If you do a search for this question, you've probably found most sites address what to do while you are the scene of an accident. Let's face it, if you are in an accident, you are not doing a search for what to do. This articles addresses those things you should do in the days after an accident. The advice below is applicable to any automobile accident you are involved in. If you learn nothing else from this web site, be sure to follow the six steps which follow.
Make a police report.
Hopefully you already made a police report at the scene of the accident. If not, you should go to the police department for the town or city in which the accident occurred and make a police report. You can make a police report at any time, even after an accident. You can make a police report even if the other driver is not present. You can make a police report even if it was a hit and run accident. A police report is the only proof that an accident occurred. Exchanging information with the other driver, with his or her assurances that "they will take care of everything," is not enough. Make a police report.
Ideally, it is good to take photos at the scene before the cars have been moved. But, we don't always think of that. The next best thing is to take photos of the damage to your car as well as any bruising, cuts or any other visible reminder of the accident. The expression "a picture is worth a thousand words" is even more important when it comes to a car accident. Injuries heal, cars are repaired or totaled, but photos live forever. If you have to go to the tow yard to take photos, by all means do so. Don't forget this important step.
Call your insurance company
But the accident wasn't my fault, why should I call my insurance company? First, your insurance may be able to help you with your claim. They may be able to expedite getting your car fixed or your medical bills paid. The insurance company for the other driver may be a substandard carrier which may mean difficulty getting your car fixed or your medical bills paid. Second, although the other driver showed you or the police an insurance card, it does not mean that their insurance was valid. You may find out days or weeks after the accident that their insurance was not valid. Your accident may become an uninsured motorist claim. You may not feel like the accident was your fault, but the police may have written the police report up in a way which casts doubt on how the accident occurred. If there is any doubt in how the accident happened, your insurance company needs to know. This is why you have insurance in the first place. Finally, your insurance rates will not go up simply because you report the accident to your insurance company. If the accident was not your fault, reporting the accident does not count as a claim. Report the car accident to your insurance company.
Seek medical attention
If you are experiencing ANY physical symptoms from the accident, you should go to the emergency room or your doctor. You do not need to go to the emergency room directly from the accident. But, you should seek some sort of medical attention as soon as practical, in no event more than one week after the accident. If you wait to see the doctor because you hope the pain resolves on its own, and it does not, it may be too late to include the treatment in a claim against the other driver's insurance. Insurance companies and juries figure that people who are hurt go to the doctor, people who are not hurt, do not go to the doctor. This is not always true, but that is how they evaluate cases and claims. Most pain and injuries resolve after an accident, but for those cases where the injuries are more serious than they initially appear, seeking prompt medical attention is critical to proving your case.
Remove valuables from your car.
If a tow truck takes your car to a salvage yard, you should go and remove your valuables from the car. It is not unusual to have things stolen from your car so it is best to remove any valuables. While at the tow yard, remember to take photos of your car. If the car is clearly totaled, remove your license plates as well.
Protect your rights.
You may feel that the accident was not your fault and the other insurance company will take care of everything. You may be right and they will. But if insurance companies treated everyone fairly and honestly, there would be no need for lawyers and insurance companies would probably be out of business. The reality is that insurance companies are in the business to minimize paying out claims. You may be against lawsuits or not want to pursue a claim. That's fine too, but the only one who benefits is the car insurance company. An experienced personal injury lawyer can handle every aspect of your accident, allowing you to focus on recovering or getting on with your life.
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