What Should You Do After An Accident?

It often happens in the blink of an eye. One moment, you are driving peacefully, perhaps listening to something interesting on the radio. The next minute, you feel a sudden impact and hear the sound of steel crunching. You exit your vehicle in a daze, unsure of what to do next. Statistically speaking, most people will be involved in a car accident at some point in their lives. The actions you take in the moments, days, and weeks immediately following an accident are critical to protecting yourself and your financial future. So what do you do after an accident? 

First, be careful what you say to the other driver. Any statements made at the scene, particularly admissions of fault, can be later used against you. Keep the dialogue simple- ask if the other person needs medical attention. Exchange insurance and contact information. 

Second, call the police and file a report after an accident. Too often, individuals involved want to pay collision damages directly and forgo calling the police or going through insurance to avoid higher rates. This can be a serious mistake, especially if the accident results in an injury which is not immediately apparent.  It will be difficult to convince an adjuster, judge or a jury to award you damages if there is no third party making a record of what happened. Additionally, do not pre-pay any tickets if you are issued one at the accident scene by the responding officer. Paying a ticket is often times the same as entering a guilty plea. Consult with competent legal counsel immediately.    
      
Equally important is to make sure you get examined by a doctor or medical professional immediately after an accident to ensure there are no injuries. I have seen multiple instances where clients felt fine right after the accident, only to experience pain or discomfort days or weeks afterwards.

In order to make a successful claim in an auto accident case, you must demonstrate causation.  This means you must show that the accident was the direct cause of your injury.  The more remote in time the effects of an injury are from the date of the accident, the more problematic proving your case can be.  Similarly, if your treating doctor recommends a certain course of treatment, such as physical therapy, make sure you complete this course of treatment until you are discharged. 
            
Finally, prior to speaking with any insurance adjuster, consult with an attorney who handles car accident cases. Insurance adjusters may underpay you what your claim is truly worth, or deny compensation altogether. Don’t be taken advantage of or left with the short end of the stick.

To understand how to fully protect yourself after an accident, please contact me at jbaez@hmalaw.com or at 804-320-6600. Yo hablo Español.

This post is provided as an educational service and should not be construed as legal advice. Readers in need of assistance with a legal matter should retain the services of competent counsel.