According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as many as 6 million car accidents occur in America each year. Being involved in a car accident is an extremely frightening experience – you may find yourself struggling to think clearly and to keep from panicking. But if you know in advance some of the most important steps to take to protect yourself, it can help you to stay calm and make good decisions to protect yourself and your loved ones.
- Call 911
- Make an Official Accident Report
- Exchange Contact Information
- Contact Your Insurance Company
- Document What Happened
- See a Doctor
- Document All Medical Bills
- Hire a Lawyer
The actions you take immediately after being involved in an auto accident are some of the most critical. If you can keep your wits about you, make good decisions, and collect the right information, it can make a big difference, especially if anything associated with your case ends up going to court. Being prepared for an accident can help save you time, money, and heartache. In the event of a car accident, your main concerns are ensuring your own safety, along with that of others involved, plus following the law and getting the insurance claims process started when necessary. No matter who is at fault for your car accident, there are several specific steps you should take immediately following the crash.
While being in a motor vehicle accident can be jarring and scary, it’s important to keep calm and make sure to do the right things to protect yourself and anyone else involved in the accident. We’ve outlined some of the most important steps below.
Even if your car accident feels like a minor one, you should pull your car to a safe space and call 911 to report the accident. If your car is undrivable, leave it where it is, but get yourself and any passengers to a safe location away from traffic. A 911 dispatcher likely will send police and emergency medical personnel to the scene of the accident. You will need to provide appropriate street names, landmarks, and directions to help emergency responders find you.
Once they arrive, it’s important as well to be examined immediately by a medical professional, even if you believe you haven’t suffered any injury. It’s not uncommon for injuries related to car accidents to surface in weeks or even months following the crash. If your case does need to go to court, it’s important to have your immediate injury or medical condition documented as part of your medical records.
Calling authorities immediately isn’t just a good idea – in some states, it’s the law, especially if the crash results in injuries. In addition, make sure you remain at the scene of the accident until emergency personnel have cleared you to leave the area.\
When the police arrive at the accident scene, they will take official statements from all parties involved in the car crash, along with any witnesses. Provide as much detail as possible and answer all questions honestly and completely. The resulting accident report will be an invaluable resource for everyone from insurance adjusters to lawyers involved if your case ends up going to court. You will be able to request an official copy of the report once it’s officially filed.
A good thing to do while you wait for emergency responders to arrive is to gather as much information as you can about the other driver(s) involved in the accident, along with sharing your information. Make sure to gather and share contact information associated with all drivers’ insurance policies, and if you can, it’s a good idea to collect the other driver’s name, contact information, vehicle registration number, vehicle make and model, and driver’s license number. You should be willing to share your own information as well.
If there are any witnesses to your accident, make sure to collect their contact information and ask them to give an official statement to the police. If your case goes to court, your attorney may want to contact witnesses to collect additional information on your behalf, so you can follow up with them in the future.
Most experts recommend that you avoid discussing fault for the accident at this point. In other words, don’t accept responsibility or assign blame to the other driver(s) involved. Focus your conversation on contact information as much as possible. Once you file an insurance claim, the adjuster assigned to the claim will determine who was at fault. Factors include inspection of vehicle damage, information provided by all parties involved in the accident and witnesses, plus supporting documentation, like the official accident report or photographs taken at the scene.
It’s important to contact your insurance company right away following a car accident. An agent can help guide you through your next steps, including filing a claim with either your insurance company or filing a third-party liability claim if another driver was at fault. Regardless of who was at fault, you should contact your agent as soon as possible.
Every detail you can remember about the car accident may be important later. If your medical condition will allow it, try to write down everything you can remember about how the accident unfolded.
Take photos and video of the accident scene. This will help in the future to establish exactly what happened and exactly what damage and injuries were sustained in the car crash. Typically, the more documentation you have about your accident, the better able you are to make your case – whether with an insurance company or with a judge or jury.
It’s understandable that in some car accidents, you may not be in a position or state to immediately collect this kind of information. If your injuries are severe enough that you are rushed to medical care and unable to gather information from the accident site, information can be gathered after the fact on your behalf.
After being checked out at the accident scene by emergency personnel, it’s still a good idea to see your family physician or to follow other medical advice given by emergency responders. It’s important to establish a clear record of your medical condition, including any injury, after the accident, so you should make an appointment as soon as possible to see a health care professional. Make sure to keep a careful record of all medical appointments you attend. This information may prove invaluable if you need to establish the extent of injuries you or any passengers in your vehicle suffered in the accident.
Equally as important as documenting all medical appointments is carefully retaining records of all medical bills incurred as a result of your car accident. Your lawyer can help you organize these details into a comprehensive history that helps establish damages you may be owed if another driver was at fault for your car accident.
If you are injured in a car accident, it’s important to reach out to a qualified and trusted personal injury attorney, who can help you navigate the process and provide essential legal advice. It’s not uncommon for insurance companies to offer higher settlements to car accident victims who have lawyers representing them.
Hiring a lawyer can help take much of the stress associated with the aftermath of a car accident off your shoulders. A lawyer can help organize paperwork for submission to insurance companies, and in many cases, a lawyer can handle all interactions with insurance companies on your behalf. In addition, a lawyer can help if you need to recover costs for medical treatment, lost wages, etc., associated with your injuries.
In some cases of severe injury, a car accident victim may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The key determining factor is whether injuries suffered in the auto accident meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of “disability.”
To qualify for compensation, an injury must be severe and either last or be expected to last for at least a year, and the injury must render the victim unable to perform their normal work activities or to perform any gainful activity that earns more than the SSA’s accepted limit. In addition, the car accident injury must prevent the accident victim from being trained to do any type of work for gainful employment.
The most common impairments associated with car accidents for which SSDI benefits are awarded include damages to the musculoskeletal system – muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. These types of injuries are fairly common in car accidents and may include anything from broken bones and spinal cord injuries to severe burns, joint injuries, and even amputation of limbs.
Neurological disorders, impairment of hearing, and vision/speech impairment may also qualify a car accident victim for SSDI benefits and are common results of spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury. In some cases, the anxiety and depression that may follow the trauma of an auto accident can meet SSA specifications for disability compensation as well.
No matter your injury, you will need to present objective medical evidence supporting the conclusion that your auto accident resulted in an injury that prevents you from earning a living. Just because you suffer a type of injury listed above doesn’t mean your situation automatically qualifies for a disability benefit.
It’s important to remember that many claims are denied upon first review. The SSDI benefits process can be lengthy and frustrating. The good news is that, in some cases, the SSA may award disability back pay to compensate you for time spent waiting to hear your decision or for your disability claim to make its way through the appeals process. In addition, working with a qualified Social Security attorney can make the process much less painful.
It’s much easier to stay calm and be proactive after a car accident if you’re prepared in advance. While a car crash can be a traumatic experience for everyone involved, try to keep your cool in the moments following the accident. Seek medical assistance and document as much information as you can.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, talk to an experienced attorney. If your injuries are debilitating enough that you are unable to work for at least 12 months, you may want to apply for disability compensation. A qualified Social Security disability attorney can help you file a claim and collect benefits.