What Should I Do After a Car Accident?
By H. Robert Showers, Esq. and J. Caleb Jones, Esq.
In the first five minutes after a car accident, each driver will make several decisions that will either cripple or bolster their ability to bring a successful auto accident claim. It is crucial as a driver to know and understand what you should and should not do immediately after an accident to ensure that you, and any potential claims you may bring, are protected. Remember, the other driver’s and your insurance company are not your friend since it is mostly about money. They will look for any excuse possible to reduce and delay the compensation you receive as result of a motor vehicle accident. What you do in the first month or two after the accident will also have significant ramifications to pursuing a successful claim. Here are ten (10) simple things to remember if you are involved in a car accident and suffer loss.
Immediately after you have been in a car accident, you should do the following:
- Call 911 and get the police to make a report/charge the other driver
You should immediately call emergency services both for your safety, and for any potential case you may bring. Even if it seems like the accident occurred at low speed, or you don’t immediately feel in pain, you should call 911. If you don’t call 911 after an accident, the police may not arrive on the scene and fill out an accident report. If you are hoping to receive compensation after the accident, the accident report will be one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal.
- Don’t make any statements about your fault, don’t leave the scene of the accident
Many drivers are thrown into a whirlwind of emotion and adrenaline after an accident. Take a moment to collect your thoughts before speaking. Some drivers hurt their chances of recovery by admitting the accident was their fault before they have all the facts.
Other drivers make themselves look guilty or at fault by fleeing the scene of the accident. There are several different categories of penalties for leaving the scene of an accident. Under Virginia Law § 46.2-894, a driver who flees the scene of an accident may be guilty of up to a Class 5 Felony.
Instead, stay calm, collect your thoughts, and wait for the police to arrive. When you are interviewed about the accident, answer each question truthfully, but let the experts gather all the information and make their own conclusion about who is at fault.
- Take pictures of the damage to your vehicle and the accident scene
If you have the opportunity, take pictures of the accident scene and the cars involved. Specifically, take pictures of the roadway where the accident occurred, skid marks on the road, where each vehicle ended up, and close-up pictures of the damage to each vehicle.
- Get insurance information, contact information, and license plate number from the other driver
Get the license plate number first, just in case the other driver tries to flee the scene of the accident. Once the police arrive on scene, it would be wise to politely speak to the other driver and get their contact information, along with contact information for their insurance company, and any information you can about their policy. This information will be crucial if you pursue a claim related to the accident.
- Keep all medical bills and records, keep them organized
Keep your receipts and medical records if you visit the emergency room. Keep track of any doctors you see related to the accident, and what dates those visits occurred. Each of these visits will add value to your case, however, personal injury cases take time. It’s easy to mix up the numerous doctor’s visits, physical therapy, and medical procedures that are part of recovering from a serious motor vehicle accident. Your medical bills and records will be some of the first documents your attorney will need to see to pursue your case. Maintaining an organized record of your medical records will help your attorney recover greater compensation for your injuries and ensure that you are compensated more quickly.
- Follow the doctor’s orders
This should go without saying, however, many drivers do not pursue the continuing treatment suggested by their doctor in a timely manner. Your insurance company may attempt to use any failure to follow your doctor’s orders as an excuse to give you less compensation for your injuries. It’s difficult and sometimes impossible to get compensation for an injury you haven’t seen a doctor for. If your doctor suggests continuing treatment, physical therapy, or a medical procedure, it would be prudent to do so.
- Collect your insurance information
Your attorney will need to know what type of insurance you have, and what types of coverage are available. Many drivers don’t know the full extent of their insurance coverage. Before you are ever in an accident, take some time to learn what your insurance policy includes. Small portions of your policy like an uninsured motorist (UM), or underinsured motorist (UIM) policy can make or break your personal injury case. While insurance companies are often good and responsive to settling property damage to your car, damages from personal injuries are a much different story.
- Know the statute of limitations
If you wait too long to pursue your case, you might be prevented from filing an action in court for your claim. In the State of Virginia, the statute of limitations for bringing a Personal Injury case after a motor vehicle accident is two years after the date of the accident. As soon an accident occurs, the clock starts ticking on your claim. Don’t put off gathering the necessary materials to pursue your case.
- Request the police report
The police will typically complete their accident report one to two weeks after a motor vehicle accident. The exact procedure for getting a copy of the police report will vary depending on what county you live in. Typically, you can get a copy of the report by calling your local police department and requesting a copy. This document is critical to the success of any claim you might bring. Often, this report will include a diagram of the accident, and a conclusion regarding which driver is at fault in the accident. The other driver’s insurance company will use anything they can to deny liability, but this report can help prove which driver’s insurance should pay for your claim.
- Call an attorney experienced in personal injury cases-Simms Showers
Your and their insurance company will do everything in their power to reduce your claim, and delay paying benefits for your personal injury case. You may have insurance from your underinsured portion of your policy and of course, the other side will have liability insurance that may pay for your injuries. Do not talk with the other insurance company and be careful what you say to your insurance company which may later be adverse to your claims. The attorneys at Simms Showers have decades of experience negotiating with insurance companies and winning at trial if the insurance company refuses to negotiate reasonably.
Simms Showers, LLP offers a FREE INITIAL CONSULT for personal injury cases. This means that you can afford to share your story with us, talk through your options, and start your journey towards resolution. We will meet with you, hear your story, review your documents, talk about what attorney-client representation might look like, and help you assess your case.
Disclaimer: This memorandum is provided for general information purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice particular to your situation. No recipients of this memo should act or refrain from acting solely on the basis of this memorandum without seeking professional legal counsel. Simms Showers LLP expressly disclaims all liability relating to actions taken or not taken based solely on the content of this memorandum. Please contact Robert Showers at firstname.lastname@example.org or Caleb Jones at email@example.com for legal advice that will meet your specific needs.