You’ve just been injured in a serious car accident. It happened fast. You may not even be sure of exactly what happened. Now what?
First call 911
You are on a recorded line and the insurance company will get a copy of the recording, so don’t say you are “okay” or “fine” if you were hurt in any way. If you are injured in such a way that medical attention is immediately necessary, someone else will probably make the decision for you that you need to go to the hospital. If you are alert and oriented, you need to make the decision yourself. Hospitals are for acute, life threatening injuries. They are looking for what needs to be done right now to preserve your life. On the other hand, they are too busy to handle non-life threatening injuries and can be a poor source of care for injuries such as head injuries, spinal or joint injuries that do not pose a life threatening situation.
Take care of your health and safety before anything else. If you are injured but do not require immediate medical attention we suggest taking the following steps:
Take pictures of the conditions of the road including any debris that is present. Take pictures of the damage to your car and any other car involved in the accident. If you have any bruises, cuts or scrapes, take pictures of those as well. Any camera will work so if you don’t have an actual camera on you, the camera on your cell phone will work just fine.
Talk to and Identify Any Witnesses
Obtain their names, addresses and other contact information. Later down the road it may be difficult, if not impossible to track down the witnesses. If you file a personal injury case, you will want to get a hold of any witnesses to the accident. They may have crucial information regarding the crash and that you were not at fault. Inability to track down witnesses can jeopardize your case when there is a dispute of fault.
After the Car Accident
Additionally, if you are not in the middle of the road or another location that will leave you in harm’s way, do not move the car. If you are in a position that requires you to move the car, move it as little as possible–keeping it as close to the original location and position as you can. This will help the police officer, who will arrive on the scene to investigate, create an accurate diagram of the accident. If you hire an attorney and file a personal injury case, the diagram will help refresh your memory of key facts surrounding the accident and to explain the exact details of what occurred.
Take a careful look at the scene around you and document your observations. Write down the location, time, and circumstances of the accident as soon as possible. Include the position of the cars and whether or not you had to move the car after the accident to stay out of harm’s way. Finally, jot down what you observe about the weather conditions, traffic conditions and conditions of the road.
If you don’t go to a hospital immediately, see your primary care physician within fourteen days of the accident. The new insurance laws are designed to help the insurance company deny benefits you paid for if your injuries are not properly documented by a qualified medical professional within the first 14 days. Often injuries do not fully develop immediately after a crash, and some injuries need advanced medical testing to accurately diagnose the injury and its severity. It is also a good idea to ask for a referral to a physician that specializes in treating victims of car accidents. Most physicians do not want to be involved in any lawsuits – even as your treating doctor – and consequently will not even mention the crash in their notes. Moreover, medical doctors that specialize in this field have much more experience to locate, diagnose, treat and document your auto accident injuries. They are more experienced in the mechanics and mechanisms of injury that are quite unique to car crash victims.
Watch our Car Accident Injury Guide to learn more about how you can be prepared after a car accident.
Talking With Insurance Companies After a Car Accident
Following the accident, your own insurance company or the insurance companies of other parties involved, may contact you and try to ask you questions regarding the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident. Refrain from making a statement to any insurance company that contacts you regarding the crash, even if it is your own..
If you feel that you will need medical care for your injuries, it is important that you retain a personal injury attorney who can assist you. Your own insurance company may try to cut you off from benefits you are entitled to and speaking to the insurance company of the at fault party is just plain dumb – they only want to manipulate your statement on a recorded line to attempt to avoid paying out money that they are obligated to pay due to the actions of their insured. More often than not, insurance companies use their skilled adjusters to accumulate information in a way that is simply designed to reduce or eliminate payment of benefits that they rightfully are obligated to pay. They use tactics like hiring handpicked doctors who are the darlings of the insurance industry because they conduct compulsory medical examinations of you (the injured person) and then say that none of your medical problems exist or that if they do exist that they have nothing to do with the crash.
In the event that you find yourself in a battle against your insurance company to receive the restitution you deserve, your best chance of a fair shake is to hire a personal injury lawyer that faces insurance companies every day. Experienced personal injury lawyers know your rights and will fight for them to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.