Are you prepared for the steps you should take immediately following a motor vehicle accident? We’ve broken them down into four steps to ensure that you are prepared.
Step 1: Document at the Scene of the Accident
One of the most important things you can do after a car accident is to document thoroughly the conditions of the accident and other vital information that can help with your insurance claim, and to reduce your personal liability costs. Immediately following an accident individuals can be in a state of shock, where they can experience pain and disorientation from an injury sustained during the accident. Where physically possible is important to document everything to protect your interests.
Unless you are injured start by talking to the owner of the other vehicle if you feel it is safe to do so. In most cases it is recommended that you contact the police department to report the accident. If the other parties involved in the accident are angry, threatening, or abusive in any way it is best to remain in your vehicle and wait for the authorities to arrive. Once the police arrive they will do their own due diligence by documenting the scene of the accident, and taking eyewitness accounts. The police officer will also lay a charge for the fault of the accident on the scene, where fault is easy to determine.
To protect yourself, get the names and phone numbers or email addresses of any witnesses that may have seen the accident. Politely approach eyewitnesses and ask them for their information, and a statement regarding the accident if you are not at fault. These witnesses can later be called into court if the accident is disputed or requires additional legal action.
Take pictures of your vehicle, and any other vehicles that are involved in the accident. Also take pictures of the scene, if the conditions are icy or wet remember to take pictures of the road to demonstrate hazardous road conditions that may have been a contributing factor to the accident. The evidence that you collected the scene of the accident can be your best defense against hearsay or inaccurate information reported by other parties.
Step 2: Report to a Hospital for a Medical Evaluation
When a human being is the subject of a motor vehicle accident, or any kind of traumatic incident, our bodies release hormones that help to relax us. The adrenaline that you experience after an accident also makes it difficult to determine with any accuracy if you have been injured. Many people make the mistake of thinking they feel fine, with no abrasions or discomfort, only to find themselves unable to get out of bed the next morning due to impact of injuries.
After having a car accident the last thing you want to do is find your way to a local hospital and sit for a few hours in emergency until someone can evaluate you. We know that the majority of people would rather go home and relax than head to the hospital, but insurers would instruct you to get an accurate medical evaluation including x-rays as evidence. Better to be safe than sorry and have a medical evaluation done immediately following the accident in the event that you may require a personal injury claim.
Step 3: Contact Your Insurance Provider
While you are sitting in the hospital take a moment to report the accident to your insurance provider. The second party in the accident or other drivers will promptly report the accident to their own insurance carriers. It is important that you speak to your own personal automotive insurance adjuster to report the accident, the road conditions, the time of the accident, the make an approximate age of other drivers involved in the accident and other important information. Your insurance adjuster will interview you and your statements will become part of your insurance claim, and also provide your automotive insurer with evidence to dispute damage claims or personal injury suits from the other parties.
Most insurance policies require that you report an automotive accident within 24 hours. Failure to do so can result in legal consequences for yourself and your family. Your insurance carrier will appreciate any documentation that you provide including pictures of the other vehicles, your vehicle, and evidence of road conditions where applicable. Your insurance company will also let you know where your vehicle can be towed to for repairs as many insurers have dedicated repair centers for policyholders.
Step 4: Contact an Attorney
If your motor vehicle accident involves the degree of personal injury, which includes your driver injury or injury of other participants in the accident, it is recommended that you consult with a personal injury attorney in Chicago who can advise you on next steps. If you are the individual who has been injured, you may require therapies and medical treatment to rehabilitate you, and you may be required to engage in short-term or long-term disability depending on the severity of your injuries.
In the event that your personal injury claim will be going to court, a qualified personal injury lawyer will represent your needs, and help you to restore your preinjury functioning and income as soon as possible.