How to Protect Yourself After a Car Accident

March 7, 2014 @ 10:22 pm

iStock_000014684315MediumWe’ve all been there. Your car is stopped on the side of the road, your muscles are tense from the shock of an unexpected impact, and you’re just trying to figure out what you should do to get back on track with your day. But how do you make sure you protect yourself in the case of a personal injury suit or insurance dispute?

First Steps

First, check to make sure all parties are not seriously injured. If anyone is injured, call an ambulance and follow all directions that EMTs and doctors give you. If your car can be moved, get out of traffic. When in doubt, call law enforcement authorities. Official reports from these professionals will provide critical documentation in the event you make an insurance claim or file a lawsuit.
When it is safe, take pictures of the damage to all vehicles, any injuries to yourself or others, and any environmental factors that could have caused the accident. These will help verify your story and give context to the incident for any legal proceedings.

Talking to Other Parties

Regardless of whether law enforcement is involved, always obtain the other party’s insurance information. It is usually best to limit discussions at the scene to checking on injuries to the other parties and obtaining insurance information.

Insurance adjusters may ask you for a written or recorded statement after the accident. Generally, it is best to avoid giving recorded statements following accidents, as a primary goal of the insurer may be to use your statement against you. Most importantly, be extremely cautious about signing any papers given to you by an insurance company following an accident, as insurers often try to obtain “releases,” which prevent you from filing a claim related to the accident.

If there are independent witnesses present at the scene of the accident, get their names and phone numbers in order to get information for police and insurance companies.

After you’re home

Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. You can usually find forms and information about what to send on their website. Make sure in the coming days to keep all your records, including medical bills, letters and papers that can prove damages. Another important activity is to write down your recollection of the events in as much detail as you can, from the weather to the traffic conditions to the actual events of the accident. If the injury or property damage was serious, chances are the case can drag on for a significant amount of time. Recording the details of the scene while they are still fresh in your mind will help you keep your story straight and lend veracity to your claim in the coming weeks or months.

It is often helpful to get a lawyer involved for many property damage or personal injury cases. Typically, the greater the damage to person and/or property, the harder you will have to fight an insurance company to be made whole. If you are unsure about whether your claim requires the help of an attorney, it is a good idea to set up a consultation and determine whether you need representation.