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11 Important Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Road crashes create a lot of turmoil. Accidents kill more than 38,000 Americans every year and cost nearly 900 billion dollars to deal with. You will likely survive any car accident you get into. But the steps to take after a car accident are not as clear as the statistics.
What are the reasons for car accidents, and how can you prepare against them? What should you do to start handling a car accident, including at the crash scene?
When is it a good time to file an insurance claim and a civil suit? Answer these questions, and you can get back on the right track following a devastating car accident. Here is your quick guide.
Avoid Common Car Accident Causes
There are many different auto accident causes. It is impossible to prepare for all of them, but you can take some common-sense measures to avoid most of them. Distracted driving killed more than 3,100 people in 2019. Do not answer your cell phone on the road, even with a hands-free device. Put on a CD to avoid switching between stations on your radio and minimize conversations with your passengers.
Alcohol is perhaps the biggest distraction of all. If you ever feel you are too drunk to drive, do not drive. But you can become intoxicated through marijuana and prescription medications. If you take a pill and you feel drowsy or dizzy, do not drive. You can always pull over at a rest stop and take a nap until you feel better.
Do not speed or engage in reckless driving, like failing to signal a turn. When it is raining or snowing, turn on your headlights and drive well below the speed limit. It is okay to match the speed of other drivers, but you should still go a little slower.
If you notice something wrong with your brakes or steering, pull your car over right away. Turn on your hazard lights, then call a repair company. You will have to drive at night at some point in your life. Plan your route out, selecting well-lit roads in areas where you can get help. Turn your headlights on and keep your interior lights off so drivers can see you better.
Even if you make as many preparations as possible, you can still get into an accident. A less-prepared driver can make a mistake that causes you to get into an accident. If you notice a reckless driver on the road, get away from them. Exit the road entirely, or change lanes and slow down.
If you feel a car accident is imminent, you can still take measures to protect yourself. Wear a seatbelt whenever you are on the road. It should fit tightly across your waist and over your chest.
Put your feet flat against the floor and push your head against your headrest. Some people brace themselves against their steering wheel, which can cause facial injuries. Try to put some distance between yourself and it, including by putting your arm over your face. Tense your muscles, especially in your head and neck. Tell the people in your car to do the same.
Make Sure You Are Okay
If your vehicle is in motion, apply the brakes and stop it entirely. You may be able to see that other people are injured outside your car. They deserve medical treatment, but you need to attend to yourself first. Take a deep breath, then assess your body for injuries.
If your mirrors can still hold your reflection, take a look at your face. Look at your eyes and see if your pupils are dilated. One pupil being dilated may mean you have a significant brain injury. You should call 911 if you can and remain in your vehicle without moving.
It would help if you then looked at your chest. Take a look to see if you have any bruises or cuts. Try to avoid touching your chest since you may have a bruised or broken rib. You can now examine your arms and legs. If you have a fracture, avoid moving the limb as much as possible.
If you have a cut, wrap a tourniquet around your limb above the cut. You can use a belt, cord, or jacket that you can tie into a knot. Put pressure over the wound itself, including through the use of a bandage.
Once you have checked yourself, check on the condition of other people in your vehicle. If they are okay, you can step out of your car. It would help if you otherwise prioritized their injuries over other people’s conditions.
Even a fender bender can create a lot of anxiety. Drivers make a lot of reckless decisions, especially fleeing the scene of an accident. Fleeing is a criminal offense in all states. If you flee the scene of an accident, where someone died, you face a long prison sentence. Take a deep breath and remain where you are.
It is not fleeing the scene if you step away to ask someone to call the police or give you medical attention. Make sure you can walk back to your car, but get help when you need it. Other people may come to you and ask you what happened. Avoid answering their questions. A witness can relate what you said to the police, and their testimony can lead to charges against you. You should never admit guilt, but you shouldn’t place blame on another party. You risk getting into a violent confrontation with them.
After the police have been called, take photographs of the accident scene. Many people focus on damaged vehicles, and that is okay. But it would help if you took photographs of the environment around you. Take a picture of the road leading up to the scene. Show where the nearest streetlights are and if there were any obstacles in the road.
