Car accidents are, unfortunately, a common experience for many drivers. When you find yourself in a situation where another driver has caused their vehicle to collide with yours, it can be tempting to panic and freeze up. However, despite the traumatic nature of the experience, there are several immediate actions that you should take after an accident to preserve your legal rights and protect your health. Somewhere, in the beginning, you should contact a personal injury attorney if you were involved in a car accident in Washington. Throughout the article, you can take steps to help you win the case and get the compensation you deserve.
Remain Calm and Assess Injuries
The first step in responding to a car accident is to remain calm and follow these steps in order. If anyone is injured, call 911 immediately. If no one is seriously injured, assess any damage to the vehicles involved (temporary marks on paint jobs may later serve as evidence). If the accident is minor, take photos of the damage.
If everyone is able, you should exchange information. This includes exchanging names, drivers’ licenses, insurance information, vehicle registration numbers, and other contact details. Be sure to get the contact information of any witnesses present. You may want this information later to verify what you saw at the scene of the accident or to share with law enforcement officials if they are called.
Always wait for the arrival of the police. If neither party leaves before the police arrive, wait until officers have given their verdict on how much fault lies with one party or another. This can sometimes be difficult under stressful circumstances, but it can be worthwhile to have an official ruling on who was at fault.
Even if the accident was minor, you still need to file an official police report to prove what happened if anything goes wrong later on. When filing an insurance claim or seeking legal recourse against another driver, this also comes into play. Having a police report is much easier than arguing your side of the story without any concrete evidence when dealing with these situations. The process for filing this will vary by state, so call up your local precinct to ask how they handle car accidents involving no injuries. Hence, you know what documentation you should expect after calling 911 about the accident.
Many drivers are tempted to flee after an accident since they are worried about their insurance rates, but leaving the scene of an accident can often get them into more trouble than it’s worth. When the police have left, take a moment to ensure that the other driver is okay before you go. You may also want to follow up with any witnesses or bystanders taking videos of the crash to offer your thanks for their support.
Gather Witness Statements
If you have any witnesses to the accident, bring them together to write down what they saw. Sometimes these accounts are all you need to win your case, so it’s essential to have the help of anyone present during the crash. Witnesses may be hesitant to get involved or offer their side of the story later on since they don’t want to open themselves up to legal conflicts but do everything you can at this stage to persuade them that there will be no negative repercussions for speaking out about what happened.
Often, car accidents go undocumented because people forget essential details after a collision. So, even if you feel like nothing serious happened or did nothing wrong, it’s still crucial to write down everything you can remember about the accident. You need not be too specific right after the fact, but this will come in handy later if you end up filing an insurance claim or taking legal action against another driver for causing the accident.
Seek Medical Attention
Car accidents are traumatic experiences, and it’s important to note that you can be injured in not immediately obvious ways. Whether it’s for yourself or any passengers involved in the crash, ensure that everyone gets checked out by a doctor as quickly as possible following the accident. There is no way to know whether there were any internal injuries until someone has been adequately examined, so do not assume that everyone is fine just because they feel they are or appear uninjured on the surface. You don’t want to miss an injury just because of pride.
Don’t assume that everyone else will understand your pain if you were injured. Even if it doesn’t seem like much at the time of the accident, injuries can worsen significantly over time without proper treatment. Even if your injuries are minor, it’s crucial to get checked out by a medical professional if there are any complications later on.
If something seems off with your body after an accident, talk with your doctor about what might be causing these symptoms since they could have ramifications for your future wellbeing. It may not be anything serious, but keeping track of everything that happens after an accident is one way to ensure that nothing goes overlooked.
Contact Your Car Insurance Company
You should review your plan with your insurance company. If you do not know all of the information, they can help you determine what coverage you are paying in the premium. If you have full coverage, you should get an insurance check for the cost of repairing or replacing the car. However, it is best not to sign anything until you have discussed it with your attorney. Ensure that you know what you’re entitled to and where your car stands according to your policy before calling up the insurer. Don’t just assume that everything will go smoothly without this initial research.
Whether or not another driver caused the accident, you will either file an uninsured motorist claim or a collision claim (or both if the other driver was uninsured). In general, it’s a good idea to have car insurance in case of an accident since legal, financial, and medical ramifications will only complicate matters without proper coverage. If you use your own car insurance company or someone else’s, gathering relevant information about the accident is crucial since this will help them offer you a more significant settlement in the long run.
Contacting an Attorney
Along with contacting your insurance company, you should also search for an excellent personal injury attorney and get in touch with them for further instructions. You will need to do some things while the attorney can handle the rest. In minor accidents with no injuries, you may get away with a reasonable settlement from the insurance company. Still, if injuries are present, you may need further medical care or treatment, which should not have to come out of your pocket. Remember that it could take up to a year before injuries show up from an accident.
Gathering All of the Documents
Before submitting anything to your insurance company, collect all documents that prove who caused the accident and how the damage occurred (e.g., police reports and witness statements). Thankfully, many states make these public records available online for free. Either way, ensure that you get everything you need before attempting to file a claim since it can be problematic later on if you forget where all of your evidence is.
Since fixing a car can cost a lot more than you think, it’s always a good idea to get an insurance company involved to make sure that everything is handled correctly. If your car was damaged beyond repair or stolen during the accident, having an official estimate will help with any claims that you’re making on the insurance company’s dime. Be on the lookout for red flags while getting these quotes, like if one body shop offers far cheaper services than the others, this may be a sign that they’re not reputable or that their work might not pass muster with your insurer.
It can be easy to lose track of necessary paperwork after an accident since you’re likely stressed out and dealing with personal matters as well. Therefore, keep everything organized as much as possible (e.g., scan or take photos of documents) so they don’t go missing later down the line, especially if you end up moving houses. Don’t forget to include any medical records and bills as well.
Take Care of Yourself
After an accident, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and upset since this was a significant event in your life. However, make sure that you take care of yourself by resting correctly and dealing with your emotions so you don’t have any issues later on down the line.
If you have an attorney, they will take care of almost everything for you. This will leave you the time to focus on your health and get better.
Remember that this is just one event. Yes, it was a big deal, but an accident usually isn’t considered as part of someone’s personal history unless they were at fault or there were injuries involved. The only exception is DUIs, since these are seen as significant violations of driving laws, so try not to let yourself get too stressed about this. You can always share your story with loved ones if necessary. By taking care of these things after an accident, you’ll be able to focus more on physical recovery and other important matters. It also helps people trust you because you’re showing that you know what to do in order to handle everything responsibly. Hopefully, everything will be in your favor with substantial compensation.