After an auto accident: don’t incriminate yourself, seek medical attention, call the police, trade info, don’t touch anything or anyone, get advice from a lawyer, and then file a claim. That is the gist of what to do after an auto accident, below we cover those key points in detail.
What Steps to Take After an Automobile Accident
Before you do anything else there are a few basic, but important things to know. The order here is fairly loose but medical attention, calling the police, and collecting information should take priority come before getting legal counsel and starting the claims process. And really, really, the not incriminating yourself part should be an overarching theme and not part of an ordered list:
In the case of an accident involving others, make sure your passengers and others in an accident are alright.
- Seek medical attention if you or your passengers are hurt, call paramedics immediately. Sometimes you won’t know that you are hurt until a week later (such as with whiplash), so erring on the side of caution is usually your best bet. A ambulance ride is expensive, but your medical treatments are very likely covered under your auto and health insurance. Declining medical treatment after an accident can make claiming damages much harder down the road.
- Call the police, having a police report created at the time of the accident is key to figuring out which driver is legally at fault and of course that is key to your claim. It is always in your best interest to say as little as possible to anyone other than an attorney, but do tell the truth about the accident. You’ll most likely have a little bit of time in between the call and the police showing. The report won’t be taken until the police arrive.
- If you got in an accident don’t move an injured person, don’t apologize or admit to fault, don’t tell the other person about your coverage, don’t accept any money, and don’t agree to anything with the other driver. It’s tempting to start talking after a shock, but you could become a target if your coverage is good or say something that will give you a legal disadvantage in processing your claim or getting sued. Say nothing and do as little as possible.
- Now that you know what not to say, exchange information with the other drivers involved, obtain the name, address, driver’s license number, vehicle licenses, and insurance information from all other drivers involved. The names and contact information of any witnesses should also be gathered. If possible, take photographs of the accident scene, including the vehicles involved, the location of traffic signals, and any obvious skid marks, debris, or other evidence. You may also want to take notes on the weather and road conditions at the time of the accident.
- Get advice from a personal injury lawyer a good lawyer will work for a part of your claim, ask nothing up front, and typically be able to get you a bigger settlement. They will also help you avoid incriminating yourself in an accident or accepting the first claim that comes along before you get medical treatment.
- As soon as you have completed the above steps, phone your insurance agent and ask them how to proceed and what forms or documents will be needed to support your claim. Your company may require a “proof of loss” form, as well as documents relating to your claim, such as medical and auto repair bills and a copy of the police report. As a word of caution, the insurer is a for-profit entity. They will get a claim adjustor to start whittling down the settlement amount and trying to get you to attest to all sorts of things they can use against you later. Again say nothing and do nothing if possible beyond the requirements.