Take photographs of the damage that your vehicle sustained, but take other ones as well. Look underneath your car and snap a photo of the suspension. This can clear you of accusations that your defective vehicle caused the crash. Document your injuries as well. Get someone else to hold your camera for you so you can get a full-body shot. Then, focus on the specific areas where you got hurt.
If you have extra time, record your own testimony of what happened—state how you were driving and what you saw through your windows. Try to make an audio recording so you have a timestamp showing you gave your remarks right after an auto accident.
You can do the same for testimonies of witnesses. You can ask them what they saw and where they were. If you don’t have a camera, draw a quick diagram. Draw arrows showing which direction you were traveling in and write down the speed you were at.
You must get the information of the other driver involved. If there were multiple drivers, you need to get all of their details. Their name and insurance information are essential, but you also need their contact information. The same goes with witnesses. Their name and phone number are all you need, but you should record any other details you can get.
Get the name and badge number of the police. If you can, get the details of any other emergency responders, especially paramedics. Their testimony on the medical conditions of injured people will be essential to get compensation.
Recover From the Accident
Get medical attention right away, including from your personal doctor. Adrenaline may make it hard for you to feel pain or notice signs of an injury. A medical professional can recognize the signs and give you immediate treatment for internal bleeding and other conditions.
If you suffered a head or spinal cord injury, you would be in the hospital for several days. A lengthy hospitalization is inconvenient, but you should take the time to rest and recuperate. Leaving early or forgoing treatment will make your injuries worse.
Seek mental health guidance as soon as possible. Roughly 40 percent of accident survivors develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Even more, people experience anxiety, insomnia, and difficulty driving after an accident. Most hospitals let you talk to a counselor while you are being treated for physical injuries. But you can go to a counselor, even if you suffer no physical problems at all.
Insurers create a long claim process to limit the compensation they provide. You deserve money for your physical injuries and damage to your car. Start by itemizing all of your expenses. Get records of how much the damage to your vehicle cost. Give over your medical bills and any documents that show that you lost money from work.
It would help if you also documented the other driver’s expenses. If you have collision coverage, your insurance will pay for their repairs. Medical payments coverage will cover the cost of their injuries, even if you were at fault.
Contact your insurer when you are healthy and start the claims process. They may send an adjuster to see how much compensation you are due. Could you not talk to them until you are ready? Have all the documents you need on hand and avoid saying anything to endanger a personal injury claim.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
It would help if you talked to an auto accident attorney before you started your insurance claim. Many attorneys have experience dealing with insurance companies, and they can help you gather evidence for them.
While preparing your insurance claim, your lawyer may tell you that you can file a civil suit for personal injuries. This may be true, or this may be an attempt to make you pay them money. Go to another attorney and schedule a free consultation with them. If they concur that you have a good case to file a lawsuit, you can do so.
Get Your Case Started
A personal injury case is best for an accident where you are not at fault. It would help if you sustained some serious injury, like a concussion. If you have already filed an insurance claim, you have a good foundation for your case. You can take the same documents and submit them as a discovery for your civil suit. You can also press criminal charges. Causing an accident may not be a criminal offense, but drunk driving is.
A civil suit takes a long time to move through the court system. If a defendant is facing criminal and civil actions simultaneously, it will take even longer. Be patient. Talk to your lawyer about how things are going, and keep receiving the medical treatment you need. Try to return to work, but get accommodations if you need them, especially for physical injuries.
You will need to testify in your own defense. Practice cross-examinations with your lawyer and review your previous statements. Avoid contradicting yourself in any way. Dress professionally and act responsibly while you are in court. You can ask for a break if you need to collect yourself or confer with your attorney.
The Essential Steps to Take After a Car Accident
There are many steps to take after a car accident. Avoid common causes for accidents and brace yourself if one is about to occur. Focus on your own health before attending to others. Stay at the scene, document everything, then go and get help from a doctor.
Spend time on your recovery, then turn your attention to compensation. Contact a lawyer and consider the merits of a civil suit against the other driver. You can make the best out of your worst moments. Follow our coverage for more lifestyle guides.