An auto accident can be incredibly scary, even if you don’t feel severely injured. Pain, confusion, and worry about both your health and your car can make you feel overwhelmed and unsure what to do. Yet the steps you take immediately after the accident are critical to making sure you are on the right side of the law. In addition, following the proper procedure will help strengthen your case if you later need to contact a car accident lawyer. Here is an easy-to-follow checklist of what to do after an auto accident.
1. Call 911
A police report is a vital document that details what happened, when it happened, and what the circumstances were. It also includes a preliminary assessment of who was at fault (though this can change somewhat during the insurance investigation and possible subsequent court proceedings). Even if there appears to be little or no damage, obtaining a police report is always wise. Hidden property damage and injuries can surface later, and the police report can help provide a paper trail.
2. Assess Victims’ Health and Begin First Aid
Check on everyone who was involved in the accident. Provide first aid as directed by the 911 operator. Do not move anyone who reports neck or back pain, or who is unconscious, unless there is an immediate threat to his or her safety.
3. Remain on the Scene
Leaving the scene of an accident can be a crime, especially in cases of extensive property damage or physical injury. Remain on the scene until you are dismissed by the police officer who responds to the call.
4. Exchange Information
Exchange pertinent information including name, address, phone number, drivers license number, license plate number, and insurance information with the other drivers involved. Try to get passengers’ information as well, but remain friendly and respect their right to refuse.
5. Watch What You Say
Be polite and cooperative but be careful not to admit fault. Your statements could be legally interpreted as claiming liability for the accident. Washington state has comparative negligence laws, which means that fault is generally distributed amongst the involved parties on a percentage basis. Let the experts sort out who should take what percentage of liability.
6. Interview Witnesses
Take a few minutes to talk to everyone who might have witnessed the accident. Ask for written statements if they are willing to provide them, as well as names and phone numbers for future contact. Remain polite and understanding, even if you disagree with their version of events.
7. Call Your Insurance Company
Regardless of whose fault the accident was, it is your insurance company’s responsibility to handle the paperwork. Call your provider as soon as possible and clearly explain the facts. Be entirely truthful, as lying to your insurer could cause your claim to be denied.
8. Document Everything
If you seek medical treatment, receive payments from either insurance company, have your vehicle’s property value appraised, or conduct any other business transactions regarding the accident, obtain receipts and file them where they are easy to find. If you have to miss work, have pain and suffering that force you to curtail your normal activities, or have any other financial or personal costs, document those as well.
9. Be Leery of Settlement Offers
You might receive a settlement offer, either from the other driver personally or from his or her insurance company. Although some settlements are fair and reasonable, others are not. In addition, some injuries take weeks or even months to surface. Have a competent auto accident lawyer review any settlement offer you are considering to make sure it covers your current and future damages.
10. Hire a Personal Injury Law Firm
Anytime you are involved in a car accident that causes injuries or extensive property damage, whether to you or someone else, it is best to hire a car accident lawyer. Only someone experienced in this area of the law can help you maximize your recovery if you are the injured party or defend yourself if you are considered at fault for someone else’s injuries.
Bryan P. Stubbs, Attorney at Law, assists clients throughout the Tacoma, WA area. To protect your rights, speak to us as soon as possible after an auto accident. For over 50 years, our office has been helping injured people recover damages following car accidents. We will fight for your rights and secure the best outcome for your auto accident injury claim!
Contact Bryan P. Stubbs today at (253) 383-5891 to schedule a free initial consultation. If you or a loved one have been involved in a car accident, call us today!