No matter how carefully you drive or how observant you are on the road, you can find yourself involved in a car accident. And there is no sugar-coating it. Car accidents are dangerous and stressful situations that often have a long-lasting impact on those involved. At Hipskind & McAninch, LLC, we have worked with hundreds of clients involved in car accidents. That experience has taught us that every auto accident has its own unique set of facts and circumstances. As cliché as it sounds, car accidents are like snowflakes–no two are exactly alike. That is why you need an experienced car accident attorney to work with you to best develop your case.
If you have been in a car accident, you have likely asked yourself, “What should I do now?” What are the first steps to take after a car accident? Should I call the police? An attorney? Is everyone alright? Am I alright? Can medical treatment wait? We wrote this article to help prepare you if you are in this unfortunate situation and need to know what to do after a car accident.
The valuation of your claim begins the second the accident happens. Everything–from who you speak with to when you seek medical treatment–can have a dramatic impact on your claim. Here is a list of the things you need to know after getting in a car accident to protect yourself and everyone else involved:
- Call the police and report the accident. This ensures there will be a record of the incident and will help arrange transportation to the hospital should it be needed. If the officer asks you to make a statement, go ahead and describe the accident and the events leading up to it in great detail. Did you notice that the other driver appeared to be on the phone? Did the other driver honk? Did you? Break down exactly what happened step by step. While police reports are not always accurate, they are generally the first record of any accident and will be used throughout your claim and oftentimes contain vital information. However, if you are unable to provide a clear statement about the accident due to injuries you sustained, let the officer know you are unable and get his contact information to provide him with a statement as soon as you can. An incorrect statement will not do any favors to you or your claim.
- Avoid moving the vehicles involved in the accident unless they are blocking traffic or creating a safety hazard. It is important for the responding officers to see the accident scene as it was. You’d like to think that everyone involved in the accident will give a true and accurate accounting of what happened. Sadly, that is not always the case. Far too often, the at-fault driver will attempt to twist the facts around and blame you for the accident. Making sure the accident scene remains intact can help prevent the responsible party from “changing” the facts.
- Gather as much information as you can. Make sure to get the license plate numbers and insurance information from all the drivers involved in the accident. If a driver involved in the accident is not the owner of the automobile, get the information of the person who is. Get all the contact information you can (i.e., full name, phone number, email, and address) from every driver, passenger, and witness. Make sure to get information from anyone who comes up to the accident scene, even if he or she did not observe the car accident itself. That person may be able to testify to the demeanor of the at-fault driver after the accident, or may have heard some piece of information that could be vital to your case.
- Take as many pictures as you can. Take pictures of the accident scene, the damage to the vehicles, the license plates, and any injuries you may have suffered. Take pictures of any skid marks, damaged guardrails, or street signs. Try and take panoramic or wide-angle shots from all the different areas you can. If the accident was caused by an out-of-order traffic signal or a downed stop sign, take pictures of that too. Take as many pictures as possible to help support the facts of the case. Click here to read our blog providing guidance on how to take the best pictures you can to better support your car accident claim.
- Seek medical treatment right away. It can take hours, days, and sometimes even weeks for you to feel the full effect of the injuries you have suffered. You need to seek medical attention as soon as practical in order to determine what, if any, injuries you have suffered and how to best treat them. Generally, the responding officers will offer to call an ambulance. If you are experiencing any symptoms, particularly any symptoms that may indicate a concussion, we almost always recommend taking them up on that offer. The last thing you want is to go home thinking you are alright only to find out later that you suffered severe injuries that required immediate treatment. We have seen people walk away from accidents only to learn later that they had a significant spine injury. Taking care of your health is the most important thing you can do following the accident.
- Finally, do NOT provide recorded statements to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The opposing insurance company’s goal is to settle your claim as quickly and as cheaply as possible. They are trained by teams of defense attorneys to ask you leading questions that are designed to hurt and limit your claim. Insurance companies will also often offer you quick, low-dollar settlements, hoping you take one before you finish your medical treatment. Never settle your case before you are finished treating. Seek the advice of an attorney before you speak or settle with the insurance company.
This list is not exhaustive, but it is a guide for anyone involved in a vehicular accident. As you can see, there are numerous factors involved in valuating your claim. This is why you need an experienced car accident attorney who understands the ins and outs in order to maximize your personal injury settlement or judgment.
The personal injury attorneys at Hipskind & McAninch, LLC, have been helping clients in car accident cases for years. Let us put our commitment, experience, and passion to work for you. There is a reason we have earned a reputation as one of Illinois’ most client-focused law firms, accumulating more than one hundred 5-star reviews from past clients. Contact us to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today.