On average, over 90 people die in car accidents across the United States every day. That means 3 million injured annually, with 2 million suffering from permanent injuries each year.
These numbers tell us that, despite our best efforts, auto accidents can sometimes be completely inevitable. Even if you drive defensively, you can't account for the actions of others or factors like the weather, which can affect driving situations even when you take all the right precautions.
However, something you can do is prepare yourself for the worst. In this article, you'll learn what to do after a car accident, and 11 vital actions you can take to give you the best chance at gaining insurance coverage, healing your injuries, and making sure you're financially protected.
1) Do Not Admit Fault
If you feel like you may have done something wrong, try to stop yourself from admitting what you think may have been your fault. Admitting fault can be used against you in the courtroom.
Don't apologize at the accident scene, either, even if it's just to be courteous. This can be interpreted as accepting fault. If what happens is clearly not your fault, it can be tempting to be sympathetic but try to keep your emotions in check.
Even if you believe what happened is partially your fault, do not admit this. When giving a statement, describe the events as you recall them. You should know that you are not required to speak to police officers, and you may have an attorney present when you are making statements to law enforcement.
2) Get the Other Driver's Plate Number
After the accident site is safely cleared, your priority should be to exchange information with all other persons involved. If the other driver doesn't share their insurance or contact information with you, get their plate number. You can also use your phone or camera to photograph the license plate. It's helpful to record information such as the make and model.
If the other driver escalates the confrontation or refuses to exchange information, call the police and provide them with what details you have available about what has transpired. Never escalate a confrontation with the other driver.
3) You Can Take Photos of the Accident for Your Protection
Taking pictures of the accident site can be a valuable resource for you, your insurance company, and any legal representation you work with later. It can also be used as a defense that what happened wasn't your fault. Taking photos of all motor vehicles involved and any property damage is crucial for defending yourself in court.
If you are looking to get reimbursed by the opposing insurance company, or if you want to fight them for an additional sum of money after a car accident, you need pictures as evidence. Accident photos of your vehicle will be beneficial in getting your insurance claim approved — and fast.
You are permitted to take photos of what has happened in a public place. Ensure to do this before a tow truck begins moving the vehicles because the moments after an accident are when all vehicles are in their original crash positions.
Insurance investigators will have an easier time understanding how the accident transpired, and you'll be able to prove the sequence of events leading to the accident in a much more specific and transparent way.
4) Your Car May Be Towed (Even If It's Driveable)
If your car has been in an accident and shows visible damage, the police may have the vehicle towed even if you can drive it. The towing will be covered if you are ruled not at fault.
If your car is towed, retrieve it from the tow company as soon as possible. If you don't, lot fees will accumulate, and you may end up paying a significant amount of money to get your car back. Your insurance company may be able to reimburse you, but your coverage will typically only cover a short period of storage time at the tow lot.
Law enforcement may opt to get your car towed if the vehicle has visible or significant damage. That's true even if it's still, technically, drivable and may occur even if the accident wasn't your fault. It's simply a precaution.
5) Serious Injuries May Not Be Immediately Obvious
Some injuries may not be immediately apparent. Adrenaline can block pain sensations, and some internal injuries do not manifest symptoms until they get worse. Severe injuries like internal bleeding do not always cause noticeable pain, but they can be life-threatening.
Even if you don't feel pain at the scene of an accident, you should still visit a doctor to make sure you are uninjured.
If you've already seen a doctor, go back again if any of these symptoms appear in the days following the accident:
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Headache or dizziness
- Pain in the chest, arms, back, neck, or jaw
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Numbness or bruising
Untreated pain can lead to more severe injuries, so you need to go back and get checked out if any symptoms appear.
Your doctor will better identify what injuries you may have and provide the best care possible. You also need a doctor's attention as soon as possible for the best chance at getting full insurance protections for medical issues.
Finally, it's not uncommon to experience emotional distress associated with the accident. In this case, you'll need to speak to a therapist or trauma counselor about the accident, and medical expenses may also be covered as a part of your insurance compensation.
6) You Can Get Your Deductible Back
If you're determined to be at fault for the accident, then your insurance company will have to pay for repairs. If you're not at fault, and it turns out that the other party was liable, then their insurance coverage will take care of the damages.
