When you have been involved in a crash, either as a driver, passenger, motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian, it’s important to know what steps to take in order to protect yourself (and your potential claim). Taking the right steps immediately after an auto accident, and in the days that follow, can help make things easier for you later on. For this reason, our Washington, D.C. firm has compiled a post-accident checklist for all those who’ve been harmed in auto accidents. Read on to learn more.
What Should I Do After a Car Accident? | Your Post-Accident Checklist
After an accident, make sure you take the following steps:
- Check for injuries: First, survey yourself for any injuries. Next, make sure everyone in your vehicle is okay. It might be difficult to be cordial to the other people involved in the crash, especially if they caused the accident, but if anyone is injured, ask if they need medical attention. If you notice anyone in need of medical help, call 911 and ask for an ambulance, and provide any help you can until they arrive.
- Call the police: Next, you will need to call the police, if you haven’t called 911 already. Sometimes it isn’t strictly necessary to call the police after an accident, but having a police report of the incident can make it easier to deal with the insurance companies. And, if you take legal action, having a record of the crash is important. An investigation by an unbiased third party, the officer, can help your case.
- Exchange information: Exchange vital information with the other parties involved in the crash. When you speak with the other driver(s), make sure you write down their full names, addresses, phone numbers, email, insurance provider, driver’s license number, vehicle license plate, and vehicle information. If there were pedestrians involved, including bicyclists or witnesses, make sure you gather their information as well. The testimony of an eyewitness can help your case with the insurance company.
- Document the crash: Taking photos of the accident is one of the easiest ways to gather evidence after a crash. Take photos of the vehicles involved, the surrounding road and area, and any injuries. When you take pictures of the vehicles, make sure you focus on the damaged areas and take photos of the license plates. If there was debris in the road, poor visibility, rain, a broken traffic light, or another road hazard that could have contributed to the cause of the crash, make sure you take a photo of it.
- See a doctor: Even if you already went to the hospital after the crash, make sure you visit a doctor. If you never did get medical attention the day of the crash, it is especially important that you see a doctor to make sure your injuries do not go unchecked. Some injuries, like whiplash, can go unnoticed because the adrenaline from the crash hides warning signs or symptoms. Even if you feel healthy and notice no problems, having a professional opinion from a doctor you trust can save your health.
- Contact an attorney: After the other essentials have been taken care of, it is important to think about the next step. An experienced Washington, D.C. car accident lawyer can provide you with the guidance you need after an accident, helping with insurance claims, gathering evidence after a crash, finding the likely cause, and building a solid case in your favor. Even if you do have some coverage through your insurance company, taking legal action might be your only way to seek full compensation after an accident.
Mistakes to Avoid After a Car Accident
According to a recent report from the District of Columbia Department of Transportation (DDOT), 25.6% of all motor vehicle accidents resulted in injuries to one or more involved parties. Given the high number of vehicles on the roads of Washington, DC, there is a significant chance you may be injured in a car accident at one point or another. Protect yourself by learning how to respond after an accident and avoiding some of the most common mistakes.
After an accident, make sure to avoid these mistakes:
- Not calling the police: An official police report is one of your most reliable pieces of evidence in a car accident claim. This provides a definitive, first-hand account of what happened, who caused the accident, what injuries were sustained, and what obvious damage was done. A police report can also help absolve you of guilt if it makes clear that your accident was caused by the other driver. You can still bring a claim and obtain substantial recovery without a police report, but it could be much more difficult for you to get the compensation you need for your injuries and damages without a police report.
- Admitting guilt: This is a popular (and accurate) piece of advice, but you may still be tempted to blurt out, “I’m sorry!” after getting into an accident, even if it’s not your fault. After getting into a collision with another driver, always remember that even the slightest suggestion of guilt could cost you thousands of dollars. In fact, implying that you played a role in causing the accident could result in you being forced to compensate the other driver for their injury-related costs and paying for your own out-of-pocket.
- Failing to gather evidence: If you get into a car accident, don’t forget to snap pictures of the accident scene from as many helpful angles as possible. These can provide invaluable evidence if you end up needing to take your case to court. Also, be sure to consult with an attorney immediately so that you have assistance in gathering evidence regarding your injuries as time goes on, including documentation of time taken off of work, medical records, prescriptions, receipts related to medical care, etc.
- Waiting too long to file a claim: According to D.C. Code § 12-301(8), you only have three years from the date of your accident to bring a claim against the party who caused your injuries. There are exceptions to this deadline, but they do not apply in every case and, in fact, are very rare. So, the best thing to do is settle your case or file a lawsuit against the responsible party within three years of the accident. You should start by consulting a lawyer to ensure your case is handled promptly and efficiently.
- Accepting the initial insurance offer: Insurance companies are in business to make money, not to help you. Insurance adjusters and other parties who represent the at-fault driver’s insurance company are likely to give you a lowball offer that will not give you what you need to afford the long-term costs of your injuries. However, an experienced attorney from Simeone & Miller, LLP can help you fight for adequate compensation to make sure you receive everything to which you are entitled.
Need Help? Contact Simeone & Miller, LLP.
At Simeone & Miller, we have a long history of success in handling car accident claims. We have the in-depth knowledge and expertise necessary to help you avoid these classic pitfalls and obtain the fair compensation you deserve. If you have any further questions about our post-accident checklist or you want to schedule a free consultation with an experienced member of our team, simply contact us today.