What to Do After a Car Accident: An Important Checklist for Protecting Your Best Interests
A car accident is a sudden and traumatic event that can change your life forever. What happens at the accident scene immediately following the crash is crucial for your physical, financial, and emotional future. When you experience serious injuries at the hands of a negligent driver, you may want to discuss your case with a car accident lawyer.
Seek Immediate Medical Attention
Once the impact of a car accident is over, checking yourself for signs of an injury is one of the first things you should do. Just because you don’t see blood or other obvious signs doesn’t mean you are not seriously injured. Several types of injuries have delayed symptoms or require medical tests to identify.
Common examples of silent yet dangerous injuries include:
- Internal bleeding – The loss of blood internally is very serious and can cause harm to major organs if left untreated. Internal bleeding can also result in hypovolemic shock, a life-threatening condition.
- Whiplash – This type of injury is most common in rear-end car accidents, although it can occur in any accident. The force of impact can cause the victim’s head to move back and forth rapidly in a motion similar to cracking a whip. Whiplash can cause damage to ligaments, muscles, and nerves in the neck.
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI) – The Centers for Disease Control defines a TBI as a bump, blow, jolt, or penetrating head injury that disrupts normal brain function. Signs of a possible TBI include drowsiness, confusion, and changes in mood or personality. A patient who experiences a TBI may not exhibit symptoms for days or weeks after the accident.
Seeking immediate medical attention is important not only for your health but also for any future litigation. Your visit to the emergency department is documentation of your injuries that resulted from the car accident. Medical reports can serve as valuable evidence should you decide to pursue civil action.
Try to Control Your Emotions
It’s often easier said than done, but you need to try to control your emotions at the accident scene. It’s understandable to feel angry or upset about what just occurred, especially when the accident was someone else’s fault.
The shock and fright of the crash can send your heart rate up and even result in shock. Doing your best to remain calm is your best option for your health, your safety, and your interactions with first responders.
Do Not Admit Fault
The impact of a car crash is so sudden that you may not know who was at fault. When any type of accident occurs, it is tempting to say “I’m sorry.” While you may indeed feel bad for the other driver, you must protect your best interests.
Never apologize to the other driver and do not let insurance companies pressure you into admitting fault. Let law enforcement do its job investigating the accident and determining who was at fault based on evidence at the accident scene.
If possible, take pictures and/or videos using your smartphone. If you can’t move around due to your injuries, ask a witness to assist you. Not only are witnesses valuable for helping you with collecting evidence, but they can also provide statements for your possible claim.
Refrain from posting your pictures on any social media channels. Ask your friends and family to also refrain from posting on social media about your accident. By avoiding social media you can avoid accidentally posting misleading information about the accident that the insurance company might use against you. Let the investigation of the crash take center stage after your accident.
Beware of Aggressive Insurance Companies
Insurance companies like to settle cases quickly and for the least amount of money possible. Their primary interest is in protecting their bottom line and not protecting you.
It is not uncommon for an insurance representative to contact you soon after the accident. No matter how friendly they are or how nicely they treat you, beware of their intent. If you accept and sign a settlement offer, you may forfeit your chance at any future civil action should your condition worsen.
It is in your best interest to not speak with insurance company representatives without legal representation. Trying to negotiate a settlement on your own may lead to disappointment and frustration.
Consider Discussing Your Case With a Personal Injury Attorney
A personal injury attorney can provide the help you need during this difficult time. Your serious injuries most likely require doctor’s appointments, missed time from work, and time recuperating in the hospital or at home. There may be no time to deal with the details of your accident.
Consulting with a personal injury attorney is a smart idea for several reasons. It can afford you the peace of mind that someone is protecting your best interests. It also means that a legal team is working to negotiate a fair settlement for you. The right attorney isn’t afraid to go to trial if they cannot reach the outcome you deserve.
Time is of the essence due to the statute of limitations, which sets a hard deadline for filing a personal injury claim. The clock starts the moment you become injured. Reviewing the details of your case and interviewing witnesses takes time. The sooner you contact a personal injury attorney, the sooner you can learn about your legal options and the likely outcome of your specific case.
Most personal injury attorneys offer free case evaluations, leaving you nothing to lose. While each case is different, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Property damage is often another component of personal injury cases, meaning possible compensation for the loss of your vehicle.
No one should have to pay out-of-pocket for damages caused by another driver. Drunk and distracted drivers, along with aggressive ones, surround us every day we get behind the wheel. By giving careful thought to pursuing a civil claim, you may feel better about the possibility of a brighter future for you and your family. Learn more about the time frame required and whether you have a claim by reaching out to a personal injury attorney today.