Car accidents are common on American roadways and happen for a variety of reasons, not all of which are the fault of drivers. Tires burst, rainstorms happen, deer run out into traffic—there are countless reasons why accidents occur on and understanding how to react before they happen can make things so much easier for everyone involved. The following recommendations are simply guidelines as to what to do after an accident but will go a long way to protect you or your family from injury, lawsuit, or danger.
Stay in the Car Until it is Safe to Get Out
One common mistake the people make is to leave the vehicle quickly. Evolutionary “fight or flight” instincts make people either run or rage when afraid. Neither compulsion is good to have immediately following an accident for several reasons. One, someone may end up leaving the vehicle only to be hit by another car. Two, when angry and upset people meet there is high potential for a violent altercation of some kind. Three, you may be injured and not know it due to adrenalin and injure yourself further by attempting to leave the vehicle.
Before leaving the vehicle call for help. That will also give yourself time to calm down as you talk through the situation. Also, make sure that you can safely leave the vehicle without being hit by oncoming traffic before you leave it. If that is not possible, stay inside the vehicle until the police arrive.
Get the Police Involved
A lot of times drivers would rather not involve the police because of a past driving record, or maybe they are inebriated and don’t want to have a criminal charge. Some would prefer to “let the insurance companies handle it.” This is not acceptable. Potential rate hikes are no reason to lose legal protections or possibly even the maximum allowable claim. Having the police involved even for a fender bender insures that you will be able to get the money out of your insurance provider that you are entitled to under your plan.
The police perform three vital duties: 1) they secure the area and block oncoming traffic, 2) they prevent escalation of possible tension, and 3) they create a report which usually is highly accurate in regards to how the accident happened and who is at fault. Not always, but most of the time the police are pretty dead on when it comes to an accident situation.
Once the police are involved you will want to get a copy of their report to have on hand when speaking with your insurance company.
See a Doctor
This should happen immediately. If you feel injured go with the ambulance to the ER, but even if you don’t feel bad it is good practice to get checked out by a physician at an urgent care center. Many injuries are not felt the first day because of all of the chemicals the body produces when afraid or hurt. This will keep you from telling your insurance provider you’re fine and then later having speculation placed towards your claim for medical reimbursment should the injury appear later.
Call a Lawyer
Many attorneys offer a free fifteen minute phone consultation. Take advantage of one before calling your insurance company. Insurance companies work for their shareholders, not you. You will never maximize your claim without effort on your part. That requires knowing what you can legally obtain as a claim or settlement before speaking with an insurance representative.