If you’ve been involved in an accident on the road, you may be wondering what to do next regarding your personal injury claim. The details can vary depending on your state’s laws but there are certain do’s and don’ts that you should be aware of. We are here to help you avoid making any mistakes that can hurt your personal injury claim.
Being in a motor vehicle accident is a traumatic experience. The sound of the impact, the physical stress to your body, and the chaos that follows can be terrifying. Your body releases adrenaline in response which can give you a burst of energy to escape from harm’s way but it can also cloud your ability to think clearly.
This is why it is critical to have a checklist of Do’s and Don’ts to follow if you are involved in an accident on the road. The last thing you want to do is jeopardize your personal injury claim that you will need to cover your expenses. In an ideal world, everyone’s focus would be on your health and safety, but unfortunately, you need to be on guard from the moment an accident happens. Anything that you say or do can be used by the insurance companies to reduce or even deny your claim.
Overview of Your Car Accident Personal Injury Claim
To be successful with your personal injury claim after a motor vehicle accident, you have to show that the other driver’s negligent behavior caused the accident and prove the financial impact of your resulting injuries. Something as innocent as small talk saying “I should have been paying more attention” could be interpreted as you admitting fault and completely derailing your claim.
We recommend focusing on your immediate safety and medical condition and let the lawyers and insurance companies sort out who was at fault based on the evidence. A good rule of thumb is to keep communication with other parties to a polite minimum as you may still be in shock and don’t want to say anything in the moment that could be used against you.
Follow this checklist after an accident to improve your chances of a successful claim.
Assess Your Injuries and Safety
Take a few deep breaths to collect yourself so you can effectively deal with the situation. Evaluate your physical condition and the safety of your environment. If you’re severely injured and having trouble moving, you should call 911 immediately.
If you’re able to, check on any passengers, put your hazard lights on, exit the vehicle and move off the road if it is safe to do so. If you have any reflective roadside devices, you can place these to alert other drivers. Above all, prioritize your safety to avoid any further harm from a secondary collision.
We recommend calling 911 even if the other driver does not want to involve the police. Some accidents may appear minor only to have injuries or damages appear later. You may need the police report to bring a personal injury claim and it will include important evidence from an objective third party. Be sure to request an ambulance if anyone needs urgent medical care.
Be honest and do not exaggerate when speaking with the officer. You should focus on the events that led up to the accident and not on placing blame. If you suspect alcohol or distracted driving was involved, mention these details to the officer. Make sure that they document any statements from supportive witnesses.
If you disagree with the police officer’s report or anyone is disputing your version of events, we recommend speaking with a lawyer immediately.
Get Medical Attention
If you or someone else is injured, request an ambulance when you call 911. Even if the ambulance is for someone else and you feel okay, allow for a medical evaluation from the medical responders. Refusing an evaluation can be seen as evidence that you were not hurt from the accident.
If you are seriously injured, take an ambulance to the hospital where you will be treated in the emergency room. If no ambulance comes to the scene, you should get evaluated by your own doctor as they may recognize symptoms or injuries that you missed.
Small breaks, fractures, or soft tissue injuries such as whiplash are common in accidents and can go undetected in the immediate aftermath. Your body may be in a state of shock or full of adrenaline and you may not be aware of the extent of your injuries. An evaluation and follow-up visit with your doctor will help protect your right to recover for any medical care that you end up needing.
You should record the following information from the other driver.
- Registration - is the car registered to another person or company?
- Insurance - company name and policy number
- Phone Number
You should take photos and collect evidence as soon as possible following an accident. Try to get pictures of the crash from all angles but don’t put your safety at risk to do so. If you require urgent medical attention, ask a witness or friend to help document the scene.
Anything that could be relevant to the accident should be recorded including:
- Weather and road conditions - was it raining heavily or foggy with low visibility?
- Lighting - was there a poorly lit street sign?
- Skid marks on the road
- Photos detailing the damage
- License Plates
We encourage you to document the incident as thoroughly as possible because most of the evidence will disappear shortly after the accident. By the time you talk to us, the scene may have been cleaned up and any unidentified witnesses will be gone.
Get Witness Contact Information
Record any witness statements or make sure they are in the police report. Be sure to get their contact information.
Take Notes and Record How You Are Feeling
Write down or record what happened and how you are feeling after the accident. This information can be helpful in recreating the accident and identifying potential injuries from it.
