After a car accident, you may have serious injuries. At the least, you may feel confused as to what to do. Depending on your injuries, you should take steps to secure the scene of the accident. In many cases, the Department of Transportation recommends moving vehicles to the side of the road if they are running. Of course, you must take care that other drivers, especially rubber-neckers, do not hit you or the vehicles involved and cause more damage.
If you have already been in an accident don’t hesitate to contact an auto accident attorney to discuss injuries and damages of your case. At Boohoff Law we have been assisting people after car crashes for years with a history of getting their clients favorable results.
If You Can Safely Move
If your injuries are such that you can move safely, first call 911, then check on the other driver and your passengers. Set up emergency cones or flares if you have them. Always be aware of other drivers. They will look to see what happened instead of paying attention to what is in front of them.
Get Contact Information and Photos
Get the other driver’s contact, insurance, and registration information. Also, write down the other driver’s license plate number and the color and make of their vehicle. Give the other driver the same information for yourself. Take pictures of the accident scene. While the police or accident investigators will also take pictures, it is better if you have your own documentation.
- Get distance pictures showing skid marks;
- Get pictures showing both vehicles from multiple angles;
- Take close-up pictures of the damage to your vehicle; and
- Take close-up pictures of the damage to the other vehicle.
While you are taking close-up pictures, don’t take them so close that others can’t tell what they are looking at. Photos need contexts. For example, when you take a picture of a dent in a fender, take it far enough away to show the entire fender, yet close enough to show the damage. Once you take pictures, if the vehicles are movable, move them out of traffic if you can do it safely. If your vehicle moves but the other driver’s vehicle will not move, leave both vehicles where they are.
Get Additional Documentation
If you can get the following documentation, it could help your case down the line:
- All of the police officers’ names and badge numbers, even those you did not speak with. If you need to file an accident injury lawsuit, your attorney may call the police officers as witnesses. Getting their information helps save time when an attorney locates witnesses to help you.
- Find out where you get a copy of the police report. Insurance companies use police reports to determine fault, but so do courts and attorneys. Accident attorneys also review police reports to help create a picture of what might have caused the accident and may not come to the same conclusions as the insurance company or the police.
- Speak with witnesses to the accident. Because an accident happens unexpectedly and often quickly, you may not see everything that happened or may not remember it. Witnesses often fill in the blanks. Write down what witnesses have to say, including their names and phone numbers.
Always Get Medical Attention
Even if you believe you are not injured, it is advisable to get checked out by the emergency room or your doctor. Because of the adrenaline surge and other factors, injuries may not show up for hours or even days later. In some cases, such as concussions, symptoms may not show up for days, weeks or months.
Notify Your Insurance Company
Washington is a fault state when it comes to financial responsibility for car accidents. This means the person who was at fault for causing the car accident is also responsible for any damage resulting from the accident. As soon as possible, notify your insurance company of the accident and that you are making a claim. If you can’t notify your insurance company, a loved one may notify it. However, only give the insurance company your name, policy number, the location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact information. If the other driver’s insurance company or attorney contact you, refer them to your attorney.
An insurance company is in business to make money. Even your own insurance company may not have your best interests in mind—it has its bottom line in mind. An insurance company will often pay you just enough to make you “go away.” That amount may not cover all of your medical bills that are related to the accident or all of the repairs needed to your vehicle—or its replacement value.
If you get an attorney involved in the claim, the insurance company is more likely to give you a better settlement offer, since the likelihood of going to court is higher than if you were to try to settle with the insurance company yourself. If the other driver’s coverage is not enough to cover all of the damages you are entitled to, the other driver did not carry insurance, or your supplemental underinsured motorist coverage is insufficient, you may need to file a lawsuit against the other driver to collect full compensation for your damages.
Speak With a Car Accident Attorney
Contact your car accident attorney to set up a consultation to discuss your vehicle accident. When you contact the attorney, let him or her know that your insurance company may be calling for information about the accident.
If you can’t contact your insurance company and attorney yourself, be sure a loved one contacts everyone for you. You must notify your insurance company as soon as possible, as some insurance companies give you very little time to file a claim.
Give your attorney’s contact information and your insurance company’s information to family members if you are injured badly enough that you cannot make these calls yourself. Don’t forget to remind family members to give minimal information to insurance companies, and to let your attorney give the insurance company detailed information so as not to implicate you in fault. Even if you are not at fault, the insurance company could twist what you or a family member says, just so it has an excuse to pay out less.
