Here are 5 Steps to Take First to Take the Pressure off Yourself
A car accident is a stressful and traumatic event that can leave you reeling. As little as we want to think about the possibility of being involved in an accident, though, it can be a good idea to give it some consideration just in case it does happen. Do you know what to do if you’re involved in a traffic accident? Even if you’re a good driver, the statistical probability is that this will happen to you at some point in your life. It’s in your best interests to be ready.
The most important thing, throughout all steps of this process, is to remain calm. Easier said than done, yes, especially if either you or your vehicle have sustained serious damage. But by keeping calm and letting your more rational side prevail, you can ensure that the decisions you make are well informed and intelligent ones. This isn’t a time in your life when you want to get carried away with deciding things based on emotion.
It’s easier to remain logical with a sequence of steps to follow in front of you, so we offer five first steps anyone who has been involved in a car accident should take.
Step One: Stay at the Scene
Always, always, always stay at the scene of an accident after it occurs! If you neglect to do so, you may be identified as a hit and run driver, and you could face criminal charges for that. This is especially true in a situation where someone was injured or killed. However, no matter what’s going on, you need to stay put and wait for the authorities to come check things out.
While you wait, check on all the drivers and passengers involved. Make sure everyone is all right. If someone is injured, call 911—of course, injured parties may leave the scene, but should be prepared to give a statement to police later at the hospital if one is requested.
If there is significant property damage or physical injury, you need to contact the police and bring them to the scene to file a police report. You should write down the names and badge numbers of the responding officers so that you can say later who you spoke to, should it be necessary.
Be cordial and cooperative, both to the officers and to the other driver, but do not offer apologies for your part in the accident. Many people are shaken up after a collision and feel a basic human need to start apologizing—especially if someone in the other car is hurt—but that can be used against you later. When you’ve calmed down a bit, you may realize that this wasn’t really your fault at all, and you don’t want to be on record admitting that it was.
Step Two: Tell Your Insurance Company
As soon as possible, you want to contact your insurance company and let them know what happened. It may even be a good idea to do this from the scene of the accident. Your insurance company will be able to let you know what you can expect during the claims process. The claims adjuster will instruct you on where and how to get the damage to your car examined. They’ll then let you know how much of that damage the insurance company considers itself liable for, so you can make an informed decision as to whether to fix your car or buy a new one. If you disagree with the repair value given, you can ask for a full report that explains how it was arrived at.
Step Three: Visit Your Doctor
If you’re experiencing any pain or discomfort after an accident—even if you think it’s probably minor—take care of yourself. See a doctor and get yourself checked out. Symptoms and pains that seem minor might actually be indicative of something more serious, and if that’s the case, you want to make sure it’s noticed and remedied before it becomes severe.
If you are diagnosed with any sort of injury or physical ailment that’s attributed to the accident, get documentation from your doctor. Let your insurance company know about that, too.
You should also keep a record of how that injury impacts your daily life. Are you experiencing pain and suffering? Are you being kept from your previous lifestyle? Write it down. Document it.
Step Four: Auto Repairs
It’s best to have your auto repairs done at an approved shop, one recommended to you by your auto insurance company. Why? It’s a little bit comparable to the concept of choosing an in-network physician. You want a shop that your insurance company is familiar with, and you want them to work well together and trust each other’s diagnostics. Your insurance company is much more likely to agree to cover the work that was done if you take your car to a shop of which they approve.
Step Five: Consult a Car Accident Attorney
You must decide whether you want to consult with a car accident attorney and, if you do, whether or not you want to press charges against the other party in your accident. An attorney can also help you and the other driver work out insurance disagreements, even if neither of you is actively pressing charges.
You should certainly work with an attorney if you are suffering damages from the fallout of the incident. Damages might include:
- Long term pain lasting more than a few days
- A hospitalization
- Surgery, therapy, orthopedics, or chiropractic work
- Significant associated expenses
If someone else is at fault for your accident, a good car accident attorney will help you receive compensation for the physical and mental trouble you have gone through. You might receive financial compensation for medical bills, time you’ve had to take away from work, or a reward judged commensurate to your loss of enjoyment or pain and suffering.
It’s easy to get carried away by stress and worry after a car accident, but don’t fret. Focus instead on these five steps and just look ahead to what needs to be done next. Before you know it, you’ll be leaving the stress of your accident in your rearview.