What to Do After a Car Accident [8-Step Checklist]
Did you know that there are about six million car accidents in the United States alone every single year?
That's 500,000 accidents each month, nearly 125,000 every week, and over 17,000 every single day.
With that being said, it is nothing short of a miracle to not be involved in a car wreck when you are on the road. While no one is pardoned from the possibility of being in an accident, those who are still deserve every penny of compensation possible when it happens to them regardless of if the odds were in their favor or not.
Data shows that 94% of all car accidents are caused by human error.
This can be due to fatigue, distractions like texting, driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medications, and other influences. Someone else's negligence can have a huge impact on the injured, for sure, but also on the injured person's well-being and the well-being of his or her family.
Serious car accidents can cause injuries in which the person can't work, which puts his or her livelihood in jeopardy. Not to mention, there are medical bills to be paid and who know how cooperative insurance companies will be. All of this added stress because of someone's lack of ability to drive responsibly? Compensation must be paid.
If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in an accident — no matter if it was a minor fender bender or something far more severe — you must surely be wondering, "what do I do next?"
Read on to learn what to do after a car accident. These eight tips will help you process the stressful ordeal more quickly and effectively. You'll learn how to protect your rights, navigate the claims process, and avoid common mistakes that drivers make that can limit their right to fair compensation. And if you'd like to talk to a licensed car accident attorney, Bruscato Law Firm is available to discuss your claim at no cost to you.
1. Put Safety First
First things first, if you were in an accident (whether it was your fault or not), you need to prioritize your safety. It may be difficult to think clearly after a crash, but it's crucial that you and others involved are safe.
- If possible, turn on your hazard lights and drive your vehicle to the shoulder of the road.
- Pay attention to if you smell anything like smoke or gas. If so, try to get out and away from the car.
- If your car can't be moved and there's no sign of fire or leaking gas, stay put and call 911.
Remain on the scene until law enforcement arrives — fleeing the scene of an accident is against the law.
2. Check for Injuries
Next, check to see if you or anyone else in your car has sustained any injuries.
Try your best to remain calm and make a note of even the smallest of abrasions.
Injuries can also be internal, so pay attention to if your breathing has changed or if you have pain anywhere that doesn't show physical signs of injury. If there are any clear signs of injury, seeking medical treatment is more important than anything else.
If nobody was injured, then you need to call the police and report the accident. If you're unable to call, then visit the nearest police station and complete the report yourself.
Louisiana statute Title 32 § 398 states that you must file a police report if the accident results in injury, death, or property damage over $500.
The police report will be an integral part of your insurance claim. The investigating police officer will usually share the police report number with all parties involved so they can retrieve it for reference later.
The accident report taken by the police officer will include any pertinent details about your case — details that describe how the crash happened, who was at fault, and what kind of compensation the victim may expect to receive or request.
3. Collect and Exchange Information
The responding police officer is typically the one responsible for collecting everyone's information. However, it's still a good idea that you do this yourself.
If you were the victim in the accident, you'd want to gather the following information from the at-fault driver:
- Their name, address, and telephone number
- Insurance company contact information
- Insurance policy number
- Driver's icense number
- License plate number
- Make and model of the at-fault vehicle
The information you collect at this stage will help expedite the legal process should you choose to go that route.
4. Talk to Witnesses
If anyone is standing around and willing to talk, take their statements.
If you can record it via an app on your cell phone along with their name, phone number, and email address (if they have one), that would be excellent for your case.
When speaking to other drivers or witnesses, be mindful of what you say. In fact, I recommend you say as little as possible about the details of the accident. That's because you will want to avoid saying anything that could be interpreted as you admitting or suggesting fault.
As a rule of thumb, refrain from discussing fault with anyone except an attorney.
5. Document the Accident and Gather Evidence
After you've spoken to witnesses and collected the at-fault driver's information, do what you can to document the accident.
When it comes time to decide whether to file a claim, you'll need to be equipped with as much evidence from the accident as possible.
- Make note of what time it is, your exact location, and what you remember happening.
- Take pictures of the scene of the accident, including property damages, injuries, and the other motorist's vehicle.
- If there is any other physical evidence in the environment, skids on the road, for example, take photos of this as well.
