Unfortunately, traffic collisions are extremely common, however if you know the right steps to take, you can better protect yourself and your rights. So what steps should you take if you are involved in a car crash? Here a several things you should keep in mind:
- Always Stop Your Car: Unless there is a medical emergency that compels you to seek immediate medical care, you are compelled to bring your vehicle to a complete stop after an accident. You must stay in place until the police arrive.
- Provide Any Necessary Medical Aid: If anyone was injured in the accident, you should provide aid as best as you are able. Your first concern is to ensure the best response to any injuries, both for yourself and for the other people involved. If people are injured, the property damage can wait.
- Call the Police: Every car accident should be reported, and if the accident was major or caused damage, a police officer should prepare a report at the scene of the accident. The officer should take your account of the accident.
- Gather Important Information and Evidence from the Scene: The best time to start gathering evidence is at the scene. Much of the evidence you will need should you choose to file personal injury or property damage claim will be more difficult or even impossible to gather at a later time. Be sure to get information from anyone else involved in the accident, including contact and insurance information, and identifying information on the other vehicles involved. If any witnesses were present and saw what happened, get their contact information as well. Take photographs of any injuries you sustained, of the scene of the accident and damage to any vehicles.
Taking these simple steps will help you better handle the aftermath of the accident. But in addition to being sure that you are doing the right things, there are several mistakes you should avoid making after a car accident.
- Not seeking Medical Attention: By all means, if you are severely injured, seek medical attention immediately. But many people involved in car accidents decide their injuries are not severe enough to necessitate medical attention immediately following the accident. This is a mistake. Even seemingly minor crashes might cause pain to those involved, and there are many common injuries suffered in car accidents that a person might not be aware of for hours, or even days after the accident. Soft tissue damage, back pain, whiplash, TBI and concussions all fall into this category.
Failing to seek medical attention could not only be damaging to your health, but it also will likely create difficulties should you choose to take legal action because you will need to have medical records documenting the extent of the injuries you suffered.
- Thinking the Insurance Company is There for You: The interests of insurance companies and the insured are not usually aligned. You should not assume that your own insurance company is going to be in your corner following an accident. For instance, it might be in your insurance company’s interest for you to take a quick and inadequately low settlement.
In order to protect yourself, be sure to handle all of your interactions with your insurance company formally. Do not start speaking to the agent about the accident as if they are your buddy. Make sure the insurance company gives you everything in writing so that you have a record of everything they have told you. If you are asked to sign something, be sure to get approval from your attorney first. If you are offered a settlement, speak to your attorney prior to accepting.
- Not Consulting with an Attorney: Failing to seek legal representation often leads to victims not being fully or fairly compensated. An experienced accident attorney will know how to properly handle your case so that you are able to seek a full and fair settlement offer, and are not taken advantage of by an insurance company.
The time following a car accident can be disorienting. That is why learning these important things to do, or not to do can help you if you are faced with having to make these decisions. Of course, it would always be better to avoid the crash all together.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind before spending a lot of time on the road.
- Handle the directions before you go: Make sure you know how to get where you are going before you leave. While GPS devises are helpful, programming one behind the wheel is bad idea and will put you and others on the road at risk. Mapping out your trip before you leave can also help you know how long you need in order to reach your destination on time. This should help you avoid the temptation of speeding!
- Be sure you are well rested: Avoid driving for very long stretches without a break, or driving when you are sleepy. Driving while tired is a serious safety hazard.
- Wear your seat belt: You should wear your seat belt every time you get behind the wheel in order to avoid serious injuries. Be sure that any young children in your vehicle are in proper safety seats. If you are unsure what type of seat your child should be in, check out SafeCar.gov for guidance.
- Get your car checked: Have your car inspected to check the tires, fluids, headlights and battery prior to long drives.
It is also a good idea to keep an emergency kit in your car. Simple things such as a flashlight, blankets, bottled water, jumper cables and a first aid kit can come in handy in a pinch!
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