It is difficult for most people to remember the right steps to take after a car accident, particularly serious collisions that cause injury.
Even minor fender-bender crashes can fill a person with dread and anxiety over how to pay for the damage. When a car accident results in physical injury, it's an even more traumatic experience.
Unfortunately, it is also true that the best chances for recovering your losses hinge on the evidence available at the scene. Today, we will discuss with you the ten steps that are the most important for you to take when you or a loved one is involved in an accident.
We will also show you how a personal injury attorney can help you win your case, even when some important evidence is missing from your claim. Knowing the right steps to take will prevent you from making critical mistakes that could reduce or prevent you from the medical and financial awards you deserve.
Step One: Seek Medical Care
This one seems obvious, but you'd be amazed how many people decide not to discuss injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident with qualified medical personnel. Frequently, victims will "tough it out" when they are injured, only to realize too late that the injury they suffered is getting worse and is more serious than thought. This scenario is one our car accident attorneys see too often, and failing to seek medical attention is the leading reason claims are rejected by insurance companies.
Many common injuries sustained in car accidents can have long-term significance to your life. Concussions, a type of head trauma, can cause symptoms ranging from dizziness to changes in mood, and can even be fatal.
Concussion symptoms might not fully show for several hours or even several days. If anyone is seriously injured, immediately contact 911 and wait for emergency responders. Do not move an injured person unless they are in danger of imminent harm.
Step 2: Exchange Information with Other Drivers
Pennsylvania law requires you to provide your driver's license and automobile insurance information to others when you are involved in a car crash. When talking to other drivers involved in an accident, do not ever admit fault, even if you know the collision was your fault. Admitting fault to other drivers can prevent you from getting financial compensation and may even make your case unwinnable.
Law enforcement should be contacted if any of the vehicles involved is immobilized and blocking traffic. Accidents that cause serious injuries, like broken bones or unconsciousness should also be immediately reported to 911 operators.
Note: Pennsylvania law does not require police to investigate car accidents that do not involve serious injuries or damage, so law enforcement may not respond unless there are serious injuries or damage.
Step 3: Document the Accident Scene
You wouldn't believe how many times we have seen claims where the driver wasn't sure they had a case, but did an excellent job documenting the accident. This can enable our car accident lawyers to look at other aspects of law, such as improperly maintained intersections, to find ways to win your case.
Cell phone cameras have made documenting accident scenes much easier. Be sure to take photographs of the damage to all vehicles involved, license plate numbers, skid marks, broken glass, and anything else that may have been a factor in the accident. Try to get photos that show exactly where the cars started, where the collision happened, and where the cars ended up. Take pictures of other drivers if possible, including any injuries or wounds you can see. It's a good idea to photograph the driver's license and insurance cards also.
Step 4: Report the Accident to the Police
Even if police do not respond to an accident, you are still required by law to file a report of the accident with police. In most areas, like Philadelphia, you can file a report online. Pennsylvania law provides five days to file a report. When you file a report, you will need to give the information you collected about the accident to police. This information needs to include the names of involved persons, the vehicles, a description of the accident scene including location, and a description of what happened. The more complete your information is, the better the report will be for helping your case. This is why it's so important to document a crash completely.
Step 5: Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
As soon as possible after a car accident, you should contact your vehicle insurance provider. You will need to provide all of the relevant information you collected at the scene. Your insurance provider will probably assign an individual to investigate your claim. While this person should be working to your benefit, this isn't always the case. It's a good idea to have a friend or relative join you when speaking to insurance agents, even when they represent you.
Do not discuss your claim with insurance companies that do not represent you. The opposing company may try to get you to sit for a recorded deposition. Do not agree to this until you have spoken to your insurance company and they have instructed you to do so. Do not forget that insurance companies -maybe even your own- do not have your best interests at heart. It is their job to settle for as little money as possible, and they will use every dirty trick to reduce liability.
Step 6: Have Your Vehicle Inspected Independently
Your insurance company will probably have a repair shop come up with an estimate to repair your vehicle. It's a good idea to have your vehicle inspected by at least one other shop. In many cases, repair shops may identify additional damage or find that parts are more expensive than the initial estimate. Getting an accurate estimate to repair your vehicle is essential to your case.
Some of us really love our cars, and this next part can be devastating: most cars involved in significant accidents will not be repaired. It is the practice of most insurance companies to declare vehicles a total loss when the airbags have deployed. You can sometimes shop around to find a repair shop willing to repair your vehicle for a lower price, preventing a vehicle from being declared a total loss.
Step 7: Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
It's never too soon to contact a personal injury attorney after a car accident. You will need to find the best car accident lawyer to handle your case. Our office provides a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case, and we do not charge fees up front. If we don't win, you don't pay. A good car accident lawyer will be able to make sure you can get the medical treatment you need without paying out of pocket. You'll need personalized service like we offer to make sure your case is handled completely and correctly. Our team of lawyers will work diligently for you to make sure every step of your claim is handled correctly. Don't be shy about shopping around to find the best attorney.
Step 8: Do Not Miss Appointments
You will need to make an excellent effort to make it to every doctor's appointment, physical therapy appointment, or any other medical appointment having to do with your claim. If you miss an appointment, the defense team may use that as an opportunity to discredit the importance of your injuries, and you could even lose your case. Of course, sometimes life happens, and you won't be able to make an appointment. It's really important to contact the facility as soon as you know you won't be able to make your appointment and reschedule. Even missing a physical therapy appointment can cause damage to your claim.
Step 9: Keep Records
You need to document everything that happens after an accident. Keep a journal and record doctor's appointments, phone and email conversations, and even pain you are experiencing as a result of the accident. Don't forget to write down when you miss work -and lose wages- because of your injuries, doctor's appointments, and physical therapy. Your attorney will need to demonstrate how your injury has impacted your life. If you are able to provide detailed information about what you are experiencing, your attorney will have a much better chance of winning your claim. In fact, properly recording all of your experiences and losses may help get you the best settlement possible.
Step 10: Rest, Recover, and Be Patient
This is the most important part of all. If you follow the steps above, your claim will be in the good hands of a personal injury attorney who will work hard to get every penny you are owed. Car accidents are stressful, and the process of settling a claim is equally stressful, but listening to your attorney and following their guidance will give you the best shot at winning your case.
Don't forget that personal injury cases do not work like they do on TV, it may take as much as two years to settle your case, and major cases can take even longer than that. You will need to be patient so that your attorney can take advantage of the law to ensure you get the best benefits possible.
We know how scary, stressful, and frustrating a car accident claim can be. It's our job as car accident attorneys to protect you and to put you at ease. We pride ourselves on our personal dedication to each person we help. Our legal team will always treat every client with respect and trust. You will never be just a number to us, or just another collision case to file. We treat every individual we meet with the attention to detail and dedication that we would expect to receive ourselves in the same position.
Hiring our legal team puts you in the best position to win your case. We provide a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case. We will do the best we can to let you know how we can help and what to expect next. When we take your case, you won't have to worry about paying out of pocket. We will fight on your behalf from the first minute until long after your case has been won to make sure you and your family have the easiest path to recovery possible.