I’ve Just Been in a Car Accident: What do I do?
Even the smallest fender bender can leave you shaken and unsettled. It can be hard to think straight when you're worried about injuries or damage to your vehicle.
Below, we provide a guide on what to do when you’re in a car accident, starting at the scene of the incident all the way to handling insurance claims and a potential lawsuit. We’ll also give you some important tips that might save you a lot of stress and money if things don’t go according to plan.
3 Steps to Take Immediately After the Incident
Step 1: Call the police and get a police report
It may seem dramatic to call the police, especially if you don’t feel injured at the time, but it is important to get a police report of the incident. If it isn’t an emergency, meaning there aren’t any serious injuries that require immediate medical attention, just call the non-emergency line for your local police instead of 911.*
*Some big cities like Tulsa may not send an officer for non-injury accidents in certain conditions (e.g. icy roads).
Step 2: Take pictures and videos
If the other driver is acting aggressive or accusatory, use your phone to start recording the interaction as inconspicuously as possible. This may not be necessary if the other driver is calm and rational, but is a good tactic to remember if someone is trying to intimidate you into accepting fault after an accident. Stay calm and don’t accept fault. Simply exchange information and let your attorney fight on your behalf later.
You should also take a lot of pictures. This includes the front and back of both vehicles, regardless of where the damage occurred. For example, if you rear-ended a car, you still need pictures of its front bumper. This prevents the driver from later claiming that you pushed them into another vehicle or light post. You also need pictures that include the scene (the intersection, surrounding buildings or businesses, etc.) and the weather (e.g. the rain-soaked roadway). In short, take a picture of everything, whether you think you’ll need it or not.
Step 3: Go to the doctor immediately
Even if you feel fine after the accident, seek medical attention to ensure you’re truly okay. The adrenaline coursing through your body could be masking some pain. Go to the emergency room if you are seriously injured, or to an urgent care if you have no obvious injuries and simply want to be looked over.
Seeking immediate medical attention saves you in two regards. First, it prevents the other driver from claiming any injuries were a result of something other than the accident. Second, it prevents the driver from claiming your injuries were worse because you failed to get treatment immediately. A $60 visit to urgent care could save you thousands.
3 Steps to Take Within the Week After the Accident
Step 1: Do not talk to an insurance company yourself
One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to deal with the other driver’s insurance company themselves. An insurance adjuster will begin building a case against you as soon as you start speaking. The best thing you can do is hire an attorney and let them handle the conversations with the insurance adjuster.
Step 2: Get a quote for your vehicle damage
If you have damage to your vehicle, the sooner you can get a quote from a mechanic, the better. This will prevent the other driver from claiming your vehicle received additional damage after the accident that contributed to the cost of fixing your vehicle.
Step 3: Save any dashcam footage or other media
If you have a dashcam, you have a short window for saving footage and you will want to do that as soon as you are able. This is because most dash cams will save footage for only a short period of time. Some save this footage for as little as a few hours after the incident before it is permanently deleted.
Even if you don’t believe the dashcam footage can benefit you, you have a legal obligation to keep anything that could be used in a potential lawsuit. You should also backup any video and photos you took at the scene. This will give you a second way to access it in case something happens to your phone.
Step to take within a year of your accident
Step 1: Determine if a lawsuit is necessary
Once you have determined how much insurance is offering you and how much your medical treatments and vehicle repairs will cost, you can work with your lawyer to determine if a lawsuit is necessary. In some instances, the insurance adjuster may offer you the amount necessary to make you whole. In other instances, you may need to pursue a legal remedy to get what you are entitled to.
Other Important Things To Know
Regardless of injuries and settlements, there are four things we strongly advise after you’ve been in a car accident:
- Do not leave the scene of the accident until a police officer instructs you to do so or you have exchanged information with the other party. If you leave prematurely, you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on whether the other party has injuries or not.
- Put your safety first. If you are too injured to take photos of the vehicle, focus on your well-being. Or, if you are in an isolated place and don’t feel comfortable with the other driver (for example, due to aggressiveness), leave the scene and drive to a well-lit area. Call the police on your way to report the incident and that you are moving your vehicle due to a safety concern.
- Seek medical treatment, even if you failed to do so immediately after the accident. You might be able to recover financial compensation for your accident-related injuries, regardless of when they were diagnosed.
- Be honest with your attorney. If you could have been at-fault for the accident, talk that out with your legal representation. They can’t give you an accurate opinion about your case if you don’t give them all the facts.
The Bottom Line
If you have been in a car accident, you are probably scared and aren’t thinking clearly. Now more than ever, you need a professional to guide you through your next steps. If you are looking for legal representation, give us a call and we can help you navigate where to go from here.