What to Do After a Car Accident

What to Do After a Car Accident

Motor vehicles have traveled U.S. roads for well over a century. Fortunately, advancements in technology and innovation have significantly enhanced safety measures. Modern passenger vehicles are considerably safer than their counterparts from a hundred years ago or even a decade ago.

Despite these improvements, accidents and injuries remain a daily occurrence on American highways and streets.

Suppose you find yourself recently involved in a car accident with resulting injuries. In that case, feeling overwhelmed, confused, and uncertain about the next steps is normal.

The actions you take, or neglect to take, in the aftermath of the incident can profoundly affect your injury claim and your ability to recover the compensation you rightfully deserve.

To guide you through this challenging situation, contact our car accident lawyers and here are the essential steps you should consider after being involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in injuries.

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What to Do as Soon as Possible After the Accident

Some actions should be taken as soon as possible after the accident, though not necessarily immediately. Ensure you attend to your immediate medical needs first.

Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company

You are contractually obligated to report the accident to your insurance company promptly. Failing to do so might result in your claim denial or canceling your insurance policy.

With the convenience of today's technology, reporting the incident may not require a phone call. Depending on your insurance company, online reporting or the use of a mobile app may be available.

When making the report, anticipate questions such as:

  • Are you injured?
  • Did you seek medical care?
  • Was anyone else injured?
  • How did the accident occur?
  • Where did the accident take place?
  • What is the extent of the damage to your vehicle?

Remember, you have the right to consult with a car accident attorney before reporting the accident or any time after, allowing them to assist you and protect your rights.

Visit Your Doctor

If you haven't sought medical care, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent after a car accident but can manifest symptoms in the days or weeks following, such as back and neck injuries.

Seeking prompt medical attention can detect these symptoms early, ensuring you receive the necessary treatment. When your doctor documents your physical assessment, injuries, and follow-up care plans, it strengthens your case for compensation after the accident.

Additionally, adhere to the medical care and therapies recommended by your doctor or other healthcare providers. Non-compliance with their suggestions may diminish the value of your claim.

Secure Necessary Follow-Up Treatment

If you received initial care in the emergency room or from another healthcare provider, prioritize any necessary follow-up care and treatment. Following through with these recommendations serves your medical well-being and contributes to building a robust legal claim.

Whether it involves additional tests, treatments, or reevaluation of your injuries, faithfully follow the provided instructions to the best of your ability.

Keep Thorough Records

For several reasons, keeping thorough and organized records after a car accident is crucial. It helps you accurately assess damages, facilitates the insurance claims process, and provides essential documentation if legal action becomes necessary.

Your records should include:

The injured woman calling insurance assistance after an accident in Houston, Texas
  • Medical Bills: Medical bills are a significant part of your damages in a personal injury claim. They provide a clear financial picture of the medical expenses you incurred due to the accident. Keep copies of all medical bills related to the accident, including hospital stays, ambulance fees, doctor visits, surgeries, medications, and other medical services. 
  • Correspondence with Insurance Companies: Communication with insurance companies is vital for processing claims. Keeping records of correspondence helps track the progress of your claim and serves as evidence if disputes arise. Save copies of all emails, letters, and other written communication with insurance companies. Document phone conversations by noting the date, time, the name of the representative, and a summary of the discussion.
  • Police Reports: If a police report was filed, it serves as an official document detailing the circumstances of the accident and the officer's findings. It can be crucial evidence in insurance claims or legal proceedings. Obtain a copy of the police report and keep it in your records. Review the report to ensure it contains accurate details about the accident, the parties involved, witness statements, and the officer's opinion on fault.

Be Cautious of Insurance Adjusters

After reporting your accident to the insurance company, expect a call from the assigned insurance adjuster within a few days.

While adjusters may appear genuinely concerned about your well-being, their friendliness serves a strategic purpose. They aim to create a rapport that makes you feel they are on your side, enabling them to provide unsolicited advice.

Adjusters may assert that the insurance company will accept responsibility for the accident or try to talk you out of hiring an attorney, claiming they will only reduce the benefits insurance can offer.

However, insurance adjusters prioritize their interests and those of their employer, not the well-being of injured car accident victims.

While maintaining politeness and respect is important, it's essential not to fall for these tactics. Adjusters want you to believe they have your best interests at heart, as befriending you increases the likelihood of you freely discussing the accident, injuries, and other details that may benefit them.

For instance, innocent details about an old injury, recent job loss, or attending a barbecue before the accident may seem like friendly small talk.

However, adjusters can twist this information to their advantage. They might assert that your old injury, not the accident, is causing your new pain or insinuate that you are exploiting the accident due to job loss.

When dealing with adjusters, provide only the necessary information required for processing your claim, avoiding divulging more than required.

Hiring a car accident attorney can shield you from direct communication with the insurance adjuster. With legal representation, your attorney can manage interactions, safeguarding you from inadvertently making statements that can undermine your claim.

Never Provide Recorded Statements

Insurance adjusters often request a recorded statement over the phone, making it seem like a necessary step or implying that you will hurt your claim if you decline. However, giving a recorded statement is not legally required.

While providing a recorded statement may appear like no big deal, the insurance company deliberately aims to create this perception. The challenge with recorded statements lies in the adjuster's experience framing questions during this process. 

