I Have Been in a Car Accident. What Should I Do?
To protect yourself, your rights and a potential claim after an auto accident happens, here’s what you should do (when and if possible):
- Determine if anyone has severe or life-threatening injuries – Right after the crash occurs, figure out if anyone has been seriously (or fatally) injured. If so, call 911 immediately.
- Get to a safe area – If the accident happened in the middle of traffic, move to a shoulder where you can safely wait while the next steps are taken. If, however, the accident occurred out of the path of traffic and there’s no risk in leaving the vehicles where they are, it’s better to leave them as is (because that can be helpful to the investigation and the fault determination).
- Call the police – Police can help clear the wreckage and make sure injured parties get the medical care they need (officers can also facilitate step 5 below). Additionally, police will investigate the crash and write an accident report detailing their findings. This report can be essential to establishing liability for an auto accident.
- Do not apologize or admit fault for the accident – Doing this can compromise a future claim and maybe even make you liable for the accident (even if the apology or admission of fault was accidental). So don’t do it after the accident, regardless of whether you’re talking to other drivers, witnesses, police and/or insurance company agents. Never admit fault.
- Exchange info with the other involved motorist(s) – This should include identity and contact information (like names and phone numbers), as well as vehicle-related information (like the make/model of each involved car and the license plate number) and driving/insurance-related information (like each motorist’s driver’s license number, insurance carrier and policy number).
- Get witnesses’ contact info – If there were any witnesses (and you weren’t too severely injured), get the name and contact info for each witness. When you do this, it can be helpful to take a few notes about what that witness saw (and whether anything was seen that could help determine or prove fault).
- Take pictures – Snap as many picture as you can of your vehicle, your injuries, the accident scene and the other involved vehicle(s). These photos can be invaluable later, as they can show key details about what caused the accident – and how much damage the accident caused.
- See a doctor – Regardless of whether you are feeling hurt after a car crash, see a doctor and get checked out. Shock and adrenaline can mask injuries, and some injuries can present themselves in the days (maybe even weeks) following the crash. If you see a doctor, you can get immediate treatment and avoid any serious complications. This will also be helpful in officially documenting the nature of the injuries you suffered in the accident.
- Write down your account of the accident – As soon as you can after the accident, write down a detailed account of what you witnessed and experienced before, during and after the crash. Include the day, date, time and location of the crash, as well as details about the weather, what you saw and what you did.
- Talk to a lawyer – Set up a free consult and get answers about your rights and options. An attorney can explain the law, tell you how much your claim is worth and inform you about the next steps to take in order to get on the path to financial recovery.
Call Chappell, Smith & Arden at (803) 929-3600 or contact us online to start getting helpful answers about your options – and to discover what you can do as you move forward to protect your rights and claim.