What Should You Do (and Not Do) After a Car Accident?
No one plans to get injured in a car accident, so it’s a scenario for which most people don’t prepare. You might think that having insurance is enough, but that’s not necessarily true. And what you say and do following a crash could have a huge impact on whether or not you receive fair compensation for the harms and losses you’ve suffered.
Sometimes, it’s obvious why these things matter. Common sense. Sometimes, though, you need to be aware of how the law works to understand why taking a certain action – or avoiding one – is important.
9 Things You Should Do If You’re (Injured) in a Car Accident
1. Call 911 for assistance immediately.
This is one of those common sense steps. If you’re injured, you want to summon help as soon as possible in any case. The tricky part is, you may not feel injured at all. Some car accident injuries can take hours or even days to manifest. So, even in a minor fender bender, you should call 911 to report the accident and request police and medical assistance.
In fact, you’re legally obligated to report the accident as soon as you’re able! Law enforcement can also help provide a record of the crash, documenting all the relevant details to assist with an insurance claim or a potential lawsuit. Some states, including South Carolina, have laws or regulations that likely require you to report the wreck to local law enforcement or make a written report, depending upon the circumstances.
In the case of a severe injury, the rest of these steps should only be taken if you’re able to do so without making your injury worse. Your health comes first!
2. Secure the scene.
Remove vehicles from the road if possible to reduce hazards to other drivers. If possible, quickly snap some photos of the scene before moving vehicles and debris from the road. Remember that your safety is paramount.
3. Exchange information.
Getting the other driver’s information is important. It should be on the police report as well, but it’s a good idea to get this as soon as possible for your records. Remember, if the other driver was at fault for the crash, what you’re getting is the contact information of those responsible for making you whole again, whether it’s repairing your car, paying medical bills, and so on. Be sure to get the driver’s name, address, phone number, insurance company, policy number, and vehicle details.
4. Document the details.
If you are not seriously injured, thoroughly document the scene of the accident by taking pictures and make notes about what happened. Take pictures of all the vehicles involved in the crash, drivers and passengers involved in the crash, and other elements of the scene, such as smashed guard rails, tire tracks, and broken glass. Any pictures or notes you take can assist in the handling of a potential claim.
5. Cooperate with law enforcement.
The accident report composed by the officer who responds to the scene of your crash will be important, and it will have a lot of information on it. Whether you’re in North Carolina or South Carolina, you’ll find the report useful. Note, however, that it is not always the determining factor in a car accident injury case. What matters most is what you can prove, which is why documenting the details is important.
6. Seek medical treatment.
Once medical help arrives, be sure to get the treatment you need. This may be as simple as some first aid or just a brief examination. Not all injuries may be immediately obvious – such as a concussion, whiplash, or internal bleeding – so prompt medical attention is important to ensure the treatment of serious injuries.
7. Contact your insurance company.
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible, either at the scene or once you get home. You will need to provide details about the incident and whatever documentation you have.
8. Talk to an attorney.
We recommend you speak to an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible to evaluate your case and learn about your rights. Many firms, including ours, will evaluate your case free of charge.
9. Keep all records pertaining to the accident and its aftermath.
Maintain records of your accident, including your police report, photos and/or notes you took, conversations you had with the insurance company, medical treatment, repair estimates, and any other relevant information. These documents will be useful if you pursue a personal injury claim.
Remember, there are laws that require you to report accidents (this is why hit-and-run is a crime, for instance), and those laws vary by state. Knowing what to do is a step in the right direction, especially if you’re dealing with an injury as a result of a crash that wasn’t your fault. Following these steps could strengthen your claim for compensation. Every case is unique, so it’s best to gather and keep all the information about your accident. It may be important down the road.
5 Mistakes You Should Avoid If You’re Injured in a Car Accident
1. Neglect to seek immediate medical care.
Seeking care – and treatment, if necessary – as soon as possible is vital to your well-being. As it happens, it’s also crucial to your case when you seek compensation for an injury. Our experience shows that if you do not seek medical treatment shortly after your injury, insurance companies are likely to use that against you when you make a claim. They will argue that if you were really hurt, you would have sought treatment sooner. We know, however, that some injuries can take time to appear, and some minor injuries can worsen over time.
2. Talk to the insurance company without preparation.
The at-fault person’s insurance company may try to record your statements. They also may take what you say to try to reduce or deny your claim. If they ask for a recorded statement and you have not spoken to an attorney, decline to give one. According to some of the former insurance adjusters at our firm, they are trained to try to get you to talk about the accident soon after it occurred. You may still be shaken up, your recall may be a bit unclear, or you are on pain or other medication that may confuse your thoughts. Or, in some cases, this contact can happen before all your injuries may have manifested. Some of the seemingly benign questions they ask could lead you to answer in such a way that can be used against you when negotiating your financial compensation. “How are you doing today?” may simply be a pleasant way to begin a conversation. Or it could be a tactic to elicit a health status from you. The wrong answer could cause you major setbacks.
3. Neglect to seek proper follow-up care.
Insurance companies pay a great deal of attention to the type of follow-up medical treatment you receive after a car accident. If your follow-up care is inconsistent, ineffective, or with the wrong kind of doctors, or if the doctors can’t credibly tie your injuries to the incident, you may be headed for real trouble for both your health and for your claim.
4. Wait for the insurance company to do the right thing.
We see it all the time. People want to “wait-and-see” what the insurance company does first. These are usually clients who trust insurance to do right by them. Insurance companies make money by limiting their payouts. Your best interests do not align with theirs!
Simply by waiting, many people end up damaging their cases beyond repair – by not preserving evidence, saying something to an adjuster that seems innocent but winds up being used against them, or inadvertently committing any of the other mistakes outlined here. Meanwhile, the insurance company will almost certainly be working to limit their losses and pay less.
5. Take quick cash or lowball offers.
Just remember one thing and you’re more likely to avoid mistakes: The insurance company is in business, and profits by paying less money out in claims. That’s it. The less they pay, the more they keep. This can and does work against injured people.
Quick cash offers: Some insurance companies might offer you fast cash up front before all your medical treatment is completed. Don’t cash that check! If you do, your case is likely over. What if you have medical issues that manifest later, which can happen with any injury? Head injuries and internal injuries can easily become worse over time, especially if misdiagnosed. We have seen fractures and broken bones diagnosed at first as simple sprains. If you cashed the check, your case is probably closed and the insurance company may not be legally obligated to pay for those newly discovered, misdiagnosed, or worsening injuries.
Lowball offers: We see it often – some insurance companies lowball victims. Sometimes, this is the initial offer. Other times, it’s after the insurance company withholds money until the claimant is so strapped for cash, they will take any amount. By the time many people realize that the insurance company is lowballing them and they contact us for help, it is sometimes too late to try to right the ship.
If it seems like a lot of these mistakes are avoidable with the help of an attorney, it’s because they are! We see these happen all the time. An experienced car accident injury lawyer is going to fight for your best interests – something an insurance company is very unlikely to do.
Contact the Experienced Car Accident Attorneys at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin
We have years of experience dealing with car accident injuries and insurance companies. We even have former insurance adjusters on our team, so we know what to expect, and how to protect your rights. Call us at 1-866-900-7078, contact us online, or chat with us right now for a free case evaluation. We can discuss the specifics of your case and get you on the right track. Don’t wait for the insurance company – tell them you mean business!