Being in a car accident is a terrifying experience. Sadly, it doesn’t always matter how careful you are on the road — it’s often the fault of another driver. You can take all the precautions, but if another driver is drunk behind the wheel, speeding, or driving through red lights, the chance of a crash happening skyrockets.
Whatever the events leading up to your accident, there are some vital steps to take should you ever find yourself dealing with the aftermath of a car crash.
These actions will not only ensure you get the medical treatment you need, but they may also prove vital if you intend to file a compensation claim.
Document the Accident
If you’re in an accident on the road, this is your first chance to gather evidence of what happened. If possible, take photos of the scene — including the vehicles involved — and any physical injuries you’ve sustained. You should also gather the names and contact details of any witnesses to the accident who can corroborate what happened.
If your auto accident happened in the past, it’s unlikely you’ll have the opportunity to gather evidence from the scene. Any debris will have long since been cleared, and your injuries are likely already healing. In this case, all is not lost. There’s a bundle home and auto insurance if you’re interested to check this out!
After an accident, police will usually be called to the scene, where an investigating officer will create a crash report. This details various things, including the people involved in the crash and their injuries, a narrative of how the accident unfolded and the damage it caused, and any potential factors that led to the accident.
An officer can choose from 65 possible report codes when determining the factors leading to an accident, ranging from driving while fatigued or using a cell phone to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is among the most crucial parts of the report, as these “contributing factors” can help prove liability. For example, if the crash report states the other driver didn’t see you and rear-ended your car because they were texting on their cell phone, this goes a long way to proving you were not responsible. This is vital evidence for a personal injury claim and gives you the best chance of recovering your medical expenses, lost wages, and potentially other damages from the at-fault driver.
You can get a copy of your crash report from your state’s Department of Transportation. If you choose to hire a lawyer, they can get a copy on your behalf. When you have your crash report, it’s vital to read the law enforcement officer’s narrative and the contributing factors. If you believe there are mistakes or inaccuracies in your report, raise these with an attorney. While judgment errors in a report (such as stating you were intoxicated when you were simply confused) can be tricky to dispute, the investigating officer’s opinion of the events is just that — an opinion.
Get Medical Treatment
An auto accident can cause devastating injuries. Even a “minor” crash can result in broken bones that take months to heal or a concussion that affects your concentration and coordination. More severe crashes can lead to long-term or permanent conditions that affect you for the rest of your life, such as paralysis, disfigurement, or loss of limbs. Of course, many accidents also cause death.
Because car accidents are so dangerous, it’s vital to see a doctor after your crash — even if you feel fine. If you’re a little shaken and only have a few cuts and bruises, you may be tempted to avoid treatment — and the medical bills that come with it — and instead recover at home. But injuries can worsen over time, and some don’t show symptoms until hours or days after your accident. You may develop a concussion and suffer chronic headaches months after your crash. Similarly, you may have ringing in the ears and bouts of dizziness caused by whiplash you weren’t aware of because your adrenaline was rushing at the time.
If you don’t seek medical attention at the time of your accident and later decide to claim compensation to cover ongoing medical bills because you can’t work, you may struggle to get the amount you’re entitled to. The other party’s insurance company may argue that your injuries happened well after the accident, and they aren’t liable. Seeing a doctor allows you to get medical treatment and provides ample evidence of your injuries.
Contact a Personal Injury Accident Lawyer
If you were in an accident caused by another driver, your next step should be to contact a personal injury lawyer. You may be entitled to substantial compensation to cover your past and future medical expenses and lost wages. You might also be able to claim additional damages if the accident has changed your life or caused you pain and suffering, such as chronic pain, incapacity to work, or being left in a wheelchair as a result of the accident.
Depending on your location and the laws of your state, you may be able to claim compensation even if you are partially responsible. For example, in Texas, you can claim compensation if you were less than 51% at fault for your accident. This means that if the other driver was intoxicated but you were not paying complete attention to the road at the time of the crash, you may be entitled to a reduced amount. In this case, a dedicated car accident lawyer in San Antonio can advise you on how much you could receive in a settlement.
An attorney won’t only file your claim; they will also negotiate with insurance companies to secure a fair settlement, gather evidence to support your claim, and even postpone payment of your medical bills until after your claim is settled. This lightens your financial burden and allows you to focus on your recovery.
When it comes to filing a claim, time is of the essence. Each state has a personal injury statute of limitations, limiting how long you have to claim after your accident. If you don’t file a claim within this time, you release the at-fault party of any liability, even if your injuries are severe and life-changing. By following these steps, you’ll be prepared after a car accident so you can get the compensation you deserve.