What to Do After a Car Accident
More than 2.5 million people get injured in car accidents every year, and they can sustain severe injuries. The moments following a collision can cause someone to feel stressed. They have to deal with various concerns, and money can become an issue.
Most of these injuries are severe and may require expensive medical treatments.
Sadly, most insurance providers offer minimal settlements that don’t cover the full expenses resulting from car accidents. One of the major reasons why most people don’t get adequate compensation is the lack of knowledge of the legal processes required.
Nevertheless, some people can become confused as to what to do after a car accident injury. You should follow several steps to help ensure a safe recovery and timely compensation.
If the accident was due to the other driver, a person could file a lawsuit for reimbursement. A local car accident attorney can help you through the legal process. Do not miss out on pursuing the money you deserve.
Why a Car Accident Can Occur
Every year, roughly six million car collisions occur. An estimated 3 million people receive injuries as a result of accidents. A common cause is distraction. Distracted driving is a contributing factor in one in five cases.
Anything can happen in the span of a few seconds, so drivers could get into an accident if they become distracted. A person’s phone or radio could cause them to take their eyes off the road. Food is another reason why a driver pays less attention to what is in front of them.
Vehicle malfunctions are a reason why some vehicle crashes happen. A defect can take place in either the brake or accelerator pedal. Many electrical defects lead to car fires as well. Some malfunctions are prevalent enough for a car company to issue a recall.
Many vehicle accidents are due to the failure to stop at a traffic light or stop sign. A driver could get into a side-impact collision because the other motorist did not stop in time.
Multiple drivers display aggressive behavior when they are behind the wheel. They might change lanes frequently or tailgate. The behaviors could cause an accident. Other leading factors for vehicle collisions include excessive speeding and rainy weather.
What to Do After a Car Accident
#1. Check for Any Injured People
Right after a severe automobile accident, you should check for any injuries you may have. Keep note of any pain or dizziness you feel. If you can, look around for anyone else who could have injuries as well.
Do not move any unconscious victims. People with head or neck pain, back pain, or who cannot move one or more limbs need to stay put as well. Their injuries could worsen upon movement. Once you have checked everyone involved, you or someone nearby should call for emergency services.
#2. Move People and Vehicles off the Road
The next step is to get everyone to a safer location. The proximity to traffic can pose a risk. The optimal place is off the road on the side, and you should try to get the other parties and cars out of the way of traffic.
However, you may not always be able to move a person or vehicle. Instead, you or someone else should warn other motorists of the accident. Hazard lights and reflective objects are effective tools to use as you wait for the emergency services to arrive.
Some people have emergency car kits with flares inside. If you have a few, you can use them as well.
#3. Contact Law Enforcement
Multiple states require citizens to call the police in the event of a vehicle collision. After you call 911, a law enforcement officer arrives to assist people after the accident. They interview the individuals involved in the incident.
If you’ve suffered significant physical injuries, you should call the police. The period for filing police reports vary from state to state. However, most police departments give a limit of 72 hours.
A police report will be valuable if you decide to file a claim with your insurers. You should ask for a police report to be filed and, if possible, obtain the responding officer’s badge.
Additionally, the police officer records details about the vehicles and what could have caused the accident. The officer usually prepares an official police report. You can obtain a copy of the report in the future to help you make a successful claim.
#4. Collect Information
After you talk to the police, collect the contact details of the people there. You should get the insurance information of the other driver as well. Witnesses can be valuable in a car accident case.
A witness is someone who either saw the crash happen or stopped to help those involved. You can get a hold of them later for depositions. You should begin a lawsuit as soon as possible. A witness’s memory can fade as time goes by.
#5. Do Not Admit Fault
While you talk to the police and others involved, do not take the blame for what happened. You might believe you bear responsibility for the collision, but you should not say so. An investigation could reveal the cause lies with the other driver or another hidden factor.
For example, a vehicle defect resulted in an accident. If you admit fault, the defendant or their insurance company could use the admission against you.
#6. Collect Evidence
Evidence is crucial for any automobile accident. You can gather some initial proof at the crash site. If possible, you or someone else should take photos of the collision. The pictures should consist of different angles of the vehicle to show all the damage.
To get compensation for injuries resulting from the accident, you’ll have to prove you were actually hurt during the accident. This means you should document everything to help you win the claim.
The photos of your injuries should show how they have affected your life afterward. This will be valuable to your attorney when filing for compensation. Additionally, remember to keep copies of your medical expenses as evidence of your injuries after a car accident
The images present where the cars ended up and the surrounding environment. Picture evidence of your injuries can prove the severity of the bodily harm. If you cannot take photos, draw a diagram to the best of your abilities.
A diagram helps show the direction the vehicles traveled before the incident and how they ended up. Even a short written summary can help you. You should quickly act when it comes to evidence. Eventually, the authorities will clean up the collision site. As a result, you cannot go back for photos..
#7. Seek Medical Treatment
The next step you need to take is to get medical attention. Injuries can be severe, and they could worsen without immediate medical treatment. You and your doctor can discuss a plan to get you back to your job and daily activities.
Another reason to visit a doctor is some injuries take time to present symptoms. Whiplash and traumatic brain injuries can take days or weeks to manifest. They can cause further complications if you do not treat them as soon as possible.
For instance, traumatic brain injuries heavily increase the chances of seizures and infections.
At times, the injuries from an accident don’t show up immediately, and failure to get medical attention may result in further complications.
If you’re considering making an injury claim, don’t wait too long to see the doctor.
#8. Report the Incident to Your Insurer
You should contact your insurance company as soon as you can. Most insurers have policies regarding the period of time taken before they were contacted. If you fail to adhere to the time frame, your claim will be refuted.
All you need to do is report the facts about the collision. You would explain what happened, the date, time, location, and who else was a part of the incident.
