Nobody wants to get in a car accident, but it may happen sooner or later. Knowing what to do when it does is essential to getting through the process on top.
Brett McKay, contributor for the Art of Manliness, shared his first experience with a car accident when he as 16 and totaled his Isuzu Hombre when he rear-ended a Ford F-150. He reminisces:
“I remember getting out of my truck feeling sort of shell-shocked… I had no clue what I was supposed to do in a car accident, but I knew someone who did: dear old Mom…She was on the scene in no time flat, ready to basically take care of things for me.”
“But what would have happened if I had gotten in the accident when I was a few years older and hundreds of miles away from home at college?” he continues. “Would I have known how to handle the situation correctly without Mom and Dad? Probably not.”
This classic story is the plight of many people who find themselves in a car accident and don’t know what to do. Learning about post-accident procedures now could not only help you navigate an uncomfortable situation, but it may be a lifesaver following a serious accident. Here are some steps to take to protect yourself.
Move to a Safe Area
Most car accidents happen in the middle of the road with traffic surrounding them. Lingering in the roadway, particularly if you’re on the interstate, is extremely dangerous.
If possible, move yourself and your car to the side of the road or maybe a nearby parking lot. Don’t wander too far from the scene of the accident, as you want to be nearby for the police report.
If someone is injured, don’t move them without paramedic approval. Additionally, it might be impossible to move your vehicle, like if a tire blew out or your vehicle flipped. In this case, turn on your hazard lights to warn others that you’re staying put.
Call the Police
As a general rule, call the police if the damage to your vehicle totals more than $1,000. This means a tiny dent or a scratch does not merit a police visit as injuries are unlikely, and you can easily move out of the way of oncoming traffic.
However, more serious accidents need a police presence. Not only will they direct traffic around the accident, but they’ll file a report detailing the cause, damages, injuries, etc. They will also bring paramedics so that injuries can be cared for immediately.
A police report can be vital in making sure the at-fault party pays for the damages and medical bills in an accident. It’s extremely useful if you end up filing a personal injury case.
Handle Medical Needs First
Before anything else, take care of all injured parties. Paramedics should check everyone out and give you the okay to go home or head to the ER. This is critical, even if you were in a minor accident and feel okay at the time.
“Although you may feel fine now or think your injuries aren’t very serious, symptoms such as the following can appear days after the accident: pain, discomfort, dizziness, numbness,” warns an article from DMV.org. “Getting medical attention quickly isn’t just the best thing for your health; it also strengthens your personal injury claim. If you wait several days or weeks after the accident to seek medical attention, it will be harder to prove that your injuries were the result of the car crash.”
Take Pictures and Gather Eye-Witness Statements
If you’re physically able, gather your own evidence to prove who was at-fault and responsible for damages. Take pictures of your vehicle and the other person’s. Get the names and phone numbers of witnesses so that you can contact them in the event of a personal injury case.
This information can be vital if you’re pursuing a personal injury case, but it’s even more important if you caused the accident and the other party sues you. Many people will try to scam you, claiming that you caused more physical and vehicle damage than you really did. Your on-site research could prove them wrong.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve been seriously injured, it can change your life. You may have a lasting injury that can put you out of work or alter your lifestyle forever. You’ll also have mounting medical bills on top of that. You shouldn’t be held responsible for a car accident caused by someone else’s recklessness.
“The costs of a hospital stay, time away from work, a new car, and many other damages add up at lightning speed and immediately threaten your financial stability,” says an article from the Seattle personal injury firm Craig Swapp and Associates. “That’s bad enough on its own, but the stress and suffering multiply when you face all these challenges with the knowledge that the car accident that is plaguing you wasn’t your fault. If another party was at fault, he or she should have to help you deal with the financial fallout of your accident.”
Once the dust has settled, contact a personal injury attorney to help you fight for rightful compensation. This can be an essential part of closing your car accident case and helping you return to normalcy.