I Was in an Accident, and Someone Was Injured. What Should I Do?
Over 1.5 million Americans are injured in motor vehicle accidents every year. While the experience can be both devastating and confusing, there are steps that victims can take after a crash to benefit their cases. A seasoned car accident attorney will be able to tell you exactly what steps best support your case. This general overview serves as a guideline for those considering seeking compensation for their injuries.
Each vehicle accident presents a unique set of circumstances. Oftentimes, it’s nearly impossible for victims to accomplish every recommended step after a crash. If you can’t collect evidence or need to leave another party to handle an accident report, don’t panic; you won’t be the first or last person that has struggled in the wake of an accident.
It should go without saying that if you are injured, it’s more important to wait for and accept treatment than to run around collecting witness’s phone numbers. Plenty of car accident victims need to seek compensation or justice but miss the chance to take the steps below on their own. This is perfectly fine. Remember, the advice here assumes that you are unharmed and able to assist other people.
Stay on the Scene
Put in the simplest terms, it’s bad form to leave the scene of an accident. This kind of behavior is associated with hit-and-runs and other unsavory scenarios. You should never, ever leave the scene of an accident before everything is completely resolved.
If you were in a somewhat serious accident, this will likely involve:
- Filing a police report
- Seeking and receiving medical attention for injured parties
- Documenting evidence if relevant and possible
Remain on-scene after an accident. It allows ample time for authorities to arrive and file a report. It also gives you the chance to monitor anybody who sustained injuries. If you leave the scene of an accident before authorities clear you, they may consider that a crime. Stay put after a crash, unless you are medically unable to do so.
Contact the Authorities
You should contact the police through 911 as soon as possible. The police will assess the scene of the crash and help file an accident report (which is legally required in many cases). Some accidents may be reported days after the fact; if possible, though, it’s always best to file an accident report right after the crash occurs. This helps increase the likelihood that everyone can properly recollect the incident.
Ask for an ambulance if the operator doesn’t send one, too. This helps expedite medical attention and makes for easy emergency transport if it becomes necessary.
Share and Collect Information From Other Drivers
Exchanging driver information makes it easier to contact other crash victims later. When you approach another party involved in your accident, it’s important to avoid language that makes it sound like you are assuming guilt for the crash. You can be helpful, polite, and empathetic without an apology.
You should get several pieces of information from everyone that was involved in the accident, including:
- Phone number
- Driver’s license
- License plate number
- Insurance information
If you can’t manage to log all of this info at the time of your accident, don’t worry. The accident report filed by authorities should have these details. Many cases even continue without much input from third parties, especially in instances of hit-and-runs.
Pursue Medical Treatment
It’s important to seek independent medical treatment as soon as possible after an accident. Even if you were treated on-scene or in a hospital (or if you were cleared as healthy), make an appointment with your primary care provider. This benefits you in two ways.
First, your doctor can remain up-to-date on your health and better tailor your care. Second, you may be suffering from injuries or conditions with delayed onset. Your doctor may detect an issue that you or emergency medical personnel may have missed.
Contact Your Insurance Provider
You should contact your insurance provider to notify it of the accident as soon as you’re in good physical health. It’s important to be as detailed and honest as possible when you explain the crash; improper information may impact the case in the future.
The best course of action is to retain a lawyer before taking this step, but victims can and do contact insurance companies independently every day. A lawyer will help advocate for your best interests during all contact with your insurance company.
Collect and Maintain Documentation
Fortunately, this is one of the easiest steps to take after an accident, and it may have a huge payoff. Documentation is critical to a successful legal case. All victims need to do is collect copies of documentation (think medical records, police reports, and so on) and keep them organized for future use. In many cases, attorneys assist with this process once retained.
Speak to a Trustworthy Car Accident Attorney
All of the steps above can play a crucial role in your case’s success, but partnering with a reliable personal injury attorney will probably end up being one of the most important moves you make. Car accident attorneys are specialized personal injury attorneys; these legal professionals practice for years to build their knowledge and skills. The difference between approaching the legal system alone and doing it with a seasoned lawyer is night and day.
The time after an injurious accident can prove confusing and anxiety-inducing. Working with a car accident attorney to bring or settle your case will likely remove some of this confusion and anxiety from the equation.
Your lawyer will help you understand:
- Who (and who not) to speak to, and when
- Which steps to take to protect your rights
- Which pieces of evidence to collect
- Your legal rights
Personal injury attorneys help scores of Americans recover damages to offset the costs of medical treatment, property damage, and mental anguish. Nobody can guarantee a favorable result in your particular case, but most lawyers offer potential clients FREE initial consultations. This allows injury victims to speak with a legal professional and determine what legal steps will benefit them most.