You heard the crunch of the metal. You lived through the seconds that seemed to stand still while you awaited your fate. Then the car accident is over. Once the cars have stopped, your next steps will probably be to catch your breath, examine your injuries, check on the safety of others involved in the accident and ascertain the extent of the property damage caused by the accident. After your take that deep breath, the steps that you take next can be very important to your health and to your financial future. Those things include:
- Call The Police: the police should be called to the scene of any accident. The police will need to write a police report about the facts and potential causes of the accident. If the accident was serious or there were injuries then you should contact the police by calling 911 for emergency services otherwise you can use your local non-emergency number.
- Seek Medical Attention: accident injuries may be readily apparent or may develop within hours or even days of the accident. If the injuries seem serious or life threatening then you should call 911 to have an ambulance dispatched to the scene of the accident. If the injuries do not seem that serious then you can visit your own doctor as soon as possible. If you are in doubt then always err on the side of caution and contact 911.
- Wait for the Police: Do not talk about the accident with anyone other than the police and do not admit fault to anyone including the police. Also, do not apologize for the accident as that can be construed as an admission of wrongdoing. Watch the police investigate the accident, if possible, so that you can note any irregularities in their investigation should the police report be inaccurate.
- Gather Information at the Scene of the Accident: make sure that you gather the names, addresses, license plate numbers and insurance policy numbers of all other drivers involved in the accident. Also be sure to write down the names, phone numbers and addresses of witnesses to the accident. If possible, take pictures of the accident scene. If you do not have a camera in the car with you then many cell phones have a camera feature that you can use to photographically document the scene.
- Obtain a Copy of the Police Report: police reports are typically available within a day or two of the accident. Make sure to request a copy at the police station and review it for accuracy.
- Receive Ongoing Medical Care: Many times personal injuries sustained in an accident need ongoing care. Your physician will help you sort out your ongoing medical needs.
- Call Your Insurance Company: report the accident to your insurance company but be wary of accepting any settlement offers before consulting with an attorney.
- Contact Your Personal Injury Attorney: your attorney can advise you as to your legal rights when you are involved in a car accident and you should contact your attorney as soon as practicable after the accident.
There is no doubt that car accidents are overwhelming. However, instead of panicking or freezing in the accident’s aftermath, follow each of the steps outlined above to make sure that your health and your rights are well protected.