What Steps Do I Take After an Accident?

photo of car after accident and car is smoking According to the Virginia Traffic Crash Facts report, there were 127,375 traffic accidents in the state in 2017. From those traffic accidents, there were 843 fatalities and 65,306 serious injuries. Of these Virginia auto accidents, 7,285 were alcohol-related, 1,608 involved pedestrians, and 23,948 were speed-related. Although many auto accidents involve only property damage—damage to the vehicles involved—other auto accidents can cause serious, even fatal injuries. If you are involved in an automobile accident in the state of Virginia, there are certain things you can do to protect yourself. Since no one ever expects to be involved in an auto accident, it is a good idea to have these steps in your mind just in case you are involved in a Virginia car accident.

What Steps Should I Take Following My Virginia Auto Accident?

There are specific steps to take following your Virginia auto accident including:
  • Never, ever leave the scene of the accident, even if you consider it nothing more than a fender-bender.
  • If you are physically able, do your best to prevent further accidents by moving your car off the roadway when possible, turning on your flashers, or setting up flares, if you have them. Many car accidents are compounded when another car hits the already disabled vehicles—or worse, one of the occupants.
  • Call the police. Even when there are no obvious serious injuries, you should still call the police and wait at the scene until they arrive. Often, the other driver—particularly if he or she is impaired, driving on a suspended license, or driving without insurance—will attempt to persuade you to forego calling the police. This is virtually never a good idea. Having a police report to file a claim with your insurance company is extremely important and can also make a huge difference if the at-fault driver changes his or her story and denies responsibility.
  • When the police arrive, give a clear account of what happened. Do not guess or speculate, and if you are unsure of certain facts, say so. If the officer asks if you are injured, it is better to say you are not sure than “no.” When a person is involved in an auto accident, their body receives a surge of adrenaline which can mask symptoms of injury. You may not become fully aware of the extent of your injuries for days or even weeks following the accident.
  • Whenever possible, take photos of the scene of the accident and the damaged vehicles with your cell phone. If you have visible injuries, photograph those as well however do not interfere with the job the police are doing at the scene.
  • Exchange information with the other driver—contact information, insurance information and license plate number at a minimum. Ask to see an insurance card and snap a photo of the card with your phone, when possible.
  • If there were witnesses to the accident—and you are physically able—collect contact information for each witness.
  • Seek medical attention. Even if you think you are “fine,” it’s a good idea to be checked out by your doctor or an ER doctor.
  • Contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Do not offer any “extra” information, simply tell them what happened in as clear, concise a manner as possible.
  • Keep careful records. Keep one file with all your medical expenses and another with every single detail you can remember about the accident. Memories fade, and things we think we will remember are soon forgotten. Write it down—your attorney will thank you!
  • Protect your rights by hiring an experienced auto accident attorney from Tronfeld West & Durrett. Your attorney will ensure your rights are fully protected and will make sure valuable evidence does not go missing.

Should I Ever Admit Fault?

You should never admit fault following a Virginia car accident, even if you believe you might have been partially to blame for the accident. You will talk to many people following your car accident—the police, the other driver, witnesses, and your insurance company. When talking to those people, avoid even saying “I’m sorry,” as this can be taken as an admission of fault—even though you may have only meant you’re sorry the accident occurred. It can be difficult immediately following an accident to know exactly what happened, and often a person may accept blame for an accident they really did not cause. As an example, suppose you were rear-ended, and you believe it is your fault because you stopped too quickly. Under the law, however, it is likely the other driver will be found liable for not leaving a sufficient distance between his or her car and yours. Even if you are absolutely sure the accident was your fault, do not say so until you have had a chance to speak to a knowledgeable Virginia car accident attorney.

Do I Have to Call the Police After a Car Accident?

In the state of Virginia, you are not legally required to contact the police following a car accident unless the accident results in injury, death, death, or more than $1,000 in property damage. However, even the most minor car accident can result in damage to one or both vehicles which is almost always going to cost more than $1000. Further, even the most minor car accident can cause some level of injury. If there is vehicle damage, injury, or death, the law requires that you report your name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number to local law enforcement or the state police who will then file an accident report.

Should I Speak with the Opposing Insurance Company?

Of course, you will contact your own insurance company following your Virginia car accident, giving them the details of the accident. You may wonder whether you should speak to the other driver’s insurance company should they contact you. In most situations, it is better that you not speak to the opposing insurance company—after all, they are not looking out for your best interests, rather are looking out for their own client and their own financial interests. When you talk to the other insurance company, there is a good chance you could be compromising a future claim, no matter whether the other driver was at fault or not. Insurance companies may also ask you to provide a recorded statement. It is virtually never in your best interests to do so, rather speak to your attorney and let him or her handle conversations with the opposing insurance company.

Should I See a Doctor if I Don’t Think I’m Badly Injured?

Yes, even if you do not believe you are badly injured, it is still in your best interests to be checked out, medically. Often, injuries are not apparent immediately following a car accident, but manifest later on. Either see your own doctor or go to an ER to ensure you were not badly injured in the accident. This can be an extremely important step which you should not avoid—your future could depend on it.

Getting Help from the Tronfeld West & Durrett Attorneys

Following an auto accident in the state of Virginia, you may be left injured, unable to work, and with serious damages to your vehicle. It can be difficult to know which way to turn, and what you need to do for your future. The Virginia Tronfeld West & Durrett auto accident attorneys can help you through this difficult time. While you take the time you need to heal from your injuries, we will be working hard on your behalf to obtain an equitable settlement. Having a car accident is a jarring experience that can leave you anxious and unsure. We can help! Contact Tronfeld West & Durrett today.