There you are, driving along, minding your own business on your way to work, or a doctor appointment, or to pick up the kids from school. Suddenly, there’s a jolt of impact, and that sickening crunch of metal. You’ve been in a car accident.
Whether you were rear-ended with great force, or your car was totaled, the actions you take next are important. Most people experience at least a fender-bender at some point, but few people take the time to plan in advance what they’d do if they were in a car accident. It’s been shown that planning in advance how you’ll respond in a crisis helps you to act more effectively. Here’s what you should do—and not do—in the aftermath of a car accident.
Dos and Don’ts After a Car Crash
- DON’T leave the scene of the accident. Even if the accident is minor and you’re in a hurry, call the police to make a report. You’ll need it to file a claim with your auto insurer.
- DO protect the scene of the accident, setting up flares if you have them, turning on your hazard lights, and keeping the cars involved where they are unless they are impeding traffic.
- DON’T speculate or guess when making your police report. State facts as you remember them, and if you don’t know an answer when asked a question, just say so.
- DO take pictures. Almost everyone these days has a cell phone with a camera, so take pictures of the accident scene as soon as possible.
- DON’T encourage other parties to the accident to leave before the police arrive, or allow them to dissuade you from calling the police. Exchange information if they are willing; wait for the police’s arrival if they’re not. If another party to the accident attempts to leave, don’t put yourself at risk by trying to stop them (but do try to record or memorize their license plate number if possible so the police can find them later).
- DO accept medical attention, even if you don’t think you’re injured. Some injuries don’t become apparent for hours or days after an accident. Also, the rush of adrenaline after the accident may keep you from realizing you’ve been hurt. Get checked out at the emergency room just in case.
- DON’T lose documentation of the accident. Print out pictures and keep them in a file along with the police report, any medical records or bills, and communications with your insurance company.
- DO report the accident to your insurance company right away. The other driver will likely report it to his or hers, and they’ll contact your insurer, so don’t imagine you’ll be able to hide the fact of the accident from them. It’s best to communicate with them directly and make your own accurate statement.
Last but not least, if you’ve been injured, contact an experienced Michigan personal injury attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights. There is no charge to you for a consultation, and the attorney will not collect a fee unless he or she is able to secure a financial recovery for you. Whatever fee the attorney ends up collecting is often well worth it, as the other driver’s insurance company will almost certainly offer you the smallest possible settlement, if any.
What a Personal Injury Attorney Can Do For You Following a Car Accident
Many people are hesitant to work with a personal injury attorney following a car accident. They may worry about appearing greedy. They may not want to believe they’re seriously injured enough to need an attorney’s help. But there are very good reasons to consult an attorney.
If you have been injured, you may have no way to evaluate what your needs will be months and years down the road. If the other driver is at fault and their insurer offers a settlement, it may be insufficient for your long-term needs. However, once you’ve accepted it, you’re foreclosed from seeking a larger recovery later if your needs turn out to be greater than you initially thought. An attorney has both the experience of injury cases to be able to identify an appropriate settlement amount, and the experience dealing with insurance companies to negotiate for a fair settlement.
If you’re seriously injured, you also may not have the strength or wherewithal to advocate for yourself. An attorney lets you focus on recovering your health while he or she takes care of legal issues. Talk to an experienced Oakland County injury attorney to learn more about the next steps to take when you have been in a car accident. Attorney Jim Hubbert has helped numerous Michigan clients navigate the challenging and stressful time after a serious car accident.