On average, even the most careful American will have three or four car accidents in a lifetime. Auto accidents are always unexpected, and always stressful. Here are a few do’s and do not’s to help you in the chance that you do find yourself in an accident.
What to do following a car accident
- Stay calm as possible after your accident. Take a deep breath, check for injuries, and call an ambulance. Even if you think you are “fine,” it’s always a good idea to either let the ambulance transport you to the hospital or to immediately go see your physician.
- If the accident is minor, move the cars involved to a safe place. Turn on hazard lights when necessary.
- Call the police. Even if your accident is minor, and even if the other party tries to persuade you to just “handle it among yourselves,” don’t skip this step! Without a police report, you may find it extremely difficult to convince your insurance company you were not at fault and to pay for your injuries and damages.
- Keep track of all medical expenses, including prescriptions, all doctor bills, chiropractic services, rehabilitative services, etc.
- Take photos of the scene of the accident, if you are able, including photos of the damage to both vehicles.
- Make notes as soon as possible about the accident. These notes should include the name, phone number, license plate number and insurance information about the other person, as well as witness contact information.
- Contact your insurance company as soon as possible after your accident. Give your insurance company the basic facts of the accident.
- If it turns out that you must file a civil claim to recoup your losses (medical expenses, damage to your vehicle, lost wages, etc.), it can be very helpful to make a list of questions to ask a lawyer after your accident.
What not to do after a car accident
There are also things you should avoid doing after a car accident. These include:
- Never admit responsibility for the accident, even if you think it might have been your fault, or even partially your fault. Even saying “I’m sorry” to the other party could potentially be misconstrued as an admission of fault, so avoid saying anything that could sound like you are saying the accident was your fault.
- Never sign any document without speaking to an attorney first.
- Never agree to allow the insurance company to record your conversation without speaking to an attorney (you are not required by law to allow your conversation to be recorded).
- Never, ever leave the scene of the accident, particularly when there are injuries, or you could face criminal charges for hit-and-run.
- Never discuss your accident on social media, and, in fact, don’t talk to anyone about the accident other than your own attorney, your own insurance company and the police. Avoid talking to a representative of another insurance company without discussing it with your own insurer and/or your attorney.