Did you know that there are over six million car accidents in the United States every year? Fortunately, in most cases, car accidents only result in damage in to property but, in one in three cases, auto accidents also result in personal injury.
Even if you have never had an accident before or you do not drive your car very often, there is always the possibility that you could be involved in an accident through no fault of your own. If you are aware of the steps you should take after an auto accident, you will be better prepared to protect yourself and your passengers from injury and you will be aware of what you need to do protect yourself against unfair claims.
Here are the steps you should take if you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a road accident:
Stop your vehicle
Whenever you are involved in a car accident, however minor, you should always stop. Never leave the scene of an accident without stopping.
Make the Scene Safe
One of the first things you will need to do is make sure that no one has been injured and the scene of the accident is as safe as possible. To avoid the danger of a further collision, place flares or warning lights around the stationary vehicles, and put your hazard warning lights on. If you are on a busy highway, stand well away from fast-moving oncoming traffic.
Call the emergency services
It is advisable to notify the police of an accident, even if there are no serious injuries. If there are any injuries or there is a fire, then the ambulance and fire services should be identified as well. It's a good idea to notify the police, even if it is a minor accident, because you will need a police report to file with your insurance claim. If possible, the vehicles should not be moved before the police arrive.
Make a complete record of the accident
When the police arrive it is important that give them an accurate record of what has happened. If you are unsure of any of the details, be honest about it, do not try to speculate or make assumptions. If you are asked if you are injured, it is better to say that you are unsure, rather than say no, because some injuries from car accidents only manifest themselves later on. If there are any third-party witnesses to the accident, you should ask them to wait for the police to arrive, so that they can give a statement.
If there is damage to your vehicle, then take photographs of that damage. You should also take photographs of any damage to other vehicles as well. If you have any injuries that are visible, take photographs of that too. Sadly, there are people who will claim that far more damage was done to their vehicle than actually was. A photograph will enable you to dispute a spurious claim against your insurance. While making a record of the accident is important, you should not, of course, impede the work of the emergency services and the police while you are doing it.
Exchange details with the other party
If the police attend the scene of a car accident, they will take all the details of those involved in the accident and of any witnesses. If the police do not attend, you should obtain the names and addresses of all those involved, including passenger and witnesses. You should also exchange insurance details with the drivers of the other vehicles involved. If the police are in attendance, the police should provide you with a police report number. With that you will be able to obtain a copy of the police report into the accident. If the accident occurred on a state highway, you are legally required to report the incident to the police.
Get a medical check up
Even if you do not think that you have been injured, it is advisable to get a medical check-up as soon as possible after a car accident. Injuries caused by car accidents often do not become noticeable until several days later. Even low-speed impacts can cause damage and, if you felt dazed by the accident, you may have suffered a mild concussion.
Keep all the paperwork
Keep all the paperwork you have relating to the accident in a file. This should include all correspondence, your insurance claim number, details of the claim adjuster dealing with the claim and the names and telephone numbers of all those involved in the case. You should also keep all the receipts for any expenses that you incur as a result of the accident, including car repairs, medical costs and the cost of a rental car if one was needed.
Seek legal advice
It is advisable to contact an attorney straight away when you have had a car accident. A good attorney will help you protect your rights by advising you on how to make sure that evidence is not destroyed and by giving you advice on the preparation of your statement to your insurance company. They will also help make sure that you receive the proper compensation of a car accident and that you receive the best medical treatment.