What to Do After a Car Accident

Car accident attorneyCar accidents are traumatic events. A single second of distraction can lead to a life-threatening crash. For the driver who caused the accident, that means paying for the other driver’s expensive medical bills. Even if no one was seriously injured in the crash, accidents can still cost thousands of dollars in repair bills. And while almost anyone is entitled to accident compensation, whether that is from his/her own policy or another at-fault driver’s, there are several mistakes that drivers make and several things drivers forget to do after an accident that limit the total amount they can recover.

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What do drivers need to do after a car accident?

After any accident, drivers should follow the following steps. These steps may sound simple, but skipping even one of them could result in the insurance company denying a legitimate claim. For the highest chance of success after a crash, all drivers should:
  • Stay Calm and Remain at the Scene: The most important thing to do after an accident is to remain calm and collected. Adrenaline will be running high for everyone involved. But drivers should never let their emotions get in the way of following the proper steps after a crash. Most importantly, drivers should always remain at the scene of the crash, even if they believe no one was injured. If a driver leaves the scene of the crash before the police arrive, the driver could face hit-and-run charges.
  • Be Polite: No matter who may be at fault, both drivers should treat each other with respect and courtesy. However, drivers should never admit fault for the accident, even if they believe that they were to blame. Doing so could automatically make the driver legally liable for the accident. Drivers should wait to apologize until after all the facts are known and the insurance companies have made their decisions.
  • Move to Safety: After any accident, drivers should move their vehicles out of the flow of traffic to avoid further collisions. Ideal locations include the shoulder of a highway or a nearby parking lot. Whenever possible drivers should turn on their hazard lights and set up emergency signage or flares, especially if the accident happened after dark or during bad weather.
  • Check for Injuries: Before doing anything else, drivers should check themselves, their passengers, and the occupants of the other vehicles for injuries. If anyone is injured, drivers should call an ambulance immediately, even if they believe the injuries are minor. Failing to seek the proper medical attention at the time of the crash could lead to complications down the road, and in some cases, insurance companies may refuse to pay for any medical bills because the delay could have worsened original injuries. The insurer might also try to claim the injuries are unrelated to the accident. Discover essential knowledge on traumatic brain injuries
  • Call the Police: No matter the type of accident, drivers should always file a report with the police. Many insurance companies refuse to compensate drivers for accident claims unless there is a police report on file. Drivers should collect the responding officers’ names and badge numbers and ask for a copy of the accident report before they leave.
  • Gather Information & Photographs: Before drivers leave the scene of the accident, they will want to gather as much information as they can, including:
    • The name, address, and phone number of the other driver
    • The name, address, and phone number of any witnesses, including passengers
    • The other person’s driver’s license number
    • The other car’s make, model, color, and license plate number
    • The other driver’s insurance information
    • The location and time of the crash
    • Photographs of the damage to the vehicles
  • Speak with an Attorney: Any time a driver experiences pushback from an insurance company, such as the company refusing to pay for the damages or offering less money than is necessary for medical bills or car repairs, that driver should consider speaking with an attorney.

What Should You Not Do After a Car Accident?

Knowing what you should do following a Virginia car accident, it’s now time to consider the things you should not do. Often, those involved are so shaken up following a car accident that it is easy to make some common mistakes. It is important to be aware of these, since any one simple misstep can potentially prevent you from receiving full compensation for your accident. 
  • Never drive away from the scene of the accident. This may seem like a no-brainer, but in some instances, the damage to the vehicles doesn’t seem that serious, and nobody appears to be seriously injured, so one driver may suggest that they simply exchange information and go on their way. It can be tempting to do this rather than waiting for the police to arrive on the scene and make a report, in addition to spending time going to the hospital to be checked out. After all, most of us have extremely busy lives. This is one instance, however, where you should absolutely take the time to do things right. The driver who does not want to call the police may not have a valid driver’s license, may be impaired, or may not have auto insurance. If you later realize you are injured, you could be unable to collect damages without a police report. In most states, it is illegal to leave the scene of the accident; in Virginia, even if an auto accident only results in property damage, leaving the scene of the accident can still result in Class 1 misdemeanor charges. 
  • Never neglect to collect information from the other driver. You should always get insurance and contact information from the other driver. Taking a photo of the license plate of the other vehicle is also a good idea. 
  • Never underestimate the extent of your injuries. The adrenaline that floods your body during a car accident can mask injury symptoms. It’s virtually always a good idea to have a medical professional check you out since symptoms of injury often manifest hours, or even days, later. Failing to seek medical care in a timely manner is a common reason for denial of personal injury claims.
  • Never admit fault. While it can be natural to say “I’m sorry” to the other driver, even if you mean you’re sorry the accident occurred at all, your words can be misconstrued to mean that you’re sorry you caused the accident. Even if you think you are at fault, never say so—once the police have investigated, it may turn out that the accident wasn’t your fault at all. Always speak to a knowledgeable car accident attorney before making a statement that might indicate that you were fully or partially at fault. 
  • Never speak to the other driver’s insurance company without first speaking to an attorney. The at-fault driver’s insurance company may try to get you to make a statement (that could be taken out of context) that will allow them to avoid responsibility for your injuries. 
  • Never neglect to report the accident to your own insurance company. Keep the details of the accident general until you’ve spoken to an attorney. If it should turn out that the at-fault driver is uninsured, you will have to file against your own insurance company (assuming you carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage). 
  • Never leave the scene of the accident without taking photographs. Having photographs of the scene of the accident can help your attorney build a case on your behalf and prove liability. 
  • Never try to handle an auto accident claim on your own. Having an experienced Virginia car accident attorney by your side can make a significant difference in the size of your settlement as well as in how smoothly the process goes.
The attorneys of Tronfeld West & Durrett help drivers get the maximum recovery possible after a crash. Drivers can call 804-358-6741 to set up a free consultation.