Fender benders. Rear ends. T-bones. Head-on collisions. Over 6 million auto accidents happen in the U.S. each year, so if you’re on the road, it’s important to be aware of what to do when these unfortunate events occur. Knowing and taking the appropriate steps will not only make you feel more at ease, it can also protect your rights and help you get the coverage you deserve.
Here are six key steps to take when an accident occurs.
1. Stop and secure the scene.
Pull over to the nearest safe location off the road that’s out of traffic’s way, and put your hazard lights on. In the event that this is not possible, move yourself and all passengers to a safe location off the road. Keep an emergency kit in your trunk with flares to set up if it is dark, or at minimum a flashlight so drivers will be able to see you.
2. Call the police and create an accurate account.
Even for minor fender-benders, calling the police immediately is a good idea. Their report will often be used by the insurance company, so it’s important to give as accurate an accounting as possible. Since injuries like whiplash are often not felt until the shock of adrenaline wears off, it is better to state that you are unsure whether you’ve been injured even if no obvious injuries are present. They should provide you with a report number after they have taken statements from all persons involved. While you wait for the police, snap pictures of the cars involved, the surrounding location, and any obvious injuries you have sustained.
3. Exchange information.
While the police will gather information in their report as well, it never hurts to be over prepared. Record the full name, telephone number, and address of all drivers and passengers involved. If any witnesses have stopped, gather their information as well. Request the insurance information for all drivers involved in the accident, and share yours.
4. Seek medical attention.
If a major injury occurs, you’ll be taken to the nearest hospital. However, you may feel just fine after an accident. Unfortunately, that’s not a clear indication that you were not injured since adrenaline is still pumping through your veins. Go to a local emergency room or your family doctor in the days following the accident to ensure that no spinal or other injuries have occurred.
5. Protect your rights.
As soon as possible, contact your attorney. We can help walk through all the steps necessary to protect your rights and ensure you are able to collect any compensation you may be due. This includes advising you on how to best handle the testimony when you report the incident to car insurance. For this reason, it’s smart to speak to your lawyer before contacting the insurance company. Plus, because personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, you won’t incur any attorney fees unless we are able to recover compensation for your injuries.
6. Stay organized.
Gather and keep all information pertaining to the accident in one file: information you collected from others involved in the accident, the police report, insurance claim number, the insurance claim’s adjuster handling your case, receipts for all expenses incurred, including rental car and doctor’s visits.
How can you remember all this when an accident happens? With all the adrenaline and heightened emotion that can come with an auto accident, it’s best not to rely on memory. Instead, prepare ahead of time. Print out this handy pamphlet and keep it in your car. In the event of an accident, you’ll be prepared to take the right steps.