Fisher & Talwar. Our attorneys have experience in handling all types of auto accident claims, from minor injuries to catastrophic accidents and wrongful death. Our consultations are free so give us a call at (213) 891-0777.