Being injured in a car accident can be scary, confusing, and frustrating. While you’re dealing with your injuries, you’ll also need to handle other things like getting witness statements, talking to a lawyer, and talking to insurance companies.
If you’re still searching for an attorney, but the cost makes you hesitant to place a call, don’t worry. Most accident law firms, like RosenthalLevy.com, will provide you with a free consultation. Getting a consultation doesn’t constitute a commitment, so you’ll be free to decide which attorney you want to move forward with your case.
Regardless of what you’re dealing with, it’s important to cover all your bases. If anything slips through the cracks, you might not get properly compensated for property damage or your injuries.
To stay on top of your priorities, here are six critical steps you’ll want to take after a car accident.
1. See a Doctor Immediately
Seeking medical attention is the single most important thing to do after a car accident – for yourself and your settlement. Even if you don’t think you’re injured, it’s wise to get checked out just in case. Some injuries won’t be felt right away, but might show up on a scan.
When dealing with an insurance company, you’ll want to prove you sought medical attention right away. Many people lose their personal injury claims because they don’t seek medical treatment right away.
To an insurance company, not seeing a doctor immediately is a red flag that you may not really be injured, or that you’re exaggerating your injuries in order to increase your payout. If an insurance adjuster believes you’re exaggerating your injuries, they will either deny your claim or drastically reduce your settlement offer.
2. Exchange Information
Right after an accident, it’s critical to exchange information with other drivers involved in your accident and any witnesses that saw the accident, even if it was just the tail end.
Make sure you collect the other driver’s information, including their driver’s license number, full legal name, address, phone number, license plate number, car make and model, and insurance information.
If you’ve never been in an accident before, you might be a little nervous and forget to collect some of the information. This is understandable, and as long as you get their name and address from their driver’s license, you should be fine. Once you have that information, your attorney can probably find them easily.
Make sure you collect contact information from official forms of ID. Don’t just give a pen and paper to the other driver(s) and ask them to write down their information. If they know they caused the accident, they might give you fake information to avoid being held responsible.
3. Get a Police Report
Never leave the scene of an accident without getting a police report. It may seem silly to get a police report for a fender bender, but you might have mechanical damage that you won’t notice until later.
You might live in an area where police don’t respond to minor crashes, and that’s okay. However, if you’ve been injured, police are required to respond even when the crash happened on private property, so don’t leave without getting a police report.
Before the responding officer leaves, be sure to get their full name and badge number and request a copy of the report. You might need to get a copy of the report at a later time. If so, make sure you ask how to get that copy.
4. Create Thorough Documentation
Thorough documentation will be a requirement for proving your case, either in court or to an insurance company. The more documentation you have, the better. However, make sure your documentation is detailed rather than general.
Get a notebook and start writing down your thoughts and experiences. What were you doing when the accident happened? Where were you going? What were you wearing? What did you see before, during, and after? What did the other driver say to you?
Write down every detail you can possibly remember because sometimes those details can be critical. For example, if the other driver apologized to you for causing the accident and admitted fault, that can help you win a higher settlement payout.
5. Call an Attorney
You may not need an attorney for your situation, but let an attorney make that determination. Depending on your situation, your accident could be severe enough to warrant a personal injury lawsuit. In this case, you’ll definitely need a lawyer to represent you in court.
If a lawsuit isn’t a good option for your case, you can also have a lawyer talk to insurance companies on your behalf. You’ll probably be intimidated by having to negotiate with an insurance company on your own. Not only that, but insurance companies hold out on accident victims and try to pay out as little as possible. On your own, you’ll have to fight long and hard for decent compensation.
Whether you think you need legal representation or not, get a free consultation from an attorney to find out for sure.
6. Connect With Witnesses
If you’ve gathered contact information from witnesses, reach out to them shortly after the accident to see if they’re still willing to support you. Ask them if they’d write you a statement about what they witnessed and mail you a copy.
Don’t wait too long to contact your witnesses. If you wait too long, they might change their mind or forget about the details they witnessed. If you can get your witnesses on video explaining what they saw while they’re still at the scene of the accident, that would be even better. However, in the absence of that, a written statement is perfect.
Remember to Stay in Communication
Whether you’re talking with a lawyer or negotiating with the insurance company on your own, remember to stay in communication. Return your phone calls and don’t procrastinate. Getting decent compensation depends on your willingness to be timely and thorough.