Notify Your Insurance
Most policies require you to notify your insurance company shortly after an accident and failing to do so can disqualify any future claims. Avoid giving a recorded statement and keep conversation to a minimum.
Get Advice From An Attorney
If you are not 100% confident about what to say, we encourage you to contact a personal injury lawyer before you talk to any insurance representative. Insurance adjusters are trained to get you to say things that can hurt your claim and there is no way to undo mistakes if you say the wrong thing.
Follow All Medical Advice From Your Doctor
Receiving a prompt medical evaluation after a car accident is critical even if you think the incident was minor. Any treatment prescribed by your doctor should be followed.
Record All Medical Expenses
Keep organized and detailed records of all your medical treatment. In a serious accident, costs will add up quickly and it can be difficult to keep track of all the different bills. A reputable personal injury law firm will have experienced staff able to assist you with this.
Record Any Missed Work
If your injury is severe and you miss any work or are unable to perform the work you were previously doing, this information will help you recover for lost wages. Document any previous wage information and income tax statements.
Knowing what you should not do after an accident on the road can be just as important as knowing what to do.
Don’t Leave the Scene
Being in an accident is terrifying and you may instinctively want to leave but it is critical that you remain at the scene. It is illegal to leave the scene of an accident and can look like an admission of fault.
Don’t Admit Fault
It is not your job to determine fault after an accident. You should be cooperative with the responding police officer and notify your insurance company but be careful not to say anything that could be interpreted as admitting fault.
Don’t Make Small Talk
You might want to lighten the mood after an accident with small talk but we advise against this. While you should be polite, minimize communication to the essentials. Something as simple as “I’m sorry, are you okay?” could hurt your claim.
Don’t Refuse Medical Treatment
This can be used by the insurance companies to argue that you did not suffer any injuries from the car accident.
Don’t Let Anyone Bully You
If people at the scene are disputing your version of events, do not give in and accept what you believe to be wrong. Contact an attorney for advice.
Don’t Talk to the Other Driver’s Insurance
You have no legal obligation to talk to the other driver’s insurance company. They may seem friendly but their only objective is to get you to say something that can be used to reduce or deny your claim.
Don’t Agree to Any Recorded Statements
If an insurance appraiser asks you to make a recorded statement, you should politely decline.
Don’t Accept a Quick Settlement
Don’t settle until your medical treatment is complete or when you have reached maximum medical improvement. Quick offers are often substantially less than you will need for your full recovery.
Don’t Sign Any Releases
A release will prevent you from bringing any future claims against the insurance company. If you have to sign a property damage release to get your car repaired, be sure that anything you sign is for property damage only and not for your personal injuries.
Don’t Wait and Don’t Skip This Checklist
It is important to follow all of these do’s and don’ts even if everything appears to be going smoothly. You never know when people will change their story or the insurance company will surprise you. An insurance company might quickly admit that their client was at fault only to later refuse to cover your long-term medical expenses.
Don’t Hire a Lawyer Who Is Inexperienced in Personal Injury Motor Vehicle Accident Law
If you’ve been in a serious car accident, you need legal representation that is experienced in this specific area of law to maximize your claim. We advise all potential clients to do their research before hiring an attorney as the right lawyer can make all the difference.
At Morgan & Morgan, we have a proven track record established over the last 30+ years representing victims in car accidents and we have successfully recovered millions in damages for our clients. Whatever the details of your case are, we are available 24/7 to answer your questions and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your claim.
How Can Morgan & Morgan Help Me?
We understand that recovering your health after a motor vehicle accident is hard enough without managing all the details of a personal injury claim on your own. Between tracking down and organizing all of your medical expenses, proving that the other driver was at fault, and negotiating with the insurance company, it can be an exhausting ordeal.
You might be tempted to take a quick settlement offer from the insurance company only to find out months later after you’ve spent the money that you still have outstanding bills from multiple doctors. Being patient and getting assistance from a lawyer who specializes in personal injury claims from car accidents can help you avoid these pitfalls.
At Morgan & Morgan, we have over 700 attorneys around the country ready to fight for you and help you recover the full amount you are entitled to. We invite you to reach out to us for a free consultation and let us put our experience to work for you. We operate on a contingency fee basis so you don’t pay us anything unless we are successful in settling your claim.