Any auto accident attorney will tell you that no matter how safely you drive, accidents can happen to anyone. If you’ve never been in an accident, you may not be sure how to handle yourself following the incident – but what you do (and don’t do) in the first few hours after the crash can make a huge impact on the value of your case.
Assuming the accident isn’t life threatening and you aren’t seriously injured, here are seven steps you can take to make sure you’re not putting your safety – or your potential settlement – at risk:
- Be prepared in advance. Have an emergency kit with a cell phone, pen and paper, medical (health insurance) information, and insurance and registration information. Flashlights, a first aid kit and road flares are also good to have on hand.
- Remain calm after the accident and assess the situation. If you think you’re injured, moving may make the injury worse. If a bone or muscle hurts, try to get to a safe place without placing any stress on that body part. If you think your spine is damaged, moving could risk paralysis. In any case where you’re injured, moving is not a good idea unless you are in immediate danger. If you are okay, make sure everyone else – including the other driver involved – are also okay. Again – do not move an injured person unless it is necessary.
- Next, you want to secure the scene of the accident. Stay out of the way of any environmental dangers – fallen wires or burning cars, for example. Set up flares and reflectors, if you have them. Only move your car if it is not seriously damaged and in a dangerous position.
- If nobody else has done so, report the incident. When the authorities come to the scene, answer all of their questions to the best of your ability. It is normal to be dazed or “out of it” at this point, but it’s more important to make the call than to compose yourself – and 911 operators are trained to help you gather your thoughts. Police can act as forensic witnesses to help you determine fault for your auto accident attorney to use in court. If a commercial vehicle was involved, you may want to reach out to a specialized truck accident lawyer.
- Contact the other driver. Be sure you get their name, address, phone number, insurance company name, policy number and license plate number. Even if you think it might have been your fault, do not say so. This may make you liable, even if the accident’s cause was ambiguous. You’re probably not thinking straight at this point. Wait until you speak with an auto accident attorney before admitting that you may have been partially at fault, and do not talk to the other party’s insurance company without first consulting your lawyer.
- Investigate. Speak to witnesses and record their information. Take pictures. Try to determine exactly what happened. Write down any and all relevant details (location, weather conditions, etc.). If the accident was serious (serious enough for the airbag to inflate), the police will likely take care of this. If you feel symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (anxiousness, anger, sleep disturbances, or recurring memories of the incident) you should speak to friends and family and consider professional help. Also, be sure to let your lawyer know.
- Defend yourself. You may be entitled to compensation for damage to your car, your injuries, pain and suffering, time unable to work or PTSD. You should have an auto accident attorney or truck accident lawyer in mind in advance. This will allow you to take legal action as quickly as possible.
Car accidents can be scary, but if you’re well prepared and know what to do in the situation you’ll be better off than most. If you find yourself in need of an auto accident attorney or truck accident lawyer with a great record of recoveries for past clients, give us a call at (866) 778-5500 or contact us via our website.