Since the statement is recorded, there's no disputing what you said, and adjusters may exploit this opportunity to manipulate your words or extract statements you may not entirely mean.

If you proceed with a recorded statement, anticipate questions like:

  • Did you consume alcohol at the barbecue?
  • Were you aware of the oncoming car?
  • Is it accurate to say you felt tired that day?
  • Did you make every effort to stop in time?

Some adjusters might employ tactics to elicit emotional responses or test your composure during the conversation. If they sense caution in your responses, they may introduce negative comments to provoke a reaction and encourage further discussion.

You may terminate the conversation or decline a recorded statement at any point. If you enlist legal representation, inform the adjuster that they can communicate with your attorney for additional information.

An attorney can play a crucial role in protecting you against these well-known yet effective tactics employed to deny your claim or undervalue its worth potentially.

Review Your Auto Insurance Policy Coverage

Car insurance policy documents, glasses, pen, and coins arranged on a table. Concept of insurance and business background.

Regardless of fault in the auto accident, you may need your own auto insurance coverage to cover some or all of your damages. While you can't go back and change what policies and parameters you had in place at the time of the accident, now is an opportune moment to examine your policy carefully, understanding the available coverages and their respective limits.

Additionally, consider adjustments to your policy based on this experience. The coverages you might need to depend on include:

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

If an uninsured driver collides with you or you fall victim to a hit-and-run accident, your uninsured motorist coverage becomes crucial in covering your damages. Underinsured coverage is applicable when the other driver's insurance policy is insufficient to cover your damages.

For instance, if the other driver's liability policy limit is $10,000, but your medical bills amount to $20,000, you can file a claim on your underinsured policy for the additional $10,000.

Medical Payments Coverage

Some states mandate medical payments coverage (Med Pay), while others do not. Med Pay covers medical-related expenses resulting from a car accident. In a no-fault car accident state, where fault doesn't determine access to compensation for medical care, Med Pay becomes essential in covering medical bills.

Collision Coverage

Although collision coverage is optional, having this coverage at the time of your accident allows you to file a claim under it. If you choose to use collision coverage, you will be required to pay a deductible to get your car repaired or replaced. Subsequently, your insurance company will seek reimbursement through subrogation from the at-fault driver's insurance company and refund your deductible.

Rental Car Coverage

While not obligatory, rental car coverage can be a valuable addition. If you have this coverage, it helps pay for a rental car while your damaged vehicle is undergoing inspection or repairs. Typically, rental car coverage reimburses a set daily amount, up to a predetermined total amount per accident.

Reasons to Seek Representation from an Experienced Car Accident Attorney

After a car accident, many people wonder if they need to hire a car accident attorney. While it is possible to handle your case on your own, seeking legal representation has numerous benefits.

Toy car model, sound block, and gavel on a wooden desk. Symbolizes car accident, lawsuit, justice, and legal services concept.

A car accident attorney has a deep understanding of personal injury law and can navigate the legal complexities of your case. They will advocate for your rights, build a strong case, negotiate with insurance companies, and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

In fact, studies show that injured parties who hire an attorney typically receive more compensation for their damages, even after paying their attorney and legal fees, than those who don't hire an attorney.

Consulting with a seasoned car accident attorney following an injury incident is crucial, providing insights into your legal rights and the potential value of your case. Taking prompt action to meet with an attorney is advisable, as delays may result in claim complications.

Preservation of Crucial Evidence

An attorney can assist in collecting and preserving evidence vital to support your car accident claim. This may involve obtaining photographs of the accident scene, documenting your injuries, and compiling your medical bills. The sooner the evidence is gathered, the lower the risk of it being lost, damaged, or destroyed over time.

Every state establishes its statute of limitations, a legal provision dictating the timeframe for injured individuals to file a legal claim. Statutes of limitations vary, with some states imposing deadlines as short as one to two years while others extend up to five or six years from the accident date.

Exceptions may apply in specific circumstances, such as claims involving minors or government entities. Seeking guidance from an attorney is essential to determine the applicable statute of limitations for your unique situation. Failing to file a lawsuit within this timeframe forfeits your right to pursue compensation through the civil legal system.

Avoidance of Serious Errors

Hiring an attorney early on minimizes the likelihood of making devastating errors that can significantly impact your case.

Common mistakes, such as neglecting follow-ups with medical providers, making statements to insurance adjusters that can be used against you, or sharing accident and injury details on social media, can be avoided with timely legal counsel.

An attorney protects you and ensures you navigate the legal process with prudence.

The Importance of Taking the Proper Actions Following a Car Accident

Stewart Guss
Houston Car Accident Attorney, Stewart J. Guss

Car accidents can be a traumatic experience, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and unsure about what to do next. From dealing with injuries to navigating insurance claims, the aftermath of a car accident can be complex and confusing. That's why it's crucial to know the right steps to take to protect yourself and your rights.

Your actions after a car accident can significantly shape your life and finances in the long run. The timeliness of seeking legal representation and obtaining necessary medical care can play a pivotal role in your physical and financial recovery from injuries.

Schedule a meeting with a qualified personal injury lawyer as soon as possible so you follow the essential steps required to optimize your compensation.