The 6 Steps to Take After an Accident
If were injured in an accident of any kind you must take certain steps to help ensure that you receive adequate compensation for your injuries and other losses. Taking a proactive role in the days following an accident can make a huge difference in the outcome of your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. In order to strengthen your case, take the following steps as soon as possible after an accident.
Call the Police
After an accident, call the police right away. If you sustained serious injuries, dial 911. The police dispatcher will send emergency medical personnel to the scene of the accident who can help treat your injuries. If you were not seriously injured, call the non-emergency line for the appropriate police department (typically the police department for the city or county where the accident occurred).
Once police arrive to the scene of your accident, they will begin to investigate what happened. If you were in a car accident or other accident involving a motor vehicle, the police may issue traffic tickets to any at-fault parties. After the police leave the scene of your accident, they will file a police report about what happened.
To learn how a police report may impact the outcome of your personal injury lawsuit or insurance claim, click here.
Nobody expects to be injured in an accident, and you may be disoriented or confused immediately afterwards. If you are able to gather information at the scene of the accident without placing yourself or anyone else in physical danger, it may be helpful and useful to do so. Later, it may be difficult to remember the facts, names of people involved, and other important details.
Ask anyone who was involved in or witnessed the accident for his or her name, address, telephone number, and email address. Ask witnesses to write out a short, signed statement about what they saw take place. If you were in an accident involving a motor vehicle (such as a car accident, motorcycle accident, pedestrian accident, or trucking accident), take down the license plate and vehicle identification number (VIN) of all vehicles that played a role in the accident.
Before you leave the scene of an accident, take pictures of the location of the accident and vehicles if you have a smartphone or camera handy. Write down the time and date of the accident, including any conditions (like weather or road conditions) that were present. Make notes about anything that you think might be relevant and what you can recollect about the accident.
This accident information form can help guide you through the process of gathering information about your accident.
Seek Proper Medical Treatment
After an accident, you may be taken by paramedics to the emergency room for treatment. Be sure to give your health insurance information to the ambulance and emergency room as soon as you can. Before you leave the hospital, request copies of your admitting chart and any other medical records generated by your visit, including doctors’ notes, x-rays, CAT scans, and MRIs. This information can be very important to later treating healthcare providers and to you when you open your insurance claim or bring a personal injury lawsuit.
If you did not require emergency medical treatment immediately following your accident, follow up with your primary care provider as soon as possible. Adrenaline can mask the pain of an injury. If you wait too long before seeing a doctor after an accident, the insurance company may deny your claim.
You should only obtain medical treatment that is reasonably necessary. Insurance companies and courts may not recognize claims for experimental treatments or medical treatment that far exceeds the scope of your injuries. Avoid any disreputable pain clinics or care providers who claim to be personal injury specialists. Checking with your health insurance for authorized providers may be prudent and necessary.
Notify the Insurance Company
After you stabilize your injuries, you should notify your insurance company (if applicable) and that of the at-fault party of your intent to file a claim. As soon as possible, call the insurance companies or file an accident report online. Although it’s likely that the at-fault party already reported the accident (this is typically the case after a car accident), you must do the same.
In the event that your accident was already reported to the insurance company, the company will have assigned a claim number and given the claim to a claims adjuster. The company may assign a separate adjuster to handle the property damage and personal injury parts of your claim independently.
You should always follow up with the insurance company in a written letter sent to the insurance company by certified mail. Even if you have already received confirmation that you have filed a claim by phone or online, it’s always a good idea to follow up in writing.
The Value of Your Claim and Sending a Demand Letter
To learn more about how to determine how much your claim is worth and writing an effective demand letter, visit:
Consult with a Personal Injury Lawyer
After you initiate your insurance claim, you should hear from the claims adjuster who is investigating your claim. At this point, the claims adjuster for the at-fault party may try to pressure you into settling your personal injury claims and giving a recorded statement about the accident. Settling your personal injury claims at this early date is usually not recommended. It is also important to understand that you are not required to give a recorded statement, and that the insurance company may use your statements against you. You should decline to give a recorded statement to an insurance company before speaking to an experienced personal injury lawyer.
If you are overwhelmed by the prospect of negotiating a settlement with an insurance company after an accident or are concerned that the insurance company may be engaging in bad-faith tactics, a licensed attorney in your area can help you. You should never file a personal injury lawsuit without first consulting with a personal injury lawyer.
After an accident, remember to:
- Gather as much information as possible,
- Notify your insurance company and that of the at-fault party,
- Try to calculate the value of your claim and write a demand letter, and
- Consult with a personal injury lawyer before making a recorded statement or considering filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Disclaimer: Information provided on this site is NOT formal legal advice. It is generic legal information. Under no circumstances should the information on this site be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal action. Always get a formal case evaluation from a licensed attorney if you think you might have a personal injury lawsuit.