No matter how little the damage or how insignificant the injury, an automobile accident is a stressful occasion. There are a few critical things to do if any car accident occurs. Print this list and keep in your glove compartment as a part of your “important papers”.
- CALL 911 AND STAY AT THE SCENE
It is always best to call the police immediately after you have been in an accident. Law enforcement officers are trained at securing the scene, surveying the damage and getting the parties involved further assistance if necessary.
- RECORD THE NAMES OF WITNESSES
Many times, good Samaritans will stop and make sure no one is injured and leave before the police arrive. You must ask all witnesses for their names and contact information. Independent witness testimony is very helpful to law enforcement and it can be very compelling testimony if the case proceeds to court.
- CREATE A DETAILED AND ACCURATE RECORD
Tell the investigating officer exactly what happened. You must refrain from speculating or guessing if you do not know something. If you are asked if you are injured, tell the officer you are not sure and ask to be evaluated by medical personnel. Sometimes injuries do not become apparent until after the adrenaline and shock of the crash subsides. If you are asked how the accident happened and you are unsure, do not guess. Accidents occur in an instant and many times things do not occur the way we perceive them. What you say on scene may be used against you. Although some legal privileges may prevent certain information from being admitted in a trial, it is always better to consult with your attorney before saying something that you will alter regret.
- DO NOT TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE COLLISION
Simple as that. The cause(s) for any traffic accident may not be as obvious as it seems.
- TAKE PHOTOS
In the age of smartphones, virtually all of us can take photos at a moment’s notice. If you are physically able, document the damage and position of the vehicle, the scene, and any injuries you may have sustained.
- GET EVALUATED BY MEDICAL PERSONNEL
Injuries from car accidents can sometimes take days or even weeks to present symptoms. It is always best to get evaluated by medical personnel unless you are positive you are uninjured. Many states, including Florida, have enacted laws that limit an injured party’s recovery if they do not seek emergency medical treatment within a certain number of days.
- DECIDE IF LEGAL ACTION IS NECESSARY
If you plan to hire an attorney, look for one immediately. As time passes, evidence disappears. For instance, 911 recordings are usually only preserved for 60-90 days. Witnesses may move or their memory may fade over time. It is important to start collecting evidence as soon as possible. If the insurance adjuster for the other driver contacts you, your attorney can help advise you what information is appropriate to disclose.
- CALL YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY
Notify your insurance carrier as soon as possible. Do not provide a written or record statement to any insurance adjuster without first consulting an attorney.
- THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE
Never accept an insurance settlement without first knowing what the future medical conditions or future medical care costs will be. Many medical conditions require long term care.
10. BE THANKFUL
Accidents make you realize how precious life really is. Smile and give thanks. You are here for a reason.