There are hundreds of benefits to living in a big city, including the resources available to you after an auto accident. However, there are some of the drawbacks, including the congested traffic which often leads to increased accidents. Navigating what to do after a car accident can be overwhelming. You need to deal with insurance company and getting your car fixed as well as getting medical care or taking time off work if you were injured in the crash. We’ve compiled a list of things for you to do after an accident so that you can focus on your healing during the stressful time.
Immediately Following the Wreck
Those first few moments after a car accident can be hectic, scary and traumatizing. How you’re feeling probably depends a lot on the severity of the accident. The first and most important thing you should do is assess everybody’s physical condition. Accidents can cause fatal and catastrophic injuries and the well-being of everyone involved is the most important thing to consider. From there, you can do several things to help prepare for the future of your case or the ease of getting everything figured out.
Call the Police
The police don’t necessarily need to be called for every traffic collision. If both parties are feeling okay, the cars are drivable and information is exchanged without any issue, it’s perfectly acceptable to leave if both parties agree. So, when should you call the police? The police should be involved in the following situations:
- Either you or the other driver sustained injuries
- The cars are not drivable, or are not able to safely drive, and will require a tow truck from the scene
- The wreck took place in an intersection or heavily trafficked area and it’s impossible to safely pull over to safely assess the situation and injuries
- The other driver is acting evasive, confrontational, aggressive or intoxicated
- You have concerns about the other driver’s insurance, your vehicle, your injuries, or something else
- You and the other driver are in dispute over who caused the wreck and what exactly happened
While the police aren’t needed in every situation, if you’re unsure of whether you require their assistance – call them! Sometimes, after asking you several questions over the phone, they’ll decide you’re okay to handle things on your own and they’ll simply fill out a form with the relevant information. Other times, they’ll help direct where you should go and they’ll call an ambulance while you’re waiting for them to arrive.
It’s important to note that if you start a personal injury case against the other driver and there are liability disputes, or the other driver doesn’t cooperate with their insurance, having a police report helps substantially with the ongoing investigations. A personal injury case should never be the sole reason you call the police, but it’s good to know what could happen with the facts and circumstances of what happens.
This should might seem obvious, but don’t just stop and license and insurance information! You want to make sure they had active insurance, which is listed on their policy information they give you. You’ll also want to take photos of their license, license plate and get their phone number if they’ll provide it.
If a defendant fails to cooperate after a wreck, their insurance company can deny your claim – how unfair is that! The more information you must prove that they were at the scene, and they were the one driving the vehicle, the more protected you are if something like this happens. We’ve even gone so far as to send photos of the driver driving the car or standing by the car to prove that they were the one in the vehicle when they fail to cooperate.
To the same point listed above, it’s helpful to document everything and anything. It’s overwhelming in the moments after a wreck, and your adrenaline is at an all-time high. While you might think you’ll remember every conversation and detail, you likely won’t once things have calmed down. That’s normal! But the best way to help yourself and your case is to document as much as possible. Here is a list of things you should plan on documenting while you’re at the scene:
- Your vehicle damage
- Their vehicle damage
- The intersection or location where the wreck took place, even if you moved your cars
- Your vehicles where you pulled off to exchange information
- The other driver’s insurance and license information
- The other driver’s license plate on their vehicle
- Any photos you can get of the other driver, the other driver by the car, or anything else going on
- Weather conditions if they were part of the collision
- Physical injuries if you have anything notable like immediate swelling or bruising
- Anything else you think might be important
Go to the Hospital
Injuries vary from person to person and accident to accident. You might feel soreness, but not quite require a hospital visit. You might need to go to the hospital just to be certain you didn’t get serious damage. You also might be unconscious and have no say in the matter of whether or not you’ll be transported to the hospital. When you call the police, they’ll ask if you an ambulance is needed and dispatch one right away. The police will also ask if you’d like to go to the hospital.
Something important to keep in mind is that the hospital is responsible for making sure you don’t have life-threatening injuries. As soon as they can confirm your life is safe, they’re not going to worry too much about soft-tissue damage. Unfortunately, soft-tissue damage is one of the most suffered from injuries after a car accident. It’s also common to take several days for the pain to manifest. Just because you were cleared from a hospital in the days following a wreck, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue with treatment, whether it’s with a physical therapist, chiropractor, or someone else.
In the Following Days
Once the immediate adrenaline from an accident subsides, you’ll likely be frustrated to notice that things don’t exactly calm down. There are several things for you to assess once the urgency on the day-of has passed.
Hire an Attorney
You don’t always need to hire a personal injury attorney, but if you sustained an injury of any kind, just know that you can. Personal injury attorneys can take over for you with the hassle of trying to figure out what to do after an accident. Many insurance adjusters will claim that you don’t need to hire an attorney because you’ll just end up paying them a portion of whatever you receive, but that’s simply not true. A personal injury attorney knows how to evaluate your case in a way that you probably don’t. They’ll fight for a fair offer for you, oftentimes an offer much higher than you would ever get without their help. In that sense, the attorney usually pays for themselves. Here are several instances where it might benefit you to get an attorney:
- You need medical treatment and don’t want to deal with using your own health insurance or paying out of pocket
- The other driver was cooperating at the scene but has since because evasive and won’t respond to you or the insurance company
- Liability (who caused the accident) is unclear, or the insurance company is arguing that you were partially or fully at fault, and you disagree
- Your injuries are more severe than you thought, or you’ll require treatment for many weeks or months
- The insurance company is taking far too long to return your calls
- The insurance adjuster isn’t negotiating fairly, using things like your social media, your past, or other intimidation techniques to make you think you have to accept a low offer
While these are just a few examples, there are several reasons why you might want to hire a personal injury attorney. It’s perfectly acceptable to want an attorney simply because you don’t have the time to field phone calls with insurance adjusters, auto-body shops, and chiropractors. An attorney can make things much easier for you, and many of them offer free consultations.
