More than 1.5 million Americans are injured as a result of motor vehicle accidents on an annual basis, in fact. Many of them experience scenarios that they never thought they’d find themselves in—and if you were put into that position, you deserve the support of someone that you can trust.
In most cases, the best steps an accident survivor can take after a crash revolve around:
- Ensuring the safety of others and themselves
- Collecting relevant items and documents
- Consulting a legal professional to further advise what to do next
The good news is that those three steps make for a pretty short to-do list. The bad news is that most accident survivors can’t fathom that the process could be so simple.
It’s true that you may struggle to find the right lawyer or to pry a witness statement out of somebody, but, as long as you have an experienced Duluth car accident attorney by your side, you should never need to worry about the complexity (the rules, the loopholes, the specialized information) of the legal process yourself.
One common question that many car accident lawyers hear is: “What am I supposed to do if I get into an accident, and I’m not injured?”
We’ve detailed the basis of an answer below. The exact actions that could benefit or hinder any given accident case are variable and fluid, so remember that this advice is generalized. The best person to ask for an opinion of your legal standing is a legal professional.
I Was in an Accident. Somebody Was Injured. What Do I Do?
Unfortunately, we’ve found that some accident survivors do need to hear this: Make your top priority after an accident accepting medical treatment. It can feel stressful to keep calm and wait when you feel like you’re supposed to rush around taking photos of damage or collecting witness statements, but we promise you can relax! Relevant evidence is likely to help your attorney and benefit you in court, but it won’t help at all if you’re so injured from the accident that your quality of life disappears permanently.
This advice assumes that you are unharmed and can physically assist other people. If you are not, you can speak with first responders to determine which steps you can take to benefit your wellbeing.
Some common injuries to look for in yourself and others include:
- Broken bones, severe lacerations, and burns
- Traumatic brain injury
- Neck, head, and back injuries (paralysis may occur)
Doctors may detect damage even if symptoms haven’t yet appeared, so make sure you see one right away. Treating the problem right away might avoid more serious symptoms later on.
Sometimes, things don’t seem clear in the moment—especially if the moment involves a potentially catastrophic auto accident. Humans haven’t really evolved to effectively handle stress (if you couldn’t already tell). It’s not surprising at all that some people feel an instinctive pull to leave an accident scene. We’ve all heard of “fight or flight” and this is a shining example of it.
Once you step back from the situation a little, it becomes easier to understand our point. If you were sitting at your computer and suddenly heard that someone had gotten into a nasty accident and then sped away from the scene, you probably wouldn’t think too highly of that person. It’s for good reason—the behavior is associated with hit and runs and other criminal activity. You won’t get off on a good foot in court if your first response to the accident was to flee.
Never leave an accident scene before the situation has been resolved. In some cases, this may involve medical attention (even the uninjured are often given a once-over by EMS).
In most cases, you’ll have a few things to do before you can leave an accident scene in good legal standing:
- Receiving medical care
- Seeking and obtaining medical care for injured parties
- Filing a police report
- Documenting evidence if it is relevant and possible and you are able
When you remain at an accident scene after a crash occurs, you help other victims, first responders, and even your own case by:
- Allowing authorities ample time to file a police report
- Giving you the chance to monitor injured parties before help arrives
- Not automatically assigning guilt to yourself by fleeing the scene
Get in Touch With Local Authorities and Emergency Services
Nobody is going to be able to help with medical attention, police reports, cleaning up your crash, or anything else if you fail to contact emergency services first. Call 911 as soon as possible after an accident occurs.
The police will assess the crash scene and help you fill out an accident report. In many cases, this process is a legal requirement. Some crashes don’t necessitate an accident report; but, rather than sorting through the particulars of Georgia law yourself, just let the responding officer help determine what you need.
When possible, it’s always best to fill out an accident report (with a police officer’s assistance) as soon as possible after an accident. This helps improve the likelihood that everybody can accurately recollect the accident. It also decreases the chances of any parties fabricating stories or deciding that they may want to keep certain details private.
If the operator doesn’t inform you that they are sending an ambulance when you call for 911, ask them to anyway. This will help expedite medical attention for those who need it and makes emergency transport simple should it be necessary.
Swap Driver Information
When you share contact information with other parties involved in the crash (and note theirs, too), you smooth the way for potential contact in the future. Some accident survivors never need to contact the other parties involved in their accident. Others may need to ask questions or need the information for their legal representative.
Regardless of why you want—or don’t want—to swap information with other people at the scene, you should do it.
Remember that it’s exceptionally easy to inadvertently assign yourself guilt in the chaos after an accident. When you approach other people who were involved in the crash, don’t rush to apologize or use language that implies guilt for the crash. You can be helpful, empathetic, and kind without ever saying the words “I’m sorry.”
