What to Do After a Car Accident Injury?
Each year car accidents injure millions of people, often changing their lives. When a negligent driver injures you in a crash, you can’t help feeling like a victim. Those post-accident moments often leave you stressed and angry at a time when you must remain focused and in control. The words you speak and your steps often influence accident-related outcomes until you settle your car accident injury claim or resolve pending lawsuits.
While some accident victims walk away without injury, others live with the effects for the rest of their lives. When a negligent driver severely injures you, you must manage the costs of emergency intervention and extensive long-term treatment. You incur medical bills and rehabilitation costs. If you can’t work, you can’t earn a living and sometimes lose your job.
Immediately after an accident, you can’t help but think about these issues. Do whatever you can to protect your legal rights.
#1. Take Care When You Speak or Write
Immediately after a crash, some anxious drivers feel compelled to talk, often without considering the consequences.
Before you interact with anyone, remember to think before you speak.
- Never admit fault: Admitting fault often affects your liability claim outcome.
- Don’t talk about fault: No matter how strongly you feel about who caused an accident, you might not fully understand the liability issues. Leave discussions and decisions about responding to your insurance company and attorney and, if necessary, to a judge and jury.
- Don’t apologize: Some polite people feel compelled to apologize, even when they don’t believe they’re at fault. Apologies usually come across as an admission that you did something wrong.
People listen and remember the statements you make immediately following an accident. Witnesses, bystanders, and the negligent driver often share these statements with the people making decisions about your claim. Police officers won’t necessarily evaluate what you say, but they will probably add your statements to their police reports.
Whether your post-accident statements are accurate including what you post online they remain in circulation until you conclude your claim. They become critical references in insurance investigations, witness and driver statements, depositions, and court testimony.
#2. Dial 911
Many states require that drivers file a police report for accidents involving injuries, fatalities, or approximately $500 in property damage. When you dial 911, a local, county, or state law enforcement officer arrives as soon as possible.
Inform the 911 Operator About Any Injuries
Many states also have statutes that make you responsible for determining if the crash injured anyone else. If it did, you must help them. If you, your passengers, or occupants in the other vehicle require medical attention, notify the 911 operator when you call. They can notify a local emergency medical team.
Don’t Expect the Police Officer to Tell You Who Is at Fault
A law enforcement officer doesn’t decide who is at fault. Unless they witness the accident, any conclusion they make is an opinion. Officers document critical evidence for those who decide liability. They inspect and investigate the accident scene and interview drivers and witnesses. They determine contributing factors such as speeding, alcohol or drug use, or distracted driving.
A police report provides valuable claim documentation for your insurance company and the liability insurer. Claim handlers usually obtain a copy of a police officer’s report. Ask the police officer about obtaining your copy. Also, ask for their badge number for future reference.
#3. Preserve the Evidence Before It’s Too Late
While waiting for the police and emergency medical team to arrive, do what you can to preserve the evidence. By the time the law enforcement authorities arrive, the entire accident scene will have changed. Daylight fades, and weather conditions change. Drivers move their cars out of the road, and witnesses leave the scene. Traffic nudges accident debris into a new spot. Some negligent drivers get into their cars and drive away.
Before any of these things happen, you must document the post-accident scene. After an accident, your smartphone camera becomes the perfect investigative tool.
Ask a bystander to assist you if you’re injured and can’t navigate the scene.
- Confirm the other driver’s identity: If possible, get a photo of the other driver, their driver’s license, and their insurance card. Ask for their current address.
- Take a photo of the vehicles: Before either of you moves your vehicles, snap a few quick photos. Document their resting places and their points of impact. Your photos should include different vehicle angles and show old and new damage. Also, capture photos confirming the other vehicle’s make, model, and license plates.
- Document the accident scene: Take photos of the overall accident scene, street signs, traffic control devices, accident debris, and skid marks in the roadway.
- Get witnesses’ contact information: Witnesses can be quirky after an accident. While they might not share what they know with a police officer, they might talk to you. Don’t try to get a statement. Just get their contact information (maybe record it on your phone) and give it to your insurance company.
#4. Move Vehicles and Passengers out of the Road
Most states require drivers to clear an accident scene immediately so damaged vehicles won’t block traffic. After documenting the available evidence, move your vehicle and passengers to a safer position. The photos you took will show the accident location details your insurer needs to know. If you can’t move your vehicle, warn oncoming motorists with reflective objects or your vehicle’s hazard lights. You may wish to carry an emergency car kit with flares for this situation.