Obtain Medical Records
You will need copies of your medical records and invoices showing your injuries and the cost of your medical care. If you suffered serious injuries in an accident and you expect long-term or permanent injuries, you will need medical documentation showing that.
You might be entitled to more than reimbursement for past medical costs associated with the accident. Serious injuries often require additional medical care, including but not limited to physical, cognitive, occupational, and psychological therapy. Physical injuries that take a long time to heal or that never heal often cause depression and other psychological issues in injured people. Additionally, those who feel they are a burden on family members or friends may also suffer from anxiety and/or depression.
Additionally, you may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of a vehicle accident. PTSD could cause anxiety if you try to drive or even if you ride as a passenger in the car, among other issues. Some people may need extended therapy to help with those feelings of anxiety or depression.
If you have trouble getting medical records for all of your injuries, let your car accident lawyer know. He or she may help you get copies of your records.
If You Have Serious Injuries
If your injuries are too severe for you to move and you have another person with you that is not seriously injured, ask the other person to gather information. Do not allow anyone to move your vehicle. If you cannot safely move because of injuries and can talk, and a witness or the other driver checks on you, make sure someone calls 911 if you can’t do it yourself.
Always stay still if you believe you have broken bones or other internal injuries. You could do more damage if you try to move, especially if you injured your back, neck or head.
If You Are a Witness to an Accident
If you saw the accident happen and the drivers ask you what you saw, give the same account to anyone who asks. The police will also ask you what happened for the accident report, as they are required to write down witness information. Sometimes people cannot be “bothered” with giving a statement because they don’t want to get involved. However, your statement may help a driver get the compensation he or she is entitled to if both drivers have conflicting accounts.
Car Accident Injury and Fatality Statistics
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), collectively, Americans spend over 1 million days in the hospital because of injuries sustained in vehicle accidents. In 2012, the latest year the CDC has statistics available, medical costs totaled $18 billion. The CDC estimated that workers lost about $33 billion in wages because of car crash injuries in 2012.
The CDC also found that 2.5 million people in America went to the emergency department after a 2012 car crash, and of those, medical personnel admitted almost 200,000.
Safer America found that 40,3270 people died in car accidents in 2017 and that 38 percent of fatal accidents involved more than one motor vehicle. Forty percent of fatal accidents were with a fixed object such as a tree or because the vehicle rolled over.
Avoiding an Accident
Accidents are difficult to avoid, mostly because they are unexpected. Lower the chances of being in an accident by driving defensively. This means that you always pay attention to the road. If you notice another accident, slow down and turn your emergency flashers on. When other drivers see your emergency flashers, they know to slow down sooner than they otherwise would have slowed down. The flashers also alert other drivers that there is a problem ahead.
If you are distracted and you cause an accident, not only may the police charge you, but you could find yourself serving time in jail or even paying punitive damages to the person you injured. Paying attention not only helps you avoid accidents that already happened, but it also prevents you from being injured should you cause an accident. If you come upon an accident scene and are not watching in front of you, you could contribute to additional damage and injuries if you hit other vehicles involved in the accident, or you could cause additional injuries if you hit first responders.
Taking a defensive driving course is another way to help avoid accidents. The course will teach you how to avoid sudden accidents in front of you, objects in the road and other people whose actions may cause you to wreck. Some insurance companies offer a discount on your insurance if you take driving classes.
Prepare for an Accident
Being prepared for an accident may also save your or another person’s life. Always keep an extra blanket, a first-aid kit, flashlight, and water in your vehicle. If you should get into an accident and you suffer from minor injuries, you can clean and cover visible injuries to prevent open wounds from becoming infected. The extra blankets help those injured and are feeling cold because of shock, or because it’s cold outside. Even in the summer when it’s hot enough, you should always have an extra blanket with you.
You should also carry emergency triangles, cones, or flares to set out on the road after the accident. These bright orange devices warn people about an obstruction ahead and will hopefully keep them from running into you or your vehicle.
The first aid kit should contain supplies to clean minor cuts and bandages to cover minor wounds to prevent infection. If a piece of metal cut you, always go to the hospital for a tetanus shot unless you’ve recently had one.
If you have further questions following a car accident, ask a car accident lawyer for more information.
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