The moment you are involved in an car accident, you may be injured and/or there may be a rush of adrenaline and chances are you will not be thinking clearly on what steps you need to take to protect and help yourself. However, here are 10 tips to remember:
Call the police
Once you have turned on your hazard lights or are in a safe location call the police. You may be tempted NOT to call the police; perhaps because you feel like the accident was not that bad. Maybe the other drivers involved will try to convince you that the police do not need to be called. However, always notify the police if you have been in an accident. The police report will put the facts on record so no one tries to change their story later.
If you or a passenger are hurt, seek medical attention immediately
If immediately after the collision the police or someone asked you how you are feeling, be honest and encourage others to do so as well. Often times people can be so worried about others or so flustered by an accident that they fail to honestly evaluate the condition of their body. When you are unsure, play it safe, and have a paramedic or doctor evaluate your or your passenger's health. Do not be afraid to be transported to the hospital if you think it is necessary.
Make sure a police report is taken
If you are well enough to stick around the scene of the accident, make sure a police report is taken. Again, be honest, explain the accident exactly as it happened, and do not play the blame game. The police officer will be able to determine who is at fault and will issue appropriate citations. However, if the other driver is not cited, it does not necessarily mean they were not at fault, so try not to worry too much about it. Ensuring a police report is taken will put the facts on record and it can be used as a reference later. Finally, when an accident report has been taken you will receive a slip from the police officer. Keep the accident slip they give you, as it will make finding and requesting your accident report much easier.
Get the phone number and contact information of any witnesses
Get the phone number, names, license plate numbers, anything you can from witnesses. Immediately after an accident, people don't always think of this but witnesses can help to verify the facts of the accident. See if witnesses will stick around until the police arrive. If not, get their contact information. Keep a copy of their contact information for further reference and give it to the police officer as well.
Almost everyone carries a smart phone that can take photographs. Be sure you or someone with a camera phone snaps pictures of the accident and the vehicles. This will help corroborate the police report, it will show the damage that has been done to your vehicle, and it will show how the vehicles were positioned after the accident. Also, take pictures of your injuries. You may do this later at home or if appropriate while you are at the scene. Such pictures not only preserve the evidence long after your body has healed but they may also assist the doctors or chiropractors in determining exactly how your body may have been injured.
Take your own notes of what happened before you drive away
Keep a few pens and some paper in your car so that in the event you are in an accident you can jot down some notes about what happened, how it took place, how your body felt after words, etc. Accidents can be very stressful and the events that occur after an accident can happen quickly. Writing everything down will help you to remember how the accident happened and you may need to refer back to them later.
Take an inventory of anything that was damaged during the accident
Before you drive away, look around and see if anything in your car was damaged such as sunglasses, an iPod, a phone, personal items, etc. This information may be of use in determining an appropriate amount of compensation for property damage. Keep in mind too, child seats should always be replaced after an accident even if they appear to have not been affected.
Seek follow-up treatment
If you are not hurt bad enough that you do not feel you need to go to the emergency room but you feel you may have been injured, be sure and schedule follow up care that day or the day after the accident. Many times people are tempted to wait it out and see if the pain goes away. They wait days or even weeks to see if the pain will go away. If it turns out that you need treatment for your injuries a few weeks after the accident but you didn't consult with your primary care physician or an urgent care facility, most insurance adjusters will downplay your injuries arguing that if you were really injured you would have seen a doctor immediately. The longer the gap between the accident and when you receive treatment the more complicated it can make your case.
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