Before you move an injured person, consider their condition and whether moving them would cause additional harm.
#5. Get Treatment for Your Injuries
Recovering from an accident is not the right time to endure the pain. If you’re hurting, go to the emergency room. Follow up with your doctor and take your medicine.
Your post-accident treatment becomes a measure by which insurance companies evaluate your claim. If you say you’re injured but don’t follow your doctor’s orders, it reduces your credibility and your claim’s settlement value.
Get the medical treatment you need to properly document your injuries.
- Seek emergency treatment: Visit an emergency room or ask your doctor to evaluate you. This is particularly important after a severe crash. Some conditions cause problems immediately. Others, like traumatic brain injuries and whiplash, often take weeks to cause symptoms. A precautionary check-up helps you get the necessary treatment and document your claim.
- Follow your doctor’s orders: If you’re injured but don’t do what your doctor says, it seems you’re not injured. If your doctor tells you to rest, then rest. If they prescribe pain medication, fill the prescription. Don’t work if your doctor says you’re temporarily disabled; always keep your appointments.
#6. Report Your Accident to Your Insurer
If you have an auto insurance policy, your insurer requires a timely report about any incident to which the coverage might apply. They don’t want you to report only those claims where you believe you’re at fault. Your insurer decides liability if someone else sustains damages or injuries in your accident.
They investigate your accident and make claim decisions on your behalf.
- They decide if they should pay the other person’s claims or deny liability.
- If the other driver files a suit, your insurer decides to defend you or settle.
- If the other person has no liability coverage and you have uninsured motorist coverage, your insurer evaluates your claim and may negotiate a liability settlement with you.
You don’t have to talk to the other driver’s insurance company, but you can’t avoid talking to your insurer. You could jeopardize your coverage if you don’t report your claim and fail to cooperate with them. Talk to your attorney if you have questions about your insurance company or how they handle your claim.
#7. Don’t Talk to the Liability Insurer
When the other driver’s insurer contacts you, they’re trying to protect their insured’s legal rights, not yours. What they want from you is enough information to deny liability or establish a claim reserve. A liability insurer usually asks for your version in a recorded statement. Fortunately, you don’t have to talk to them when they contact you. When you work with a personal injury attorney, they intervene on your behalf.
#8. Document Your Injury
When you make an injury claim, the liability insurer negotiates a settlement based on your injuries and out-of-pocket costs. They also determine a value for your pain, suffering, family upheaval, and other non-economic damages. Once your life returns to normal, you won’t remember many of the problems during your recovery.
You must begin documenting your injury and healing process from day one.
- Create a journal to describe your injury and recovery. You can use an elegant journal or a simple spiral notebook.
- Beginning day one, write about your treatment. Describe how you feel about hospital stays, surgical procedures, pain, life disruptions, emotional issues, rehabilitation, etc.
- Describe how your injuries affect your relationships with your spouse, children, and others. Talk about how pain and physical constraints affect your income.
When your attorney begins settlement negotiations, you’ll have a complete injury chronology from day one. You can use it to refresh your memory about your treatment and recovery. When negotiating your claim, your information will help your attorney understand your injury value.
#9. Don’t Talk About Your Accident or Injuries
Liability insurers do whatever it takes to confirm or disprove your injuries. Take that seriously. Even if you sustained severe injuries, if they discover adverse information, they use it to deny your claim or lowball your settlement.
Remember these dos and don’ts.
- Don’t talk about your accident or injuries to anyone but your immediate family or your car accident attorney.
- Do watch for strangers recording your activities.
- Don’t participate in physical activities your injuries should prevent you from doing.
- Do not post anything on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites.
- Don’t ever accept a friend request from someone you don’t know.
If you feel like someone is watching you, you’re probably right. You never know how or when an investigator is tracking your activities. You must ensure you don’t give them information that jeopardizes your claim.
Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney to Handle Your Claim?
When you’re seriously injured in an accident, you need someone protecting your legal interests. Personal injury attorneys handle the intricate legal details after a severe accident. They deal with insurers, investigators, and attorneys and work closely with you throughout your recovery. When you’re ready to settle, they work to negotiate fair compensation.
When you schedule a consultation, a legal professional discusses your case and reviews your legal rights and options. You decide if you want to move forward with your claim.
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.