6 Things to Do After a Car Accident

This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partner, Terry Crouppen who has more than 40 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney. Our last modified date shows when this page was last reviewed.

This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partner, Terry Crouppen who has more than 40 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney. Our last modified date shows when this page was last reviewed.

BY
JENNIFER WALSH

Although every car accident is different, your personal injury lawyer or your paralegal will ask you a standard set of questions at first. These questions usually include:

  • How did the accident happen?
  • How much damage was done to the vehicles?
  • Were you injured from the accident and, if so, to what extent?

Taking the right steps after an accident (if you are able to) can help resolve these questions for everyone, and lead to a smooth car accident settlement process if you choose to file a claim.

GET THE MEDICAL TREATMENT YOU NEED.

Your first priority should be getting the medical treatment you need.

It is important to communicate to your doctor every complaint you have, even if you think it’s minor at the time. Some clients tend to dismiss minor aches/pains thinking they will go away and instead focus on more serious injuries. As it turns out, those minor issues may become more bothersome down the road. Having it documented in your medical record early will make it easier for the insurance company to connect it to the accident.

You should consider keeping a journal of your symptoms. We constantly remind our clients to document everything. This will serve as a helpful reminder and provide further evidence for who is liable to pay medical bills as your case moves forward. Also, your paralegal will most likely ask you to keep them updated on medical treatments, including which doctors you are seeing, changes in your treatment plan and how you are feeling. Following your doctor’s orders is key.

WHAT TO DO AFTER AN AUTO ACCIDENT

1) STOP. Don’t leave! If you leave, you will probably be charged with leaving the scene of an accident. This is a moving violation. It will result in points on your record, increased insurance premiums, and a ticket with a fine. And that is in addition to the property damage to your vehicle and any injury you might have received.

2) Call 911. Tell them that you have just been involved in an accident, and give your location as best you can.Sometimes, the police will not come to the scene, but will instead advise you to exchange information with the other driver. If this happens, you should still do a “walk in” at the police station to file an in-person report as soon as you can. Too often, insurance companies use the lack of a police report as a way to either deny liability or downplay the severity of the accident.

3) Call your own car insurance company as soon as possible. Most policies have language requiring you to inform them of an accident within a fairly short time frame, so be sure to let them know. You should do this even if you were not at fault.

4) Gather as much information as you can. If you are able to do so, get the names, addresses and phone numbers of everyone at the scene. Take several pictures of your vehicle from different angles as soon as possible after an accident.

5) Don’t sign anything. If another driver’s insurance adjuster shows up at the scene, don’t give a statement and don’t sign anything.

6) Get any medical attention you need. Although some people wind up leaving the scene of an accident in an ambulance, it is far more common to only notice pain several hours or even days after the accident. Seek medical attention as soon as you think you might be injured.

PROPERTY DAMAGE CONSIDERATIONS

1) Liability. If it was another driver’s fault, their insurance company should pay to repair your car. If it was your fault, your own insurance company will pay for the damage to the other driver’s car. Whether your car gets fixed depends on the type of coverage you have.

2) Repair vs. total loss. An insurance company is going to weigh the cost of repairing your car against the fair market value of your car.

  • Although you are entitled to your own estimate with a mechanic of your own choosing, so is the insurance company. Further, they are only required to pay for the lowest estimate.
    • Can they use salvaged or aftermarket parts to repair my car? The law does require that any after-market parts installed on your car be clearly identified in the estimate. The Federal Trade Commission says that aftermarket parts should not void any warranty you have on your car but keep in mind that, if the aftermarket parts are defective, it could still void your warranty.
  • Total loss. If the insurance company “totals” the car, they will give you (or the bank, if you are still paying off the car) a check for the fair market value of the car.

3) Car rental while your car is being repaired/replaced.

  • Your car insurance. Rental insurance is not usually included in comprehensive of full coverage. It is an add-on to your policy that you have to pay a little extra for as part of your premium. If you use your own rental insurance, you will go by the terms set forth in that agreement.
  • The other driver’s insurance. Some insurance companies pay upfront for a rental. However, insurance regulations typically only require that the insurance company reimburse you after you have paid for the rental yourself. Therefore, if you have to rent a car on your own and then submit the cost for reimbursement, we advise you to rent the least expensive vehicle you can.

BE MINDFUL OF YOUR MENTAL WELL-BEING.

Lastly, we often hear: I’m afraid to get back in a car again. Or, I have anxiety attacks and flashbacks of the accident. Or, I feel guilty that I can’t help my family out like I used to do. And, I just don’t feel like myself and it is causing relationship problems. Any of this sound familiar?

These are all normal feelings after being involved in a serious accident. If you’re involved in one, there is a greater chance that you may suffer from anxiety or depression. Talk to your doctor about your feelings. You could be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)  and your doctor will know how best to help you.

Remember: the better the information you provide to your legal team, the better positioned your paralegal and attorney are to represent you and convey your situation to the insurance company. If you’d like to learn more, call for a free, confidential consultation at 1-816-330-2218 or submit your request using our online form.

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