Car accidents are all too common, with around 2,000 fatal crashes occurring in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia each year. Experiencing a car accident can be a traumatic event, especially if it involves debilitating injuries or wrongful death. While no one should have to suffer the consequences of an auto accident, every driver should be prepared and know what to do after a car accident.
Understanding what steps to take after a car accident can help you stay collected in the moment and prepare you to file a claim later. Contact our expert car accident lawyers today for a free, no-obligation case review.
What Steps To Take After a Car Accident
You can do a few things right after a car crash to ensure your safety and help police, insurers, and lawyers with incident facts. Here’s our guide on what to do after a car accident:
Get Prompt Medical Attention
Your health and safety are paramount after an accident. If you are able to, immediately check yourself and other passengers for urgent injuries. If you or another passenger has sustained significant injuries, call 911 and stay still until help arrives.
In the event of an injury, it may be difficult for you to collect information or evidence. Ultimately, your well-being and safety take precedence over everything else. Seek medical assistance immediately if you are in pain. Keep in mind that the adrenaline from a traumatic crash can numb pain, and you may not realize the extent of your injuries. Symptoms that seem insignificant, such as headaches, neck pain, and shoulder pain, can indicate more severe injuries such as brain injuries, spinal injuries, or concussions. Car accident injuries can also develop or worsen over the course of a few days. Even if your injuries appear to be minor, it is recommended that you seek medical attention as soon as possible.
If you don’t see a doctor after a car accident, it will be difficult to prove that your injuries were caused by the accident. The records from a doctor’s visit after the accident are essential in determining how much compensation you should receive. The longer you wait to seek medical attention, the harder it becomes to prove that the accident caused your injuries. Even if you think your injuries are not severe, seeing a doctor can help you get a fair compensation.
Dial 911 To Report an Accident
You should call the police immediately after being in an accident. If you choose not to contact the police after being involved in a car accident, you voluntarily forgo a crucial piece of evidence. Liable parties could dispute your account of the incident without a police report. In fact, the law requires you to report any accident with more than $1,000 in damages.
Once law enforcement arrives, they will:
- Make certain that all individuals, including yourself, are safe and receive any necessary medical attention.
- Preserve any proof found at the accident site.
- Interview any eyewitnesses present.
- Fill out a police report about the incident.
- Inform other emergency personnel about the collision.
Assess the Damage
If your vehicle is operable and you are able to do so, relocate it to a safe area away from traffic, first, in order to prevent additional accidents. Ideally, you could move your car to the side of the road or a nearby parking lot or gas station. Then, take a moment to observe the damage and start documenting as much as you can about the accident scene.
It’s important to gather your own information and evidence about the car accident, even if you already have a police report. Don’t rely on the police report entirely, because it may not include everything that happened from your perspective. Write down the officers’ names and badge numbers, and also get the phone numbers, license plate numbers, and insurance information of the other drivers involved. Take note of the names and contact information of any witnesses, passengers, or other people who were there. You should also take pictures of the accident scene, including the road, cars, license plates, and anything else that might be important. This evidence will be helpful if you need to make an insurance claim or go to court.
Also, be aware of your surroundings at the accident site. Take note of who is injured and receiving medical attention. Observe the behavior of the other drivers involved in the crash. Did you notice anything unusual, such as strange or angry behavior, or the smell of alcohol? Are there traffic cameras or cameras from nearby businesses in the area? What is the weather like? Are there misleading or damaged street signs? Write down anything you observe, as memories can fade or become distorted very quickly after the event.
Collect Contact Information
After a car accident, speak with the other driver or drivers involved and obtain their contact information. However, you should avoid discussing how the accident happened or taking responsibility for it in any way. Here is a comprehensive list of information to gather from the other driver:
Contact Your Insurance Company
It’s important to contact your insurance company and inform them about any accident that caused injuries or damage to property, regardless of who was at fault. Some people might believe that calling their insurance company is unnecessary, but this is not true. Your insurance policy may include various coverage options that can help you. Keep a record of all your conversations with your insurance company in case there are problems with your policy or the details of the incident.
That being said, you should not provide an official statement until later on in the claims process. It is always better to talk to an experienced car accident lawyer first to ensure that nothing you say can be used against you.
Never Sign Anything With the Other Party’s Insurance Carrier
Hold off on speaking to the other driver’s insurance company. When an adjuster contacts you, tell them you want to speak with an attorney first. What you say to them might harm your case later, so be careful. If an insurance company, particularly the one representing the responsible party, asks you to sign anything, tell them you need to consult with a lawyer before doing so. If you agree to a settlement without realizing it, you may be unable to take legal action later.
