FAQ: 5 Important Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Each year, thousands of West Virginians are injured or killed in traffic collisions caused by aggressive, distracted, and intoxicated motor vehicle operators. Whether it’s a major fender bender or a 10-car pile-up, a serious car accident can be a confusing and overwhelming experience for even the most unflappable driver. However, there are certain steps you must take after a collision if you want to safeguard your right to compensation.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident
- Call 911
- Exchange information
- Compile evidence
- Seek medical treatment
- Don't negotiate with the defendant's insurance company
Step #1: Call 911
Most people experience a wide-range of debilitating emotions after surviving a serious wreck. While these feelings are completely normal, you still need to shake off the fear, anger, and shock to accurately assess the scene and help any injured parties. You also need to call 911 and request emergency assistance even if everyone seems uninjured at first glance. Of course, this task can be delegated to another party if you’re too injured to complete it yourself.
Ideally, it shouldn’t take long for emergency personnel to arrive. Don’t forget to turn off your car’s engine and press the hazard lights button on your dashboard. Take note: you can face serious criminal penalties for fleeing the scene of an accident. Even if someone you care about is injured, you must wait for the emergency medical technicians and law enforcement officials to arrive and take charge of the accident scene.
Step #2: Exchange Information
After you’ve called 911, you should talk to the other driver and exchange insurance information. You need to be very careful during this interaction. It’s important that you don’t imply or accept fault for the collision during this conversation. Even an offhand joke or comment can have a detrimental impact on the validity of your claim in the future.
You can call your insurance company to officially report the accident once you’ve helped the police complete the accident report.
Step #3: Compile Evidence
This is a critical step that may be difficult to complete depending on the circumstances of the accident and your physical condition. Even so, it’s important to start collecting evidence before the vehicles and injured parties are removed from the scene (within reason, of course). If you’re too injured to complete this step, you can call a trusted friend, family member, or attorney to help you gather the necessary information.
If possible, compile the following evidence:
- Write down the names, addresses and phone numbers of any drivers, passengers, and witnesses. You can also use your cell phone to take pictures of driver’s licenses and insurance cards.
- If you’re a rideshare passenger, take screenshots of your receipt.
- Take pictures of any vehicles involved in the collision (including license plates). If you can – and only if it’s safe, take these pictures before the vehicles are moved.
- Identify the law enforcement officials who are handling the scene of the accident. If possible, write down their names, badge numbers, and the policy agency they represent.
- Help the police complete their accident report and ask where you can obtain a copy.
The defendant’s insurance provider has only one priority: mitigating the company’s financial losses. A claims adjuster may try to manipulate the narrative of the accident just to undermine your right to damages. By collecting evidence, you can help your insurance company and legal team prove the at-fault party is responsible for the accident.
Step #4: Seek Medical Treatment
This is the most important step on this list. You need to get treated by a qualified medical professional even if you don’t think you were injured during the accident. Many car accident injuries – including traumatic brain injuries – aren’t easily apparent to the untrained eye. In fact, it’s not unusual for a car accident survivor to confuse a neck sprain with the general symptoms of whiplash. A trained doctor can evaluate your injuries, run tests, and prescribe am effective treatment regime.
Visiting a medical care professional serves four critical purposes:
- It validates your claim.
- It guarantees that your accident injuries are officially documented.
- It ensures that you receive the medical care your injuries require.
- It protects your claim from the defendant’s insurance company.
It is in your best interest to visit a doctor immediately after the collision. If you wait too long, the defendant’s insurance company may argue that your injuries aren’t serious enough to warrant compensation. Luckily, your updated medical record can counter these statements and even serve as vital evidence in your personal injury case.
As a law firm, our goal is to secure a beneficial settlement or verdict that facilitates a client’s physical and financial recovery. To this end, we need to review and calculate your existing and projected injury-related expenses to determine a reasonable settlement amount. You can streamline this process by keeping track of your hospital bills and any receipts or statements associated with the accident.
Step #5: Don’t Negotiate with the Defendant’s Insurance Company
As previously stated, an insurance company operates like any other business – they want to make money, not lose it. Insurance claims adjusters have been known to call accident victims and try to trick them into making a recorded statement that undermines the value of their claim. Another common tactic is to manipulate the plaintiff into accepting an inadequate settlement amount that doesn’t reflect their financial needs. Many people who accept these settlements struggle with serious medical debts in the future. Only an experienced legal representative knows how to navigate the negotiation process and obtain a favorable case outcome. At Shaffer Madia Law, we aren’t afraid to negotiate with powerful insurance companies or corporate legal teams if it helps our clients secure an advantageous settlement.
Bonus Step: Explore Your Legal Options with a Trial-Tested Personal Injury Attorney
Contact the Morgantown car accident attorney at Shaffer Madia Law if you or a loved one has been injured by the actions of a negligent driver. Our knowledgeable legal team has over 60 years of personal injury experience and a comprehensive understanding of this challenging legal process. With our help, you can recover compensatory damages that account for your ongoing medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Contact Shaffer Madia Law at (304) 244-4433 to schedule a consultation today.