If you’ve been injured in a car accident, the most important thing is to get medical aid for yourself and anyone else who got hurt. However, you must also do your best to protect yourself legally and support your insurance claim. The next thing you should do is talk to an auto accident lawyer.
We know how confusing it can be in the hours and days after a car accident. That’s why we have distilled all you need to know in this simple guide, so just follow the steps we’ve outlined.
I’ve Been In A Car Accident — Now What?
Most state laws require every driver involved in a car accident to stop and give information and assistance. If you fail to stop and the accident results in injury or death (hit and run), you could be charged with a class 3 or class 2 felony. Even if nobody else seems to have been injured:
- Give your name, address, and registration to other parties involved in the accident, including police officers
- Get the other driver’s name, address, and car license number
- Render “reasonable assistance” without endangering yourself or others
Failure to give this information can cause you to be charged with a class 3 misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $500 and 30 days in jail. You don’t need to call a police officer if the accident is a fender bender, but we strongly recommend that you do so.
A Car Accident Lawyer’s Guide to Handling An Accident
1. Stop your vehicle safely
If your vehicle is still in motion after a car accident, your first duty is to safely bring it to a stop. Find a safe place alongside the road away from other vehicles, put your vehicle in park, and survey the scene before getting out.
If you can get out, put your hazard lights on and place safety cones at a distance of 40 paces or 120 ft from your car. You can also place more cones between your car and the road at a distance of 6 ft to warn other drivers.
Please note that if you have been injured and are experiencing pain or bleeding, it’s wise to wait in the car for help unless doing so would put you in more danger.
2. Call 911 or the police
Whether you’re able to exit your vehicle or not, the most important thing is to survey yourself and other people for injuries and get medical help. Check if anyone is stuck in their vehicles, whether there is a fire or any other signs of danger, then determine your exact location.
With this information, call 911 and give as much detail as possible. State your location and your identifying information as clearly and accurately as possible. The dispatcher may also want you to describe the injuries you or other people sustained in the accident, so stay on call.
If there’s no need for emergency services, call the police so they can examine the scene, interview witnesses, and write an accident report. This report will be invaluable for claims or lawsuits, and it also ensures other parties won’t change their story or incriminate you later.
3. Get medical aid if you or someone else is injured
If you’re able, most states require you to render “reasonable assistance” to anyone hurt in the accident. “Reasonable assistance” means that you determine help is needed or the injured person requests it, at which point you or someone else must provide assistance.
This includes emergency care (only if you’re qualified) and organizing transportation to a hospital if an ambulance is not immediately available.
4. Exchange information with the other party
According to Arizona law, you need to exchange personal and insurance information with the other driver. That includes the other driver’s vehicle registration number, name, and address. You can get all this information by simply asking them for their license.
Drivers who don’t have a license or up-to-date insurance can lie about this information. That’s why it’s important to verify all the information you receive, even if you expect the police to come. Doing so also protects you in case the other driver decides to leave the scene.
5. Document the scene with lots of pictures and videos
When you will be filing for compensation, one of the most important pieces of evidence will be photos and videos of the accident scene. If you can’t do it yourself, have someone else capture photos and video of the damage to each vehicle and road conditions.
Road conditions include stop signs, skid marks, traffic lights, road markings, and anything else that may help you prove fault later.
6. Collect witness information and statements
In addition to recording photos and video, it’s also important to take the contact information of witnesses at the scene. Witnesses are difficult to track down after an accident, so you or someone else should record their names, addresses, phone numbers, and place of work.
If you can, get video, audio, or written statements of the witnesses detailing what happened during the accident. Witnesses can be pedestrians, passengers, emergency responders, or even people living or working near the scene.
7. Call your insurance company as soon as possible
Your insurance company expects you to inform them of the accident within a few days at the latest. Even if the accident wasn’t your fault, you’re still required to inform your insurer and provide the personal and insurance information of the other driver.
You also need to submit any evidence you obtained at the scene of the accident including pictures, witness statements, a copy of the police report, and the contact information of witnesses.
8. Keep a record of everything
Even after leaving the accident scene, you need to keep collecting evidence and documenting what happens to you. Keep medical bills, receipts for car receipts and rentals, and any medical documents detailing the nature and extent of your injuries.
You must also attend all medical sessions required and follow all instructions by your doctor. We recommend keeping a journal of everything that you see, feel, and pay in relation to the accident and your health.
Similarly, keep a record of any lost income or wages such as pay stubs or W-2s, which will be used to determine how much compensation you get.
9. Talk to an car accident attorney as soon as you can
There is one last step that most people forget: talk to a car accident attorney as soon as you can. The at-fault driver’s insurance company may contact you with a settlement offer after the accident, but you shouldn’t accept it or even negotiate without your attorney being present.
Insurance companies can take advantage of you with a lowball offer. Signing it locks you from further compensation in the future, even if your injuries prove to be more serious. Instead, let an experienced car accident lawyer represent you to make sure you get maximum compensation.
An attorney is also vital in case you need to sue for more money than the other party’s insurance company covers, or in case you get sued yourself. And since many car accident attorneys charge on a contingency basis, you won’t pay anything unless you win your claim.