Odds are, you will be involved in a car accident at some point during your life. On average, there are more than 6 million car accidents each year in the United States and more than 3 million people are injured. If you have been in a car accident, there are things that you should do immediately to protect yourself and your rights:
- STOP – Immediately stop your vehicle after an accident and never leave the scene of the accident, even if it is just a minor accident.
- CALL THE POLICE – It does not matter if you believe you are at fault for the accident, or if you believe the other driver is at fault for the accident; whether the other driver admits it was their fault; whether there are injuries, or if it is just a minor accident—it is very important to call the police and have them create an accident report. Accident reports provide excellent evidence in case there is a dispute as to who was responsible for causing the accident.
- NEVER ADMIT FAULT – Accidents can be complex and confusing situations. Even when you believe you are at fault, do not admit that to the other driver, to any witnesses, or to the police. Leave this to your insurance company, or to your attorney to sort out. If you do admit fault at the scene (even if you just apologize to the other driver), this can be used against you later.
- EXCHANGE INFORMATION – Typically, the responding police officer will obtain this information; however, while waiting for the police to arrive, it is worth the time to go ahead and exchange information with the other driver. Specifically, this should include the name, address, and phone number of everyone involved in the accident (including passengers) and the other driver's insurance information. If there are any witnesses, get their names, addresses, and phone numbers.
- TAKE PICTURES – While waiting for the police, take pictures of all of the vehicles involved in the accident, of the scene of the accident, and of any visible injuries. If you cannot take pictures at the scene of the accident, take them as soon after as you can.
- GET MEDICAL TREATMENT – It is very common for injuries caused by minor accidents to not become apparent for several days. Many of our clients tell us that they felt fine immediately after the accident, because of the adrenaline of being involved in an accident, but that they were in pain a day or two later. Because it is so common for these injuries to become apparent after the accident, it is very important to go to your family doctor or to your local emergency room and get checked out. Always remember, serious injuries can result from minor accidents.
- REPORT THE CLAIM – Make sure you notify your insurance company of the accident as soon as possible. Even if the accident is not your fault, your insurance company may provide uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage or medical payments coverage to you, if you have been injured. As long as the accident was not your fault, your insurance premiums should not increase as a result of submitting a claim for med pay coverage. Keep in mind, if you hire an attorney, your attorney will gladly do this for you.
- KEEP RECORDS – Keep track of everything related to the accident—this includes the accident report, any communications with the other insurance company or your insurance company, medical records, and medical bills. Also, keep track of any out of pocket expenses related to the accident, such as a rental car, prescriptions, or other expenses, and any time that you have had to miss from work or school.
- TALK TO AN ATTORNEY – The most important thing you can do after an accident is talk to an attorney. The other driver's insurance company is not here to help you, no matter what they say. They have one job, and only one job: to settle your claim for as little money as possible. Often times, they will offer a quick settlement for any personal injury claims—do not accept it. The worst thing you can do is settle an injury claim before you know how injured you are, or before you have completed your treatment. Your attorney can handle all aspects of your claim: from making sure you are properly compensated for the damage to your vehicle and injuries, to making sure you are getting the best medical treatment available. And, don't worry, at The Cotton Law Firm, we work on a contingency fee basis, which means you don't pay us anything up front, and won't pay us anything at all, unless we recover money for you.
If you have been in an accident and have questions about your claim, give us a call and we will do everything we can to help you through this process.