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What to Do if You've been Involved in a Car Accident
If you have been injured in an auto accident, there are several important things you should always try to remember:
Immediately After the Accident
- Make sure everyone is OK. Although there are probably many things going through your mind at this time, try to remain calm.
- Call 911 to get police and medical personnel on the scene if anyone is injured or in need of medical attention. If you feel that you have been injured, seek immediate medical attention.
- Don't leave the scene until the police have arrived and completed a written report. If the other driver tries to get you to take down their information and let them leave, don't do this; respectfully insist that they remain until the police arrive. If they leave anyway, make a note of the vehicle description, license plate number and a description of the individual driving.
- Take photos of your vehicle at the scene of the accident. Also try to get photos of the damage to any other vehicles involved in the accident before they are removed from the scene of the accident. Do not let the insurance company or the scrap yard take possession of the vehicle without first completely documenting all the property damage. If there is any debris in the roadway or skid marks, try to get photographs of these as well. If there was local news coverage of the accident, try to contact the TV station or newspaper to get copies of any photographs or footage they may have taken.
- Try to get the names, addresses and telephone numbers of any and all witnesses to the crash. These witnesses are not always available to wait around for the police to arrive, so try to get this information yourself.
- Be completely honest when giving your report to the police officers. Try to remain calm and provide as much information as possible.
Always seek treatment for your injuries
- Unless the impact was insignificant and resulted in only minor property damage (i.e. a scratch or scrap/small dent), you should seek medical attention. If you refuse treatment at the scene, then you should follow up after the accident at your local urgent care or emergency room as soon as possible. Report any injuries, even if you consider them to be only minor. Often times, due to the adrenaline that occurs during a stressful situation, some people do not always feel they have been injured. It is not until later, after that adrenaline has worn off, that they start to experience pain. Always err on the side of caution and at least get checked out.
- Make sure you take photographs of any visible injuries you sustained in the accident.
- Make sure you keep all of your medical appointments. Unless there is a really good reason, you should not skip your follow up medical appointments. Some injuries are not always apparent right away, so if you are seen in the emergency room or in urgent care and they tell you to follow up with someone within a certain amount of time, make sure you do so.
- Follow the advice given by your doctors and the doctors in the emergency room or urgent care. If they tell you to rest and avoid strenuous activities, then that is what you should do. Failing to do so can only make your injuries worse. Your body does not respond the same way when you are injured and the limits on what you can and can't do are not the same as before you were injured.
- Keep track of any time you have to take off work, including the dates and times. Make sure you keep copies of any notes given to you by your doctors excusing you from work for any period of time.
- Keep a written record of any other expenses relating to the accident. If you pay someone to assist you during your recovery, make sure you get a receipt or pay with a check. Having proof of these expenses will help make sure you get reimbursed for them.
Not keeping your medical appointments or failing to follow your doctor's advice will not only significantly hinder the healing process, but it can also have an impact on any compensation you might be entitled to. Insurance companies often try to reduce compensation for failing to do these things, calling it "failure to mitigate damages". This means they believe you did not do everything in your power to assist in your recovery or prevent further injury.
Do Not give a recorded statement to the insurance company after the accident.
Do NOT sign any documents, releases or checks from the insurance company without first consulting with an attorney. Failure to do so can result in a waiver of any future recovery you may be entitled to.
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