Getting into in a car crash can be a traumatic experience. Your heart starts racing, emotions run high, and your mind begins processing everything that just happened. The fact that you just got into a collision can be very unsettling, and you may be in a bit of a state of shock wondering what to do next.
The first thing to do is take a deep breath and collect your thoughts. The actions you take right after getting into an auto accident will greatly impact your health and well-being, and your legal right to compensation if you are injured.
Here are some of the most important steps to take if you have been involved in a car accident:
Remain at the Scene
Never leave the scene of an accident until it is appropriate to do so. If you leave the scene right away and there are others involved who were injured or killed, it could be considered a “hit and run” and you may face criminal charges. No matter what the circumstances, always stay at the scene of the crash and exchange contact and insurance information with others involved.
Call for Medical Help
The first priority after any type of auto accident is to make sure everyone is okay. If any of the people in your vehicle or the others involved are hurt, call 911 to bring an ambulance to the scene. It is important to note that even with minor collisions such as fender-benders, injuries can still happen. In addition, some injuries are not noticed right away because they are masked by the adrenaline rush that happens when you get in a collision. If there is any possibility at all that someone might be injured, call for medical help just to be on the safe side.
Call the Police
If there are injuries, fatalities, and/or significant property damage, the police should be called to the scene as well. The police will be able to help secure the scene and regulate traffic, and they will also produce an official accident report. This report will be an important piece of evidence in helping to determine the cause of the accident in the event that a legal claim ever needs to be filed.
Create your Own Accident Report
Even though the police will have an official accident report, you should also create a report of your own. If you are able, right down in as much detail as possible what happened while everything is fresh in your mind. If you do not have anything to write with or you are unable to write, use the voice recorder in your smartphone to create an audio report that can be transcribed later. Finally, when the police report is available, ask to review it for any inaccuracies so corrections of any mistakes can be made right away.
Speak with Witnesses
If there are any individuals nearby who saw what happened, speak with them and obtain their contact information. In addition, ask them if they would be willing to provide a statement. Sometimes, a witness may allow you to record a video or audio statement at the scene, which you can add to your accident report file. Memories fade and stories can change later on, so if you are able to get statements from witnesses right away, this would be ideal.
Follow through on Medical Treatment
If you sustained any injuries, be sure to follow all the recommendations you are given by the health professionals involved. Go in for follow-up doctor visits and do everything your doctor tells you to do. For example, you may want to get back to work as soon as possible, and that is understandable. But if your doctor says you need a few extra days or even weeks to recover, do what he/she says. Remember, you have a legal obligation to mitigate your losses if you are injured in an accident. And if you try to return to work early and you end up aggravating your injury, the other side may argue that you did not live up to this obligation.
Speak Cautiously about the Accident
Whomever you are dealing with, whether it be the other driver, the police, witnesses, or your insurance company, NEVER apologize or admit any kind of fault for the accident. Alabama is a contributory negligence state, meaning that if you are found to have “contributed” in any way to the underlying accident (even 1%), you may be barred from recovering compensation for your injuries. Be courteous and polite; but leave the determination of fault to the experts.
Along the same lines, be very careful what you say to other people about the accident, particularly what is said in electronic form. Keep in mind that there is no expectation of privacy with social media posts, and anything you post about the accident is discoverable by the other side. Even if you set the most secure privacy settings, these posts still have a way of surfacing. The ideal thing would be to disconnect altogether from social media for a while as your injury claim progresses. But if that is too much for you, just be sure not to talk about the accident electronically.
Contact a Seasoned Car Accident Lawyer
If you have sustained injuries from the accident, you must realize that the insurance company is not looking out for you, and their interests are not aligned with yours. Their goal is to pay out as little as possible for your injury, and there are numerous tactics they may use to accomplish this goal. With so much at stake, you need an experienced advocate in your corner who is looking out for your interests.
If your auto accident occurred in Alabama, contact the season personal injury attorneys at Hedge Copeland. We have nearly half a century of combined experience successfully representing individuals who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents, and we have the knowledge, skills, resources, and commitment to help ensure that our clients obtain the most favorable result possible.
Call our office today at 251 – 432 – 8844 to schedule a free consultation and case assessment with a member of our legal team. You may also send us a message through our web contact form or stop by our Mobile office in person at your convenience.