What to Do Immediately After a Car Accident?
Each year millions of people are seriously injured in car accidents. In 2018, approximately 40,000 people lost their lives and 4.5 million people were seriously injured in car accidents. If you are injured in a car accident, it can be stressful and the legal process can be confusing. To help, we’ve put together a series to help you understand the different steps of the legal process. From the moment you get into an accident, all the way to a lawsuit going to trial.
Immediately following a car accident you might be injured or emotionally shaken. This is part one of our five part series. In this article we will be covering the moment of your accident all the way to your first interaction with insurance companies. More importantly, we’re going to cover:
- Who you will interact with (police, doctors, lawyers insurance companies)
- What you should and shouldn’t say
- How to protect your rights and claim throughout the process
Scene of the Accident
The legal process begins the moment you get in an accident. Your first interaction will likely be with the other person involved in the wreck.
Interacting with the other driver
Keep in mind that emotions can be high following an accident. Now is not the time to establish fault or blame. When dealing with the other driver:
- Limit your interactions. Do not debate who caused the accident or argue.
- Do not get out of your vehicle if you are injured or road conditions are unsafe. If it is safe to exit your vehicle and you are physically able, take photographs of the vehicles.
- Call 911 to report the car accident and wait for the police to arrive. It is important to note that 911 calls are transcribed and will be requested if a lawsuit is filed. Lawyers obtain these transcripts by filing open records requests.
Interacting with police officers at the accident
The police officer’s job is to collect information. Your job is to provide them with the facts. A few tips for knowing what to say (or what not to say) to police officers after your car accident.
- When the police arrive on the scene, try your best to remain calm.
- Limit your conversation to the facts of what happened.
- Do not make any admission of fault.
- Do not add any unsolicited information. For example, some people tell police that they were in a rush to get somewhere or they were looking at their child in the back seat.
- Keep it short and sweet. If the other driver turned left in front of you, simply tell the officer that and stop talking. If you were hit from behind, tell the officer that and stop talking.
Do not worry about getting the other driver’s insurance information. The police officer will obtain his or her insurance information and other relevant information and include it in an accident report. Most reports are available within 3 to 5 business days.
The officer should give you a card with the report number. If the officer does not, ask him for the report number. You will need this to order the report or for one of our lawyers to order the report. Most, but not all, reports can be purchased on Buy Crash.
Finally, the police officer will ask you if you need medical assistance. If you feel any pain or if your vehicle sustained significant damage, let the officer know that you need medical care. If you tell the officer you need medical help, he or she can quickly dispatch an ambulance to transport you to the best emergency room to treat your injuries.
It is never a bad idea to be examined by emergency room physicians following an accident. This is especially true if your vehicle sustained significant damage. When you go to the emergency room following a car accident, be sure to provide a copy of your health insurance. If you do not provide your health insurance the hospital may file a hospital lien.
Interacting with doctor or nurses at the hospital
- Limit your conversation to injuries related to the car accident.
- But be sure to tell the doctor about all injuries related to your car accident. It is human nature to focus on what is causing us the most immediate pain, but do not forget to tell the doctor other areas of pain. For example, you may suffer a broken wrist that is very painful in a car accident and has minor neck pain.
- If you don’t report the initial injury, insurance companies will try to argue that any injury not initially reported was the result of subsequent accident or injury.
- When asked to rate your pain on a scale of 0 to 10, do not try to be tough. If your pain is a 7 or 8 out of 10, be honest and report that number.
- Do not downplay your pain. Doctors need honest answers to provide the best treatment possible.
- Also, downplaying legitimate injuries gives insurance companies the evidence they need to minimize the value of your case.
Talking With Insurance Companies
After a car accident, it is common for the other party’s insurance company to call.
Interacting with the other party’s insurance company
You have zero obligation to talk to the other party’s insurance company. We suggest that you get the person’s name, phone number, and company name. Next, politely tell the person that you do not feel well and that you will call them back. Insurance adjusters are highly trained professionals. Do not make the mistake of dealing with one without a lawyer. If you want more information on what to say when talking to insurance companies, review our advice on the car accident insurance claims process.
Interacting with your insurance company
It is important to let your insurance company know that you were in a car accident. Most car insurance policies issued in Georgia require notice of any claims as soon as reasonably practicable after a car accident. However, note that an HS Law attorney can send a notice on your behalf.
In fact, we recommend you have an attorney send a notice for two reasons:
- We want to make sure you do not give potentially damaging information.
- We want our clients to focus on their medical treatment and not get bogged down in the frustrating claims process. If you do talk to your insurance company, it is important to limit your conversation to your vehicle only.
At this point, you might be wondering how to choose the right lawyer. In part two of this series, we have put together a series of recommendations on how to choose the right car accident attorney that should help guide your decision.
Of course, if you have immediate questions we are here to help free of charge. Give us a call at 404-400-1175 to speak directly to an HS Law attorney specializing in car accident injuries and lawsuits.
- Part 1: What to Do Immediately After a Car Accident?
- Part 2: How to Choose a Car Accident Lawyer
- Part 3: Car Accident Injury Claims Process – Medical Care and Gathering Evidence
- Part 4: Car Accident Injury Settlement vs Litigation
- Part 5: Car Accident Trial Process – Litigation and Trial