Car accidents can be incredibly traumatic experiences that cause catastrophic injuries. Even small accidents that involve little damage or few injuries can cause emotional trauma. For some, it can be hard to even get in a car in the weeks following an accident, let alone drive one again. Driving is a huge part of our lives. It’s how most of us get to work, take trips, and visit our friends and family, and it shouldn’t be something we’re afraid to do.
In the moments after an accident, you may be in a state of shock. There’s a lot to think about in those first few minutes. Knowing what you should do after a car accident is great, but knowing what not to do can also make a big difference in the outcome of any potential settlements.
What NOT to do After a Car Accident
Most of us put a lot of thought into the information we are supposed to gather after an accident; what we need to write down, what we need to say, and who we need to speak to. Unfortunately, in taking these steps, you can easily say or do something that could make your case more difficult down the road.
Here are some of the most important things you should never do immediately after an accident:
- Don’t leave the scene. Whether the accident was our fault or not, you need to stick around. In some places, leaving the scene of an accident is a felony, so as much as you’ll probably want to go home, just stay put and tough it out.
- Don’t apologize. One apology can quickly be taken as an admission to guilt. You may feel like you should, or you may think it will make you feel better, but this simple mistake can be a case killer. Don’t do it.
- Don’t make any admissions or claims: No matter how right you think you are, just keep it to yourself. Your feelings and opinions about the accident are best discussed with an attorney and no one else.
- Don’t lose your temper. Yelling and cursing may make you feel better at the time, but this kind of aggression could be used against you later. The few seconds of relief it offers you is not worth the risk.
- Don’t speak to the other party’s insurer or attorney. More likely than not, they’ll do or say whatever they can to get you to either admit liability or release them from theirs. If they call you, don’t say a word. Simply refer them to your attorney at Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop P.C. and let us handle them.
- Don’t take the first offer. This one goes hand in hand with not speaking to anyone representing the other driver. One of the things they’re likely to do is offer you a pathetically small settlement in the hopes that you’ll accept it without question. Never talk money with anyone, until you’ve discussed it with your attorney.
- Don’t operate under a “gentleman’s agreement”. The other driver offering you cash or asking that you come to an agreement without contacting the police should be a huge red flag. While he may keep his word, there is a far greater chance that he won’t. His insurance may be out of date or fake, he may not have anything to pay you with, and the contact information he provides could be falsified. In short, always involve the authorities so that they can create an official record of the incident.
What You SHOULD do After a Car Accident
The most important thing to do as you exit your vehicle is to check yourself and others for injuries. In addition to our tips regarding what not to do, remember that the following should be done ASAP or before the accident scene has been cleared by the police.
- If you haven’t already, call 9-1-1. We’ve already mentioned how important the police are in regards to creating an official report. They can also help clear debris, address any injuries, and arrange for a tow truck to transport your vehicle.
- Get to safety. Move any vehicles involved (assuming they are able to be moved safely). You should also get yourself and your passengers out of the road and away from any more potential danger.
- Protect the scene. If any of the vehicles are obstructing the roadway and cannot be moved, set up some flares or flashlights to warn oncoming traffic of the potential danger. This will also help you preserve the scene until authorities arrive.
- Identify witnesses. Sometimes you’re lucky, and pedestrians or other motorists who witnessed your accident will stick around to give a statement. In other cases, you may have to seek them out. Speak to anyone who may be standing around to find out what they saw and if they’d be willing to testify if needed.
- Take pictures. This is a simple one that you can do while waiting for the police to arrive. Take as many pictures as you can of both vehicles. Take photos from the inside of the cars, outside of the cars, front, back, side, and any other angles you can manage. The more pictures, the more potential to prove your case.
- Journal your thoughts. While this is something that shouldn’t be vocalized to anyone at the accident scene, your thoughts are valuable and may be helpful when you tell your story to an attorney. Use your phone or a piece of paper to quickly jot down your recollection of what happened and keep this information safe for use later.
Gathering the Right Information
Regardless of where, when, or how the accident occurred, there will be a fair amount of information you’ll want to gather and keep handy. Speak to everyone involved to get their details, just remember not to offer any opinions, advice, or make any claims about the accident itself. Stick to talking about the basics, gathering info such as:
- Names (first and last)
- Addresses (including city, state, and zip code)
- Phone numbers
- Driver’s License Numbers (a photo of their license would also be good)
- Insurance Information (company name, agent name, policy number, etc.)
- Photos of insurance cards
- License plate numbers (get photos of these as well)
- Dates of Birth
- Number of occupants in each vehicle involved
- Make, model, year, and color of each vehicle
Why Call a Car Accident Attorney?
As demonstrated, the finite details associated with a car accident can sometimes be the deciding factors in what you’re able to recover for your injuries and damages. The attorneys at Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, P.C. work with the victims of car accidents on a daily basis. That means we know the lay of the land, and we know what factors will ultimately contribute to your case’s settlement.
When you call us, you won’t speak to a lawyer who sees you as another number or another potential win. You’ll speak to a professional attorney who cares about your story and will fight for your rights to the best of their abilities. When you work with Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop P.C., you can rest easy knowing that we will handle your case with the kind of personal attention and care you deserve in your time of need. Call us at 402-241-5020, or contact us online, so that we can set up your free consultation and reclaim your life after an accident.