You’ll want to collect several pieces of information from other parties involved in your accident:
- Phone number
- Driver’s license information
- License plate number
- Insurance information
Collect Witness Statements
It’s not necessarily your job to speak to witnesses and document their stories. In many cases, the authorities will handle this step themselves. In some cases, however, individuals who are in vehicle collisions do need to speak to witnesses themselves.
Witnesses help legal professionals prove the circumstances that truly surrounded an event. The sooner the witness statements are taken, the more likely they are to prove accurate. The most valuable witness statements come from people who have no self-interest in your case. This doesn’t mean that people close to you will have their statements discounted—but it does mean you should prioritize neutral parties’ stories.
Remember: Witness statements allow everybody involved in a scenario to tell their own side of the story. You may disagree with somebody’s witness statement, but it’s best to keep that information close to your chest.
Pursue Medical Treatment
Recall that this entire set of instructions assumes that you’re unharmed by an accident.
Assuming that’s the case, you should still take steps to be evaluated by a medical professional as soon as possible after your crash. It’s important to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider right away.
This benefits you in a few ways:
- It ensures that your PCP is up-to-date on your health and status after an accident
- It allows a chance for the doctor to assess any delayed symptoms or other concerning aspects of your wellbeing
Even if you were treated on-scene after your accident or were transported to a hospital, contact your doctor to schedule a visit. Your doctor could detect an injury or another issue that hadn’t presented itself beforehand—and, if not, at least they’ll give you some peace of mind.
Contact Your Insurance Provider
Get in touch with your insurance provider as soon as you’re in good health. You’ll need to notify them of the accident. It’s important to be as honest and forthcoming as possible during this conversation. At best, improper information could make your case a little difficult down the road; at worst, you could inadvertently place yourself in an undesirable legal position.
If at all possible, though, you shouldn’t get in touch with your insurance provider on your own.
Your best bet is to secure a reliable attorney before you deal with any insurance experts. In plenty—probably a vast majority—of cases, this is not possible (or an accident survivor does not know that it’s possible). This is okay. Attorneys are used to partnering with clients who have already spoken with their insurance companies. As long as you haven’t actually agreed to a written settlement or anything else of the sort, you’re likely fine.
The truth remains that it’s still ideal to have a lawyer by your side when you speak with your insurance company. Your attorney can help advocate for your rights without making “mistakes” due to inexperience. He or she will also help ensure that you aren’t taken advantage of by predatory adjusters or other parties.
Collect and Maintain Documentation
Realistically, this step could be placed almost anywhere in the process. It’s good to save and neatly organize as much documentation concerning the accident as possible. This might mean that you have some forms from as early as possible (like an accident report or medical bill) and some from long after your case begins. Every case is unique—the documentation that you need is probably different from the forms someone else would benefit from.
Your lawyer will help give you pointers on which documents are seriously important. Until then, it’s good form to hold onto as many as you can. Try to get copies of medical forms and other critical information as soon as somebody will give them to you (or as soon as you can make them).
Consult and Retain a Reliable Car Accident Attorney
Outside of ensuring your bodily and mental health, this is one of the most important steps that you’re likely to take during your entire car accident case.
It’s crucial for car accident victims to partner with a lawyer that they trust. In most cases, that means looking for a law office that employs attorneys who are knowledgeable, empathetic, and organized. These qualities allow lawyers to serve their clients’ best interests without making them feel alienated or confused by the complex process.
When you begin your search for a car accident attorney, you can start off with an umbrella hunt for personal injury lawyers. Car accident attorneys are just one variety of personal injury attorney—and plenty of personal injury lawyers help litigate a wide variety of cases (like slip and falls, product defects, and more).
Car accident attorneys practice in their areas for years to build knowledge, skills, and experience. Your experience navigating the legal system will be drastically simplified if you have a seasoned professional at your side while you do it.
Lawyers understand that, all too often, the time after an accident can prove anxiety-inducing.
A skilled legal professional will help alleviate some of this anxiety; he or she can help highlight:
- Who you can or should speak to and when
- AND who you should not speak to!
- The totality of your legal rights
- The pieces of evidence most valuable to your case
- The steps you can take and the options you have to protect your rights
Most attorneys offer FREE initial consultations and case evaluations. This allows them some time to familiarize themselves with a case before agreeing to a partnership with a client. Not every lawyer is the best fit for every case—and not every lawyer if the perfect fit for every client, either. Don’t be afraid to keep searching until you find a representative who you believe has your best interest at heart and can help your case achieve success.
Brauns Law, P.C.
3175 Satellite Boulevard, Bldg 600
Duluth, GA 30096