No one plans to be in a car crash, but when an unexpected collision occurs, it can be difficult to remember exactly what to do after an accident.
With statistics showing that the average driver will be involved in an accident once every 17 years, the reality is it’s often a matter of time before you’re forced to navigate the high-stress aftermath of an auto accident.
Fortunately, there are a number ways to be prepared if you find yourself injured in an auto accident. Below is a list of frequently asked questions all drivers should know:
What Do I Do Immediately After an Accident?
For starters, take a deep breath and try to calm down. It’s always best to be thinking clearly when dealing with any sort of emergency. This is especially true if you or someone else requires immediate medical care.
Next, call the police. You should consider calling the police even if the accident was little more than a minor fender-bender and the other driver has admitted fault. An official police report is the best way to establish who is to blame for the crash. If you don’t file a police report there’s nothing stopping the other driver from simply blaming you.
One last thing to keep in mind is to remain vigilant as you walk around assessing the damage to your vehicle. Other drivers may not see you and some might be rubbernecking instead of paying attention to the road. This all adds up to a dangerous and unsafe situation. Stories of drivers being hit by an un-involved driver are far too common, so be sure to pay as much attention as possible.
How Should I Gather Evidence of a Crash?
One benefit of smartphones is that most everyone has a high-definition camera in their back pocket. Take as many photos of the accident as possible. It’s always better to have too much evidence than not enough. You should also feel free to take a photo of the other driver’s license, license plate, and insurance policy. If they refuse to show either to you just take a photo of them and make sure you write down their name.
Another way to gather evidence is to write down a brief journal entry of everything that happened. Describe the events of the accident as closely as possible and maybe even show it to the at-scene police officer. You should also jot down the names and contact information of any witnesses to the accident.
In the days following the crash, be sure to keep track of any and all medical procedures you undergo. Pay special attention to the providers you see as well as the dates of your appointments. Nobody wants a long forgotten bill popping up in collections months after a settlement has already been agreed upon.
Should I Admit Fault If I Think I Caused the Crash?
In short, no. Even if you believe the crash was entirely your fault you should never say so. Leave that determination for the police officer to make in their report. Prematurely admitting guilt could tank any chance you have of making a personal injury claim in the future.
You should also avoid commenting on your physical state. Try not to say, “I feel alright,” or “I am not injured.” Some injuries such as whiplash might not fully manifest for days or even weeks following a crash. It’s best to instead say, “I do not need medical attention at the moment.”
Never doubt that insurance adjusters will do anything possible to deny a personal injury claim. They will not hesitate to bend your words out of context in order to save their company a few dollars.
What Type of Insurance Coverage Should I Have?
First and foremost, you should add Personal Injury Protection (PIP) to your insurance plan. Some states require insurers to include PIP with all auto insurance policies they offer. Others simply require them to offer it to those they insure. This means you could very well have PIP and not even know it.
PIP is a great addition to your insurance policy because it will allow you to cover medical expenses after a crash and it can even replace lost income in some instances. If you don’t have PIP, or don’t know if you do, call your insurance representative and make sure it’s part of your policy.
Another item it would be wise to have is Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM). This helps protect you in the event you’re injured by a driver without insurance or by someone lacking adequate coverage to compensate for your medical bills or losses.
Should I Accept the Settlement Offered by the Insurance Company?
Frequently, the first settlement offer an insurance company makes is lower than they’re willing to go. Remember that despite their wholesome and friendly commercials, insurance companies are in business to make money. One way they do this is by minimizing the amount of money they pay in settlements.
It may be tempting to accept a settlement from an insurance company simply to be done with your claim, but you should probably turn it down. Once you accept a settlement you forfeit your right to pursue further damages from your accident. Settling an accident claim prematurely can have serious repercussions later if injuries flare up again and you’re stuck paying medical bills out-of-pocket for the required treatment.
If an insurance company tries to wave some money in your direction, it would be wise to once again take a deep breath and think through the consequences of accepting such an offer. Or, if in doubt, get a second opinion prior to accepting a settlement.
Should I Hire an Attorney?
Not everyone will benefit from hiring an attorney. However, anyone that has been in an accident involving injuries of any kind would be wise to at least obtain a free consultation before moving forward with their claim.
Personal injury attorneys, like the ones at The Advocates, have decades of experience settling claims and helping victims get back on the road to recovery. In most instances, one initial conversation is enough to determine whether you’d be able to increase your total settlement by enlisting a lawyer to fight on your behalf. Since all reputable personal injury firms operate on a contingency model (no fees until you win) there’s no downside to enlisting an experienced PI lawyer to negotiate on your behalf.
For straightforward claims where our attorneys are unable to add value, we’ll encourage people to either accept the insurance company’s offer or pursue the claim on their own. However, for more complex claims involving injuries, ongoing medical treatment, or contested liability, studies have shown that people who hire a personal injury lawyer typically receive settlements that are 3.5 times higher than those who handle the claim on their own.
Although not everyone will benefit from hiring a lawyer, as long as you speak with an experienced attorney prior to moving forward with your claim you’ll be able to make the best decision for your specific circumstances.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, call now to get a free consultation.