Your insurance company will typically pursue the other party to pay these expenses. This process, called subrogation, can even result in your deductible being paid back. If your insurance company can't recover its losses, you may be able to enhance your compensation with underinsured motorist coverage.
7) You Shouldn't Drive Until Your Car is Fixed, Even If It Seems Fine
After a major accident, your car needs to go through an inspection before you can drive it again. It may not be necessary for a minor accident, but it's never a bad idea to get it checked.
It's easy to overlook light malfunctions and small leaks, which can cause significant problems later on. Make sure to check all the lights, tires, and lug nuts before driving again.
You don't want to operate your vehicle with loose parts or faulty electronics, as this can lead to another accident—and this time, it may be entirely your fault.
8) Social Media Can Be Used Against You
If you're a party to an auto accident, keep the details to yourself. Parties such as law enforcement and insurance companies can view public statements like social media posts and use them against you.
You may think about posting something about your accident on Facebook or Twitter, but it is not recommended. There's the potential for somebody to take a screenshot and share it with the opposing side to give them ammunition.
Generally speaking, the best thing to do is avoid discussing your accident unless it is pertinent information that someone needs to know. For example, it's relevant to tell your family about the accident, but you don't need to share the details with your coworkers.
9) You Can Appeal an Adverse Decision From the Insurance Company
If you want to appeal an adverse decision by an insurance company, it is wise to prepare a supporting document with pictures of the vehicle. This will help you win your case in disputing fault after a car crash.
This is where accident photos can help build and support your case. Make sure to include a written account of your recollection of the accident along with any witness statements you gathered. You are also entitled to use the police report summarizing the accident scene.
If an insurance agent denies your insurance claim, ask to speak with the supervisor. Get all the details on why they refuse to approve your insurance claim and work with them until it is finalized in your favor.
You can file a complaint against the insurance company if you believe they are in the wrong. The insurance company would, of course, disagree with this assessment and have an opinion about your claim—this is where Schwartz Law Firm can help. We fight shady insurance practices tooth and nail to protect you from fraud and abuse.
And while we never want to see innocent clients wind up in the courtroom, our experienced trial attorneys are prepared to go to any lengths to fight for the compensation they deserve.
10) Don't Sign Anything Without First Consulting a Lawyer
It is the injured person's responsibility to have their case reviewed thoroughly by a lawyer. The insurance company wants as little as possible, but you can't trust them. They may try to resolve it quickly and not settle for anything less than they perceive as reasonable.
It's important not to sign anything without consulting a lawyer, especially in auto accidents. The insurer wants as little compensation as possible and will try to resolve it quickly, so you can't trust them. They may present paperwork that is not fair or reasonable. You should never sign anything that you are uncomfortable with or unsure of without consulting a lawyer to discuss the details.
Schwartz law firm has been protecting Louisiana residents for over 20 years against unfair settlements by insurance companies. Our team has helped thousands of people who failed to receive adequate compensation after an accident or injury. Schwartz law firm will fight for your rights and help you get the settlement you deserve.
We'll fight exploitative insurers to the full extent of the law and make sure they value your case as high as possible. We have experience with complex car accident cases, working closely with experts to ensure that you get all available benefits under state laws.
11) Never Lie, Embellish, or Withhold Information From Insurance Companies or Law Enforcement
It's important never to lie, embellish, or withhold information from insurers or law enforcement. Insurance fraud can cause the cost of auto insurance for honest customers to increase. You could be criminally liable for untrue statements you made to your insurer about the accident.
When you're in an accident, do not give any statements to anyone without consulting a lawyer. Even if you're doing your best to be honest, extenuating circumstances can cause you to say things that could be misinterpreted or misunderstood.
Insurance companies are familiar with this, and they know the tactics of dishonest people, so it's important not to act without representation from a qualified attorney. The expert attorneys at Schwartz Law Firm can advise you and prepare you for any interviews you may have to conduct with insurers, law enforcers, or court officials.
These 11 tips will help you avoid the many pitfalls of an auto accident. However, severe car accidents and collisions tend to become complicated. Furthermore, the process can take several months and involves multiple parties, from the other driver to insurance companies and law enforcement.
There are many pitfalls in the aftermath of a car accident, but Schwartz Law Firm is here to help. We'll review your case and help you gain back the compensation you deserve for injuries and damage sustained in an accident. Contact us now for a free consultation to get the compensation you deserve today.