A car accident can be a traumatic event, making it hard to have the clarity and presence of mind to know what to do immediately afterward.
If the car crash caused significant injuries, you may miss weeks of work and be left with costly hospital bills. You may have a right to seek compensation for your medical bills and related expenses from the other driver who was at fault.
The actions you take after a car accident can make all the difference in whether you have a successful car accident claim. Here are some basic steps to take after a car accident
How to Anticipate an Accident
While you can never fully prepare for the shock of another motorist slamming into your car, you can prepare in advance for what you’ll need in the aftermath of the collision. Keep copies of the documents you’ll need to produce such as the car registration and proof of insurance in the glove box. The police officer who investigates the accident will ask you for them, so you should keep them handy.
It’s also good to have a pencil and small pad of paper to write down license plate numbers, if you don’t have your phone or it’s not charged. You will still need to record the other’s driver’s registration and insurance information.
Should You Call an Ambulance?
Check on your well being and the well being of others.
- Check Yourself for Injuries—First things first. Check yourself over after a collision to determine the extent of your injuries and whether you need emergency medical treatment. If you do, request an ambulance or ask someone else to call for an ambulance.
- Check on Your Passengers—You are required to provide reasonable assistance to others injured in the accident including arranging for transportation of those injured to the hospital. Check on the well-being of the others in your car and determine if anyone needs to go to the emergency room. Request an ambulance for each injured person.
- Get to Safe Location— If the accident involves injuries or death, you should remain at the scene of the accident. You should get to a safe location away from active lanes of traffic when it is safe to do so. If you are involved in a crash that involves only damage to the vehicle, you should move your vehicle off the road to a safe location.
Should I Contact the Police?
You should always notify a law enforcement agency after a car accident involving an injury or death, if you suspect a driver was intoxicated or if the wrecked vehicles cannot be removed from the road. You should contact the police even after a minor accident so there is an official accident report. Having an accident report that details the particulars of the accident and identifies those involved is crucial if you need to file an insurance claim later.
Wait for the police to arrive at the scene. Don’t leave the scene of the accident before they arrive. You could be charged with failure to stop, a serious criminal charge, and face serious penalties if you drive off from a car crash involving an injury.
You should always contact the police after an accident, even a minor accident. A police report is essential to an accident claim.
Note Things Around the Scene
Gather evidence at the scene of the accident while waiting for the police to arrive. Use your phone camera to snap photos of the position of the vehicles before they are moved, the damage to the cars and your injuries. Try to take photos from a variety of angles. If there were any traffic hazards or road obstructions, such as vegetation blocking a traffic sign, that may have contributed to the crash, take photos of those. Once the accident scene is cleared, the evidence may be lost.
Take note of any security cameras or traffic cameras that may have recorded the accident. Video evidence can be useful to support your claim, but it must be preserved.
Get the names and contact information of any witnesses who saw the accident. Ask the witness if you can record a short video of the witness describing what he or she saw.
If you are unable to take photos or gather information from witnesses, ask someone else to help.
Should I Apologize If I Believe I Caused the Crash?
No, many factors may have contributed to the accident. It’s too soon to know immediately after an accident. Exchange driver’s license information, vehicle registration and identification numbers, and insurance information with all drivers involved in the accident. But avoid discussing the details of the accident with other drivers.
Understandably, you may be upset or highly excited after a crash. It’s important to keep control of your emotions. An angry outburst can make a bad situation worse. Don’t accuse the other driver of causing the accident or accept blame yourself, even if you believe you were at fault.
Do not apologize to others at the scene or try to minimize your injuries. You may be unaware of the seriousness of your injuries immediately after a crash. A surge of adrenaline may mask your injuries at the time. You may become much more aware of your injuries and soreness a few days after a collision. These types of comments, while well intended, may be used against you later by insurance companies to deny or reduce your claim.
The police will investigate and determine what happened.
Should I Call the Insurance Company?
Call your insurance company and inform the insurer that you have been involved in an auto accident. Provide the insurance company with the other driver’s name and insurance information.
Answer the insurance company’s questions honestly, but don’t engage in speculation. Don’t try to mislead the insurer about what happened because it could weaken your claim. You may need to file a claim against your own insurance if the other motorist is driving uninsured or your injuries exceed the limits of the other driver’s insurance coverage. You also will need your insurance company to defend you if the other driver files a claim against your insurance.
While you want to be forthright with your own insurer, you should not discuss the accident with the other driver’s insurance company. If you have injuries caused by the other driver, you may need to seek compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance. You should seek the help of an experienced car accident lawyer and let the lawyer handle all communications with the insurance company. You will be at a disadvantage if you try to deal with other driver’s insurance company on your own.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney in Texas
The steps you take immediately after a car accident really do matter. If you have been injured in a crash caused by another motorist and you follow the steps outlined above, you will be better positioned to file a claim. You should not have to pay your medical bills and car repairs out of pocket. You may be entitled to collect compensation from the other driver’s insurance to cover your medical expenses, lost income, car repairs and related costs. Let us our attorneys review the details of your collision and discuss your rights to pursue a car accident injury claim. The case review is free and will provide you with an understanding of your legal options.
Herrman & Herrman is an established south Texas law firm with Spanish- and English-speaking staff to assist you. The law firm has offices in Corpus Christi, McAllen, Brownsville and San Antonio. Our attorneys have helped thousands of injured people seek full and fair compensation after serious accidents caused by the negligence of others.