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Expert advice when you are involved and hurt in a car accident

How to survive a car accident

A car accident is a personal crisis for you, your passengers, the other motorists involved in the accident, as well as family and friends. If it is not your fault and your hurt there are several do's and don'ts you must do to protect yourself. Follow this expert advice to ensure you minimize issues with auto insurance companies, medical insurance claims and any lawsuits that are filed.


Do

Do look after those who are hurt first

Call 911 and attend to anyone who is injured before you do anything else. Next think safety for yourself and other motorists. If the damaged vehicles are in the middle of the road where they are dangerous to passing vehicles, move them over to the side of the road if possible and without endangering your safety.  Otherwise leave the damaged vehicles where they are and wait for the police.  If cars are able to pass, make sure you move to the side of the road. Do not become a second accident by being injured from vehicles moving around your accident.

Do call the police

It is important that you contact the police at the time of the accident regardless of how minor the accident. The police accident report will be a critical document for filing an insurance claim and as evidence in any future court proceeding.

Be honest with the police when they arrive on the scene. You are naturally concerned and worried about your liability but it is not a good idea to lie or exaggerate the situation. The police are trained professionals. They will be suspicious if they believe you are not telling the truth.

You should file a police report even if you decide to not make an insurance claim and personally take care of the repair costs. Without a police accident report the situation will become a “I said, he/she said” and be very complicated if you have to go to court.

Do exchange documentation and take pictures

Make sure you exchange the following information with others who witnessed and were involved in the accident including:

  • name, address and phone number,
  • car license plate number;
  • make, model and year of the vehicle;
  • driver’s insurance information;
  • car registration number;
  • driver’s license number. 

Use your cell phone to take pictures and even video of the accident and damage. Also take pictures and video of the witnesses and the driver of the other vehicle as they are walking around the accident scene. Your lawyer will find this useful, especially if the other parties claim any serious personal injuries. Also create a diagram of the accident scene just before and after the accident.


Do call your insurance agent

Call your insurance company if you can while at the scene. Describe what has happened and if helpful ask the police to speak with the agent since they can provide the most accurate report of the accident.  Do not speak to any other motorists insurance companies involved in the accident.

Do call a car accident attorney

Contact a lawyer who specializes in car accidents and personal injury as soon as possible. Most attorneys who specialize in automobile accidents will not charge for an initial consultation and will help you determine whether you need an attorney’s help or not. Legal representation in an injury claim is normally on a contingency fee basis and will not cost you out of pocket.  An experienced attorney will work with your and the other motorist’s insurance companies, the police as well as give you direction on your next steps. Filing an insurance claim is complex and something you should let your lawyer handle.


Don't

Do not panic

Being involved in an accident is a traumatic situation but you must try to stay calm. You will then be able to help others and think rationally in order to collect all the necessary information you will need for the police, insurance company and your lawyer.

Do not leave the scene of the accident

Referred to as a “hit and run” it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident. If you do you can be arrested and even denied your insurance claim. If you call 911 and the police inform you they cannot come to the scene, then make sure you exchange all documentation with the other motorists, take pictures and call your insurance agency before you leave the scene. Make sure you submit all the accident information to the police and make sure they create and send you a police accident report.

Do not admit fault

There are many factors that contribute to a car accident. Never admit fault to an accident and do not discuss the accident with anyone involved in the accident including witnesses. The only persons you should discuss the accident with are the police at the scene and your lawyer.

Do not discuss your accident

Absolutely do not discuss your accident with anyone except your lawyer. Discussing your accident with work colleagues can have a serious negative impact on your employment and future opportunities at the company. If anyone from your place of work asks you about your accident, politely refer them to your lawyer and state that you are unable to discuss the situation at work.

Discussing your accident with your family can also create significant stress among loved ones and any advice they provide should be checked with your lawyer first. Remember anyone you have spoken to about your accident can be called into court by the prosecution and required to testify against you based on what you have said to them.

Do not sign anything without consulting your attorney

Make sure you have your attorney review and advise you on any papers or settlement offer made to you by an insurance company.  An experienced attorney will be able to tell you what is a fair settlement and will be able to decipher and explain all the fine print. 


Summary
Jumping cartoon

A car accident is often a very physical and emotional personal crisis that will consume a lot of your time long after the accident occurred. Remember to stay calm, get medical attention, contact the police, your insurance company and an attorney experienced in car accidents and personal injury. The car can be replaced or repaired but you are not replaceable so make sure you always drive with caution, keep your distance from other vehicles, don’t speed and wear your seatbelt.


More expert advice about Accident and Personal Injury Law

Photo Credits: Beverly Hills Car Accident by Flickr: gtall1; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Scott BowenPersonal Injury Attorney

Scott Bowen, is a Seattle-area personal injury attorney, serving Washington State residents. He has a strong personal commitment to representing injured people and considers it to be the most important and satisfying work that an attorney can do...

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