Talk to a Car Accident Attorney
A lawyer may not always be necessary after a car accident, especially for minor accidents. However, a lawyer can be very helpful in certain circumstances:
- The accident resulted in serious injuries to you or someone else.
- The cause of the accident is not clear.
- The other driver is uninsured or underinsured.
- The accident involves a pedestrian or cyclist.
- The police report seems inaccurate.
What Not To Do After a Car Accident
What you do in the moments following a car accident can affect your ability to seek compensation for your injuries. Here are some important tips on what not to do after a car accident:
Do NOT Leave the Accident Site
To avoid being charged with a hit-and-run, it’s essential to stay at the scene of a car accident until the police arrive. You are legally required to remain at the accident site if it resulted in physical injury or death of another person, and you must inform the police of any notable damage to your vehicle. Since most accidents fall under this category, it’s best to wait for the authorities to arrive. However, if you have sustained severe injuries that need immediate medical attention, you may be exempted from this requirement.
Do NOT Discuss the Accident With the Other Driver
You have a legal obligation to exchange certain information with the other driver after an accident, such as insurance details and your driver’s license. However, you are not obligated to talk about the details of the accident with the other driver. In fact, we strongly recommend against it.
Do NOT Admit Fault
It may be your first instinct to say “I’m sorry” to the other driver after an accident, but it’s important to avoid doing so as it could be taken as an admission of guilt. It’s also not recommended to settle the accident without involving your insurance or the police, as the other driver may change their mind later. If this happens, it could become a dispute of your word against theirs, which could hurt your chances of getting a fair settlement.
Do NOT Assume Your Injuries Are Minor
Your injuries might be worse than you think. After a car accident, your body may release adrenaline that could hide your pain. Don’t assume that your injuries are not serious. Even if you feel okay, it’s still a good idea to see a doctor. Getting medical attention as soon as possible could help you recover faster and prevent your injuries from getting worse.
Do NOT Ignore the Orders of Your Doctor
Your health is the most crucial aspect to consider following a car accident. It is essential to prioritize your physical well-being by seeking medical attention and adhering to your doctor’s treatment plan. Disregarding your doctor’s instructions could lengthen your recovery time or worsen your condition.
Not following your treatment plan could also affect your personal injury case. To mitigate your losses, it is essential to prevent your injuries from getting worse unnecessarily. If your lack of compliance results in additional medical expenses, you may not be able to recover all of them.
Do NOT Give a Statement to the Other Driver’s Insurance Company
After a car accident, the other driver’s insurance company may contact you, often seeking a recorded statement from you. You are not required to give one, even if they insist. In fact, speaking to the adjuster could harm your case, as they might twist your words to shift blame to you. It’s best to avoid speaking to them altogether to protect your legal rights. Always talk to an experienced car accident lawyer before giving a statement.
Do NOT Accept a Settlement Offer From the Insurance Company Right Away
The insurance company of the at-fault driver may offer you a quick settlement for your injuries after a car accident. However, it is not advisable to accept this offer without consulting an attorney. Insurance companies make such offers early on to settle the case for less than it’s worth.
It is not wise to accept a settlement before knowing the full extent of your injuries and the need for future medical treatment. If you accept an insufficient settlement, you won’t be able to pursue your injury claim again in the future. Moreover, you may have to pay for your future medical expenses out of pocket.
Do NOT Delay Your Car Accident Case
Waiting to pursue a personal injury lawsuit could harm your financial recovery. The other party may have the advantage if you delay, and in some cases, you may lose your chance to recover compensation. If you wait to pursue your case, they may investigate and collect evidence against you.
Additionally, delaying your case may make it challenging for your attorney to obtain evidence to support your claim. Evidence at the scene can disappear due to weather, and witnesses’ memories may fade. It’s important to hire an attorney promptly to gather the evidence you need and move forward with your case.
Secure Your Claim by Knowing What Steps To Take After a Car Accident
It’s natural to feel unsure of what to do after a car accident, but we are here to help. At George Sink, P.A. Injury Lawyers, our car accident attorneys can guide you through the legal process, ensuring that you avoid any costly mistakes. We can help you recover compensation for any injuries or damages sustained in the accident.
If you were injured in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, it’s time to get the justice you deserve. With more than four decades of experience, our team has successfully represented thousands of clients throughout Georgia and the Carolinas. Get a free, no-obligation case review with us today.