On the other hand, if you’re contacted by the other party’s insurance company, you shouldn’t make any statements or accept any form of payment until you contact your attorney.
Ensure you’ve been fully evaluated by your doctor before signing any release of claims. Wait until all your injuries manifest to make a formal claim.
#9. Do Not Speak With the Other Driver’s Insurer
The other party’s insurance provider may try to contact you. You should not give any recorded statements to the insurer. They could use your statement as a means to pay less for compensation or have you lose your case.
Additionally, the insurance company may offer you a settlement. Generally, the settlement is often less than what you deserve. Some insurers may appear friendly, but they can use other tactics to avoid payments.
Do not say or accept anything until you have a chance to speak with an attorney.
#10. Keep Copies of Hospital Records and Various Expenses
Keep medical records from your initial healthcare visit and any follow-up appointments. Records like test results and X-rays can prove the severity of your injuries and maximize your compensation. You should keep track of prescriptions for medications or medical devices as well.
Hospital visits usually are expensive, and a claim can reimburse you. Hospital bills, medication expenses, and ongoing rehabilitation bills help with the calculation of a fair settlement. You need to keep copies of car repair bills and lost wage statements as well.
If you are unsure if a record or bill relates to the accident, store them until an attorney can let you know.
#11. Reach out to a Lawyer
Finally, contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible. They can make sure you file a lawsuit before time runs out. A lawyer can challenge a denied insurance claim and even go to court to obtain your compensation. They can handle the other party’s insurer for you.
Dealing with insurers may be a daunting task since they’ll need proof of your injury from the accident. Insurance companies need evidence before engaging in any form of claim settlement negotiations.
Contacting an experienced attorney eases the burden of engaging in the process of fact-finding, collecting necessary documentation, and creating concise and detailed demands for claim settlement.
An attorney knows what documentation your case needs. Many firms provide a free consultation to review the facts of the collision. You should choose a lawyer who makes you feel comfortable and keeps you updated about any progress.
Call your lawyer early enough to give them time to build a case if/when it’s needed.
A Deadline for a Car Accident Case
Victims of car accidents have a limited amount of time to file a suit against the at-fault party. The statute of limitations sets the deadline, and you could lose your right to compensation if you miss it.
The statute of limitations for car accidents varies from state to state. Some places have two years, and others have three or four years. If the accident resulted in a death, you would file a wrongful death claim. The deadline may be different for a wrongful death suit.
Multiple states provide exemptions, and a common one applies when the defendant leaves the state. The court may grant you more time to wait for the defendant to return.
Another exemption is if the victim was under 18 or legally incompetent at the time of the accident. The clock would not run until the injured person reaches 18 or becomes legally competent.
Both sides may have the option to enter a tolling agreement to waive the statute of limitations. You should review the statute of limitations law of your state to see how it affects your case. Your attorney can inform you if you qualify for any exemptions.
Can You Claim Lost Income as a Self-Employed Worker?
Victims of car accidents can claim various types of damages. Lost income usually is one many people receive reimbursement for in a lawsuit. Nevertheless, some injured motorists have self-employed jobs.
You can claim lost income for a freelancing or contracting job. However, you could have a more difficult time when you need to prove damages. One way you can show proof of lost wages is with tax reports.
Tax reports from previous years show how much you could have made if you did not suffer from an accident. You can obtain copies from the IRS website. Letters from potential clients and a calendar with appointments can show lost business opportunities.
Your car accident lawyer can inform you what other documents are helpful for your case.
Should You Hire an Attorney?
A small, uncomplicated claim may not require the assistance of an attorney. Many car accidents can become complex, especially when the negligent party is unclear. The defendant’s insurance company or lawyer may fight to prove you were at fault.
A lawyer can counter the other side’s arguments and gather sufficient evidence to prove negligence. If you do not have an attorney, you would need to handle phone calls, paperwork, negotiations, and court appearances by yourself.
Without an attorney, you would have to ensure you follow all the legal proceedings properly. You have to stay on top of your case while you deal with personal affairs. A mistake could lower your chances for a successful claim.
Non-economic damages are not as quantifiable as economic damages. A person might not know how much they should request for mental anguish in a settlement. You might not know what you can claim to maximize your compensation.
Let a lawyer handle most of the legal system for you while you recover. They can determine what the highest settlement is for you.
The Chances of a Successful Case
Your chance of a successful car accident lawsuit is high. Around 95 percent of cases resolve outside of court, and settlements usually are in the plaintiff’s favor. The outcome is predictable, and insurance companies prefer to settle since they have more control over the awarded amount.
A small fraction of cases goes to trial. You cannot predict the outcome of a trial as easily, and the chances of a preferable verdict are lower. Nevertheless, you are more likely to win compensation in a courtroom compared to other personal injury cases. An estimated 57 percent of car accident cases end with the jury deciding in the victim’s favor.A lack of sufficient evidence can prevent you from obtaining a settlement. You should hire a car accident lawyer to help build your case.
Seek Legal Help on What to Do After a Car Accident Injury
Now that you know what to do after a car accident injury, consider getting professional help from experienced St. Louis personal injury attorneys.
At The Bruning Law Firm, we have over 35 years’ experience in recovering millions in compensation for our treasured clients.
If you need a personal injury attorney in St. Louis, feel free to contact us.
I represent individuals in Missouri and Illinois in all types of personal injury cases. In my short time here I have obtained a judgment for $2.5 million and settled a large class action lawsuit for a confidential amount.
I love the city of St. Louis and support it and give back whenever I can. Recently I was appointed by Mayor Francis Slay to serve on the Advisory Board for the Gateway Mall.
I am married to my lovely wife Lauren and we have two beautiful daughters, Mia and Bridget.