No one is ever expecting a car accident. It always catches you off guard, and no matter the damage or extent of injury, it’s natural to be shaken up by the occurrence. In such a case, it can be difficult to think clearly through the situation to best ensure your own safety and preserve your legal rights. That’s why it’s good to be generally familiar with the steps that you should take, in the event of a car accident, before finding yourself in this chaotic and dangerous situation.
To help prepare yourself for the unexpected, please consider the following seven things you should keep in mind immediately following a car accident.
1 Remain Calm
Not just in car accidents, but in any dangerous situation, the most important thing you can do is keep your cool so you can make the most sound decisions that will ultimately guide you out of danger and help you to best preserve your legal rights.
2 Assess Your Surroundings
Check yourself first. Are you injured? If so, to what extent? Once you’re able to assess yourself, it’s time to check up on your passengers, if any are present. Knowing the physical condition of yourself and passengers will help you determine the best course of action in removing your party from remaining danger (e.g., oncoming traffic).
3 Dial 911
Even if there are no serious injuries or significant damage to the vehicles involved in the accident, you should always call the police. When they arrive on the scene, the information they collect and document in their report will be critical for the pursuit of any insurance claim.
4 Communicate with the Police
Because the police report will be an important factor in the insurance claim process, it’s important that you accurately provide the pertinent facts and details to the investigating officers. If you’re asked a question, such as, “Are you injured?” be careful not to answer if you aren’t sure. Any answer you provide will be documented and can be used to either support or negate your potential insurance claim. Due to adrenaline, and the often slow-setting nature of neck and back injuries, you may very well be severely injured but not be immediately feeling pain or showing other physical symptoms.
5 Take Photos
While the police will make their own report on the car accident, it’s important that you also document whatever you can. One of the best forms of evidence is photographs. Today, virtually every phone manufactured comes equipped with an easy-to-use camera. Use your phone to take pictures liberally of the scene, and any damage to your vehicle and injuries on-site. Also be sure to take basic notes on everything from the other party’s license plate number, their license plate number, the time and place of the accident, and names and numbers of any witnesses present.
6 Seek Medical Attention
With many injuries, the faster you get medical attention, the stronger will be the recovery. Some injury types, such as injuries to the neck and spine, can be exasperated if not treated proactively. Be sure to keep a record of all medical expenses, from hospital bills to the costs of any prescribed medications and/or followup visits to the doctor.
7 Call A Car Accident Attorney
A car accident attorney can help you preserve your rights in the event that legal action becomes necessary. If you have not yet sought medical attention, many injury lawyers have a developed network to which they can refer you of local doctors and medical experts that are specialized in treating car accident injury victims.
Before making any agreements with your insurance company or a claim adjuster, you should first consult with an accident lawyer. Florida is among a small number of states that have no fault (personal injury protection) auto insurance. The purpose of personal injury protection is to provide up to $10,000 in immediate medical coverage as an alternative to establishing fault through litigation in the courts. While this PIP coverage is beneficial in many ways, it is not always sufficient to cover the extent of your medical expenses. Accepting this payment, or a similar agreement, will preclude your ability to seek additional compensation for your injuries. It may be your insurance company, but they are always looking out for their best interests. An accident attorney can help you through the negotiation process so that your best interests are represented and you are provided the level of compensation that justice demands.
Most of these tips can be summed up by saying, “think like a lawyer.” This doesn’t mean that litigation should be the first thing on your mind (far from it). Rather, you should try and take an analytical, well-reasoned, and professional approach in dealing with the aftermath of the accident. For example, don’t point fingers and contribute to a hostile situation with the other driver; no one is happy about being involved in a car accident, and any attribution of fault or blame can be worked out later with the cooperation of the police, insurance companies, and if necessary, personal injury lawyers. Be sure to get the medical attention that the situation dictates, and remember to document everything possible. And finally, always be prepared; you never know when an accident may happen.
If you have been injured in a car accident, call Collingsworth law at 321.222.0234 for a free, no-obligation consultation. We can help answer your questions and do our best to provide you some peace of mind during this difficult period.