Car accidents happen. None of us want them to, but the sad reality is that they occur all the time. In fact, about 50 million people get injured in car accidents every year.
If you, unfortunately, find yourself in a car accident, you might have a lot going through your head at the time. Is anyone hurt? How badly damaged are the vehicles involved in the crash? What will insurance cover? What kind of follow-up care and costs will there be?
The best thing you can do if you are in a car accident is to ensure your own safety. After that, though, there will be a lot of little things to do after the fact. Here is a guide to the 6 things you should do after a car accident.
1. Assess The Scene
Immediately when an accident happens, you need to assess the scene. If you are still moving, stop. It’s important not to leave the scene.
Make sure you and anyone else involved are safe before you call the police. If someone has a serious injury, call 911 before the police to get the proper care. If you can protect the scene of the accident with some sort of signage display, like cones or flares, you may want to do that to ensure other drivers steer clear.
If you can, take some pictures of the accident and make a good record of the scene. This will be important later when you’re talking to insurance companies. Don’t talk yet about who is responsible. Just make the best record you can of the incident so you have the information you need later.
2. Take Care Of Your Health
The number one important thing in a car accident is the health and safety of you and anyone else who might have been involved in the incident. If the crash is serious enough, you may need to go directly to emergency care to treat any injuries you’ve suffered. An emergency care center can deal with injuries like neck injuries, broken limbs or lacerations suffered in the accident.
But not all injuries suffered in a car accident need or require immediate treatment. Some people don’t even realize they are hurt until well after the incident.
Some of the most common car accident injuries include:
- Soft tissue injuries
- Scrapes and cuts
- Head injuries
- Chest injuries
- Sprains and breaks
All of these injuries can vary widely in how extreme they are and what kind of medical treatment they need. For example, a head injury could me just a minor bump, or it could be a serious injury like a concussion that requires follow-up treatment with doctors. You may even need to see a dentist after an accident. During a collision, nearly every part of our bodies is at risk.
You should also look out for injuries to the soft tissues of your body. When there is whiplash involved, soft tissues like those in your neck and upper back can get stretched from sudden movements. Many people suffer from lingering back issues after a car accident. This could be from whiplash or from impact, but no matter the cause, you should see a doctor to prevent lingering pain and worsening injuries.
3. Check Your Car For Damage
In addition to having to look after your health, you should consider the state of your vehicle after the accident. It is possible your car will need some repairs, even if initially it doesn’t seem like there is much serious damage.
No matter what kind of damage your car might have suffered, it’s important to stay calm immediately following an accident. You will need to make an accurate record of insurance information and damage to the vehicle, and you should do that with a clear head. Panicking won’t help the situation and could make filing a claim later even more difficult.
Obviously, one of the most common types of damage you’ll find on your car following an accident is dents and scrapes. These could be minor or they could be serious enough that they require a repair. With smaller dents and scrapes, you may be able to take care of fixing those yourself. There are things like paintless dent repair kits out there so you can quickly fix up minor damage tot he car.
For paintless dent repair to work, there obviously needs to be little or no damage to the paint. Many shops can repair dents in this situation without also having to charge you for paint. This might help you save a little money when you take your car in to the shop.
Dents and scrapes aren’t the only problems your car might have after an accident. You could have serious damage that requires extensive repairs. Your car could even be totaled, unfortunately. Whatever the case may be, you should take extensive photos of the damage and keep all the paperwork you get from the shop. This will help later with insurance claims.
In addition to an auto mechanic, you may also need to talk to an electrician, depending on the type of damage your car suffers. It is easy in a collision for delicate electronics to get damaged and need repair. When you take your car to the shop, you should get a thorough check performed so that any and all damage is located.
A thorough examination of the car could even reveal a corrosion problem that you didn’t realize was there. It’s easy for unseen parts of the car to suffer from corrosion without you even realizing it. One silver lining to a car accident could be that it reveals these more sneaky types of damage that have been silently eating away at your car unchecked.
4. Be Prepared Before The Accident
You don’t need to wait for an accident to happen before you start to repair. If you are prepared ahead of time, it could make the experience of a car accident less troubling than it would be otherwise.
