What to Expect Following a Car Accident
Car accidents can happen to anyone, even the most careful of drivers. If you ever find yourself involved in a vehicle accident, you want to be prepared. In the moments following a collision, you may be scared, stressed, or confused. Knowing what to expect can help ensure that you acquire the information and documentation you need to make a claim later on. This is especially important if anyone in the vehicle suffers a personal injury or if your car has received extensive damage. Here’s what you can expect after a car accident and what you should do to protect your interests and legal rights.
Assess the Scene
First things first – never leave the scene of an accident you were involved in. Stick around until you can talk to the police, even in the event of a minor collision. If the car accident was minor, move your vehicle out of traffic to avoid a second collision from occurring. Shift your vehicle into park, turn the car off, and turn your hazard lights on. If you have them, use warning triangles, cones, or flares to warn other drivers. Call the police immediately to get a written document of what occurred during the car accident.
Once you’ve established that you are in a safe area, check yourself and others in the vehicle for injuries. If anyone is injured or you believe someone may have a hidden injury, call an ambulance. Next, you’ll want to make an accurate record of the accident. When the police arrive to the scene, tell them exactly what had happened using only facts, not assumptions. If you have a cell phone or camera with you, take photographs of the accident scene, including the vehicles involved, any damage to the vehicle or surrounding structures, and any injuries that may have occurred from the car accident.
While you typically only need to share your name and insurance information with the other driver involved, it’s best to collect as much information as possible to be safe. If possible, ask to see the other driver’s license to confirm his or her identity. You may also want to obtain other critical information, such as the names of all passengers in the other vehicle, license plate numbers, driver’s license numbers, vehicle description, and the names and contact information of eye witnesses to the car accident. Also write down the address or location of the accident scene, as well as the names and badge numbers of the officers.
Report the Accident
Following a car accident, you want to notify your insurance company as soon as possible, even if the accident was not your fault. Many car insurance policies actually require you to report any type of accident immediately. If you were injured during the accident, you may want to acquire information about any medical benefits you may have as part of your insurance coverage. This type of coverage is known as “medpay” and may be included in your car insurance policy and should be used if you have it. If you do have medpay, you will likely have to submit any medical bills stemming from the accident directly to your insurance company.
If you still have (medical bills) leftover after your medpay benefits are exhausted, your primary health insurance should then cover the remaining costs. If you are found to be at fault for the accident, you may be responsible for the other driver’s medical bills. This amount should be covered up to the limits set in your bodily injury liability coverage. If the other driver is found responsible for the accident, he or she will likely be required to pay for your medical bills. However, you will likely need the assistance of an experienced personal injury lawyer to attain the proper compensation for your injuries.
Filing a Claim
If you are found responsible for the car accident, you may be weighing your options. It may seem tempting to simply offer to pay for the other driver’s vehicle repairs out of pocket. However, this can be more costly than you think. Even repairs that look minor could end up costing you thousands of dollars. If you do leave your insurance company to pay for the bill, you could wind up with a premium increase that can last upwards of three years. If you have “accident forgiveness,” your premiums may not increase.
If the other driver was responsible for the accident, you’ll want to ensure that you are getting the compensation you deserve based on the extent of the damage. The other driver’s insurance company may offer a settlement. Many times, the settlement offer is unsatisfactory and may not cover the total cost to repair your car or pay for your medical bills. Before signing any documents, you’ll want to consult with an attorney.
Hire an Attorney
If anyone was injured in the car accident or you feel that you are being untreated fairly regarding your settlement, it is best to consult with an experienced car accident attorney. A skilled lawyer with experience dealing with car accident cases can help maximize your recovery and defend your legal rights in the event that the accident was your fault. While many insurance companies want to take statements immediately after a car accident, it’s best to first talk with an attorney to ensure that you do not say anything that could be found incriminating.
Know that when you work with a car accident lawyer they have your best interests at heart. They also work on a contingency fee basis, meaning there are no legal fees for you unless your lawyer recovers compensation if you receive a settlement or are awarded damages. This can provide peace of mind as you try to navigate through the complex legal system. Having a legal expert on your side can also ensure that you take the right steps towards a beneficial resolution.