You Were in a Car Accident…What Now?
We know that car accidents occur every day. Unfortunately, many people do not know where to begin after being in one. It can be an extremely emotional and stressful situation. This article provides a quick reference including preparedness tips; what to do immediately after an accident occurs’ and how to handle the days and weeks following the accident.
- Carry a set of reflectors or flairs, to inform oncoming traffic of the accident.
- Keep a pen and relevant medical information for you and your family in your glove compartment or console.
- Have your mobile phone with you and charged at all times; you may need it to call for emergency assistance, the police, or to take pictures of damage. (But remember, a mobile phone should never be used while driving a car!)
- Make sure you always carry proper identification and insurance information.
IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE ACCIDENT
- Try to relax and not become overly excited or stressed.
- Check for injuries on yourself and others. Some common resulting injuries include: Whiplash, concussions, PTSD, and broken bones. Obviously there are numerous additional injuries that can occur, and it is very important to remember that many injuries cannot be seen by the naked eye and do not present immediate symptoms. Very often, people experience pain, confusion, weakness, and/or other symptoms hours or even days after the accident. It is best to err on the side of caution when it comes to having possible injuries evaluated and ruled out.
- If someone needs medical attention, call 911. Do not attempt to move the person unless they are in immediate danger.
- If the accident is relatively minor, move vehicles to a safe place (if possible, and reasonable safe) and turn on hazard lights. Use traffic cones or other things to signal there is an accident ahead to oncoming traffic.
- Call the police to request an accident report.
- Gather information from other driver(s).
- File a claim with your own insurance company as soon as you can.
DAYS AND WEEKS FOLLOWING THE ACCIDENT
- Get a property valuation determination from your insurance company. The state of CA allows for you to take your vehicle to any registered auto body shop of your choice. If you cannot come to an agreement on your car’s value, consider obtaining an attorney.
- If anyone was injured, keep track of medical records, doctor visitis and expenses. This includes any doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist, or any other medical professional who treated you or others for injuries after the accident. Make note of treatments, payments, and referrals. Request copies of medical records and bills. It is also important to keep a record of “pain and suffering” — how the injuries affect your daily routine or make life more difficult.
- If anyone was injured, you may want to consider hiring an attorney. Many attorneys will offer a free consultation, where you relay basic information about the accident, injuries, and damages sustained. A local attorney may also be able to connect you with a doctor at no immediate cost if you cannot afford to see a doctor.
Quick Reference of Do’s and Don’ts
|Call 911 if anyone is injured.
Make immediate notes about the accident, including:
Call the police to request an accident report.
Take pictures of vehicle damage and location (street signs).
File an insurance claim with your insurance company.
Seek medical care if injuries arise.
Consider consulting with a local personal injury attorney.
|Tell anyone that you were at fault for the accident.
Sign any documents or take any money at the scene of the accident.
Discuss your insurance details beyond exchanging insurance company name and policy number.
Attempt to move an injured person.
Leave the scene of the accident.
Ignore signs of bodily injury (which may arise days after the accident).
Fail to report accident to your insurance out of fear or request by other party.