Always keep a safety kit in your car. A safety kit could be for winter, for a break down, for an accident or for all of the above. Some handy items to include in a safety kit include:
- A windshield scraper for ice
- Tire chains
- A sleeping bag, blankets and other cold weather gear
- A fire extinguisher
- Road flares
- A flashlight
- Food and water
- Jumper cables
- A flat tire kit
- A first aid kit
- A camera to act as backup for your phone
- Pen and paper
- A GPS
This may sound like a lot, but it will ensure you are thoroughly prepared for any situation you might encounter while on the road. This can help you feel calm when an accident does happen. You will be able to assess the situation with a clear head and properly document everything you’ll need later on when talking to insurance and attorneys.
In addition to having a safety kit, you should also make sure you have important documents like your ID and insurance card handy. You might get shaken up in the aftermath of an accident, so making sure these documents are easily available beforehand will help in the moment. You don’t want to have to scramble around searching. Keep them somewhere you can’t possibly forget about, such as the glove box in the car.
You should also try to make sure your phone is always charged while you’re driving. Your phone could be your lifeline in the case of an accident. Placing a phone charger in your car could be an easy way to ensure your phone is always charged when you’re driving. Many phone charges are specifically made for inside cars. These are great for keeping you charged on the road.
Lastly, think about what items in your car are loose. Maybe you have change in a cup holder or some things lying around in the backseat.
You will want to put those items in the glove box or trunk instead of leaving them lying around. That’s because during an accident they could fly around and cause further injury to you and/or your car. Change, for example, could hit you if you are struck by another car. You want to minimize the potential damage to yourself and your car by storing anything that is loose and could go flying.
5. Consider Whether You Should Get An Attorney To Help You
You don’t always need an attorney after a car accident, but it is sometimes necessary, unfortunately. And no matter what you decide, the insurance companies you have to deal with after an accident will always have teams of lawyers working for them. So it doesn’t hurt to get the same kind of support and assistance on your side as well.
Especially if you have medical issues after a car accident, you may need to hire a personal injury attorney to help you with your claims. Insurance companies will give you as little as possible, or deny your claim altogether if they think they can.
A personal injury attorney can help you fight back and get what you deserve in compensation after an accident. But you do need to be choosy if you are seeking the help of an attorney. Some are dead set on simply getting a settlement and won’t fight very hard against the insurance companies. Make sure you’re getting a good deal not just from the insurance companies but also from your attorney.
If you aren’t sure if you need an attorney or not, check in with a doctor. Don’t write off the need for a personal injury attorney until you’ve seen a medical professional and are absolutely sure that there won’t be lingering health complications from the accident. You don’t want to find out later that you have a back injury and now can’t get compensation for it.
All of these conditions could be a good clue that you need the help of an attorney to deal with insurance companies after an accident:
- Any broken bones
- A hospital stay due to the accident
- Long-term health effects
- Medical treatment that costs you a $2,000 or more
- A dispute over who is at fault in the accident
- Refusal of insurance to pay for coverage
- Emotional trauma, pain and suffering, and similar non-economic losses
- Having to miss work or school for more than a couple days
- An accident that took place in a complicated location like a construction zone
- Confusing or incorrect paperwork
There may be other scenarios that prompt you to look for an attorney. If you are in doubt or are having trouble getting the compensation you need and deserve, opt for the help of an attorney who can guide you through the confusing insurance process.
6. Know What To Do If It’s Your Fault
On the flip side, you might also need an attorney after a car accident because the incident is your fault. Don’t admit this at the scene, of course, but do know if this is a possibility because an attorney will become extremely important if this is the case.
Sometimes you make a mistake while driving. This could be something small, like a momentary lapse in concentration, or big, like drunk driving. Sometimes, these mistakes will land you in serious trouble unless you have an attorney to help you.
A DUI is one of the most serious reasons you might require an attorney after a car accident. A DUI can impact your employment, finances and freedom in the future. Depending on how severe the incident is, you could face fines or jail time as a result.
That’s why you’ll need a DUI attorney if you get into that kind of car accident. A DUI attorney can help you with any legal repercussions or complications you may face after a DUI, including things like fines and license suspensions.
If you think you might need the help of an attorney because of an accident, don’t panic. Here, too, staying calm and documenting everything carefully is your best bet for a positive outcome. An attorney can help you with the process and ensure the best possible outcome from an unfortunate situation.
Bottom Line About Car Accidents
No matter what kind of car accident you are in, stay calm, make sure you aren’t seriously injured and document everything you can at the scene. The most important thing is making sure you are safe. See a doctor for a follow up to ensure there won’t be lingering negative health impacts after a car accident. And, if necessary, get the help of an attorney to ensure insurance pays for any medical assistance you need after an accident.