6. Determine What Insurance Coverage is Available
The role of insurance in a car accident will depend on who was at fault and the specifics of each party's insurance information.
The at-fault driver is supposed to contact their own insurance company, investigating liability coverage for damages from their position. Provided the other driver has auto insurance, their liability coverage will pay for vehicle repairs, and their bodily injury liability coverage will pay for your medical bills.
However, this is not always the case, and you shouldn't rely on the other driver to work with the car insurance company to determine the fate of your coverage. The at-fault driver's insurance provider may try to pin the accident's fault on you—all the more reason to be proactive and file a claim with your own insurance company first.
7. File an Insurance Claim
Even if you were at fault or if the accident was only minor, I recommend that you file a claim with your insurance company as soon as you can. It's best if you do this proactively and report the accident before the other driver does.
Communicate all details to your insurance provider and allow them to begin building a claim for you. Depending on the nature of the accident, the insurance company may send a qualified investigator to the scene of the crash to assess the event in more detail.
Filing an insurance claim is for your protection. Sometimes the deleterious effects of a crash aren't immediately noticeable, which is why reporting the accident immediately can help prevent any future complications.
After filing your claim, the other party's insurance company will investigate the case's details and try to determine fault. They will likely contact you for a vehicle repair estimate and discuss reimbursement for your medical expenses.
8. Go See Your Doctor
Even if you think you're okay, it is always a good idea to see your doctor to rule out the possibility of serious injury. The sooner, the better.
As I mentioned in the last section, serious injuries can often go unnoticed after a car accident. The sheer trauma and rush of endorphins from an accident can make it difficult to assess the body's state accurately — this is why you must seek medical attention. Sometimes physical injury takes time to manifest:
There are several medical professionals you can — and should — turn to after an accident.
- If you are suffering from severe pain or serious injuries, then go to the emergency room immediately.
- If you have no apparent injuries or only minor injuries, schedule an appointment with your primary physician no more than a few days after the accident occurred.
- A visit with a specialist such as a chiropractor or physical therapist may also help uncover deeper problems your primary care physician wouldn't be prepared to find.
The information you share with the doctor when seeking medical treatment will be used as critical evidence in your accident case. The medical report, much like the police report, will be used as an additional piece of evidence that the insurance company will need to understand what happened.
Should You Get a Car Accident Attorney?
So far, I've outlined what to do after a car accident. Whether you were at fault or not and whether you suffered apparent injuries, these are the crucial steps to take to document and recover from the crash.
After you've ensured the safety of yourself and those around you, sought medical attention, and filed a claim with the insurance company, it's time to get serious and speak with a car accident attorney.
While you are not legally required to speak with a lawyer after a car accident, it would be advantageous to make sure you get the maximum compensation you're entitled to.
You see, filing an insurance claim is where the rubber meets the road to recover compensation for your damages and losses. Once a claim is filed, don't merely expect a check to show up in the mailbox to recoup your medical expenses and property damage. Insurance companies are notoriously ruthless in the claims process.
To put it bluntly, insurance companies are incentivized to pay you as little money as possible.
But personal injury lawyers are incentivized to help you receive the maximum compensation you deserve. When you have an attorney in your corner, they will fight for you and confidently sidestep all the sneaky tricks insurance adjusters might pull to try and limit your financial compensation.
An attorney can also help you avoid settling too early, watch out for unexpected costs, coordinate with the at-fault's insurance provider on your behalf, and help you recover monetary damages including:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Reduced quality of life
Remember: the statute of limitations in Louisiana is one year. That means you must act quickly. Don't wait to file your claim and speak with a car accident attorney today.
Bruscato Law Will Represent Your Case
If you or a loved one has been in a car accident, you owe it to yourself to speak with an experienced car accident attorney about your legal options. Getting a claim approved is frequently a long, drawn-out process. Claims adjusters will do everything they can do limit the amount of compensation you stand to receive — don't let them!
John Bruscato is a professional personal injury attorney in Monroe, LA, with nearly a decade of experience with car accident cases. The Bruscato team helped countless car accident victims negotiate with insurance companies to win and receive rightful compensation successfully.
Contact Bruscato Law Firm today to learn about your right to fair compensation by calling our Monroe practice toll-free at 318-855-1613 or click here to schedule a free consultation on our website.