Safety is the Priority
The most important thing to do after you have been in an automobile accident is to get yourself
and your family to a place of safety. It is usually a good idea to get everyone off the road and out of the path of oncoming traffic. If your vehicle came to rest in the roadway after the crash, but it is still roadworthy, quickly take some pictures of where the car is in the road if you can do so safely. After you have taken pictures, move the vehicle off the road and out of the way of
oncoming traffic. If someone from your vehicle is lying in the road, and you cannot move them because you fear they may have a spinal injury, take steps to warn oncoming drivers of the danger. Turn on your hazard lights, use road flares if you have them, and set out warning cones in the direction of the oncoming traffic. Once you have taken precautions against oncoming traffic, dial 911 and report the emergency. Try your best to remain calm. Inform them of your location, and if you need an ambulance.
Once it is safe to do so, use your smartphone to take pictures of the scene. Get pictures of where the vehicles came to rest, the location and functionality of stop lights or stop signs, and skid marks or other physical evidence on the road. It is also important to get pictures of the damage to the other vehicles involved in the crash since this might be your only opportunity to get pictures of the other vehicles before they are moved to a distant out-of-state location. Make sure you photograph the license plate of the other vehicle at least once. Finally, take pictures of the damage to your vehicle, inside and out, and from as many angles as you can manage.
It is important that you try and take note of as much as you can at the scene, both before and after the accident. What was the other driver doing just prior to the the wreck? Were they distracted by their phone? Did they exit their vehicle already talking on the phone? Did you suspect that the other driver might be intoxicated? Were the traffic lights functioning properly? Did you notice any obstructions along the roadway to what either driver could see before the accident?
What an independent witness sees during an accident can be crucial in determining who was at fault. Are there any witnesses at the scene? If you can get names and contact information for witnesses, do so, if nothing else, take a picture of the license plate of the witness.
Are You Injured?
Immediately following an automobile accident, those involved often experience a surge of adrenaline that can mask the pain from their injuries. It is very common for accident victims to tell the responding police officer that they are not hurt, or that they do not require an ambulance. In the hours and days following the accident, after the adrenaline wears off, those same people often find themselves in the emergency room with a variety of physical complaints. There is only one you. Your family loves you and depends on you. If you feel pain following an accident or something doesn’t seem right, don’t take chances. Seek medical care to ensure your well-being. If you are injured following an automobile accident, take pictures of your injuries. Document any bruises, fractures, cuts, and swelling. You should also get a notebook and start writing down the different ways that your injuries are impacting your life. Write down everything, regardless of magnitude.
Dealing with the Insurance Company
After you have left the accident scene and/or the ER, you should call your own insurance company and report the accident to them. Stick to the facts—don’t guess or speculate about what may have happened. Only relate what you saw and what you remember. It is usually not a good idea to give a recorded statement to an insurance company without an attorney present, especially if it is the insurance company for the other driver. This is because some unscrupulous agents try to get you to say things that they can twist and try to use against you later. If they pressure you into giving a recorded statement, tell them you want to talk to your attorney first.
Do You Need an Attorney?
The best way to answer this question is to meet with one of the attorneys at the Beard Law Firm, where your initial consultation is always free. Generally speaking, the greater the force of the crash, the more significant your injuries are, and the more likely you will need an attorney. However, the insurance industry’s own studies have shown that significant injuries can result from relatively low speed impacts. There are a number of factors that can come into play, and each case is different, which is why the best solution is a one-on-one meeting at your convenience.