One of the most pressing things you need to resolve after a car wreck is the matter of your vehicle. The first question you need to ask yourself is whether or not the car is drivable as it is. Drivable doesn’t just mean that it starts and can get from point a to point b, but that it can do so safely. If your car is drivable, then you have a bit of flexibility in the timing of getting things fixed.
If your car is not drivable, but in your possession, you’ll likely feel pressure to get into a rental car and get your car fixed, but the good news is that you don’t need to worry about increased tow yard fees! However, if your car is not drivable and is located in a tow yard, that’s when you really need to pay attention.
After a few days, you’re responsible for “mitigating your damages,” which includes tow yard costs! That’s crazy, isn’t it? You might have been involved in an accident that you didn’t cause, but you need to make sure your car doesn’t sit in the tow yard for weeks on end.
So, how can you proceed in getting your car fixed after an accident? The easiest solution is by having the other driver pay for the damages, including the tow yard fees, a rental car for you, and either fixing your car or paying the fair market value if the vehicle is totaled. This can be problematic if you’re in a rush, because the other driver’s insurance company has time to investigate liability before paying for any of these damages. This investigation includes talking to their driver, getting the police report, obtaining photos, and more. Police reports take a few weeks and sometimes their driver doesn’t always call back. So, it may not be immediate.
You do have some options if you need to get into a car faster. You can go through your own insurance, even if you weren’t at fault. If you do this, you’ll need to pay your deductible up front. However, once the other driver’s insurance concludes their liability investigation and determines their driver was at fault and that there was valid coverage, they will pay you back for your deductible and they’ll reimburse your insurance company for the damage costs paid out.
If neither of these options are available, you can pay out of pocket for the damage, rental car, or rideshares that were needed during the period you didn’t have transportation. When the insurance company accepts liability, those costs will be reimbursed to you. In any case, a personal injury attorney can often expedite the process and get you solutions sooner.
Injuries and Medical Treatment
You’re going to want to be proactive about your injuries in the days following your wreck. If you went to the hospital, they may have told you to follow-up for further treatment or given you a prescription for the pain. You’ll usually start to feel pain from whiplash in 48-72 hours after a collision. If you hire a personal injury attorney, they can likely send you to a doctor under a letter that allows you to treat without paying out of pocket, with the promise that your attorney will pay for their services from the settlement at the end of the case. If you would rather treat with your health insurance, that’s not a problem at all. You’re entitled to get reimbursed for your damages, including medical expenses incurred and reasonable future medical expenses, so keep a list of everywhere you went or plan to go.
Along with getting reimbursed for medical expenses, lost wages and loss of earning capacity is a damage that you’re entitled to receive after an accident. If you have to miss time from work, whether it’s because you’re too injured to sit in a chair, your job requires physical labor that you can’t manage, or you simply have to clock out to make doctor’s appointments, keep track of all lost wages.
Weeks to Months after the Wreck
After things truly settle for your wreck, things will get much easier for you. Hopefully, the property damage is resolved, all discussions of liability are finished, and you’re solely focused on your treatment. If you hired a personal injury attorney, their communication probably won’t be as frequent while they wait for you to conclude your treatment.
It’s important following an accident to get thorough medical treatment. If your injuries are severe, follow your doctor’s instructions with appointments and follow-up care. If you still feel pain, be clear with your doctor because they might want to order imaging or send you to a different specialty to help clear up the issue.
Your attorney likely won’t want to start negotiating or send a demand until your treatment has concluded. This isn’t true in every case, but in the majority of cases, it’s important to know the full extent of damages before negotiating, so as not to cut you short from what you deserve.
Settlement or Filing a Lawsuit
In the months to years following your accident, depending on how long you need to go to treatment, you and your attorney will likely have a conversation about whether you want to settle your case or file a lawsuit. Oftentimes, this conversation comes after you’ve concluded treatment and they’ve sent a demand for your injuries and damages. If you choose to settle your case, your attorney will work it out with the insurance company, obtain reductions from various medical providers you used, and pay out the bills you instruct them to. If you decide the amount isn’t enough, isn’t fair, or was lacking in some other way, you have the option to file a lawsuit as long as it’s within two years of the wreck. If you file a lawsuit, you’ll proceed with litigation in the hopes that the insurance company will either make a higher offer, or the jury will award more than the insurance company had.
Accidents are traumatizing and take a lot out of you physically, mentally, and emotionally. There’s so much that needs to happen after a wreck, most of it creating more stress and heartache. An attorney can help you navigate what needs to happen and can oftentimes step in and do several of the tasks on your behalf. If you have any questions or doubts, most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations so you can discuss your options before moving forward.