A car accident can be a highly traumatic event, especially when you did nothing to cause it and are forced to deal with a damaged car and/or an injury. While we hope you never find yourself in this situation, it’s very important to be aware of what to do if this should ever happen. The better prepared you can make yourself now, the greater the chances you’ll be able to avoid any complications or legal issues that could jeopardize your ability to collect fair compensation.
Steps to Take After an Auto Accident
After a car accident, whether it’s a minor fender bender or a more serious collision, there are several things you should do to protect yourself and your interests. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you need to know:
Try to Stay Calm
This may seem easier said than done, but staying calm is essential after an accident. Panic can impair your ability to think clearly and can make a stressful situation even more difficult to navigate. Take a few deep breaths and check yourself for any injuries. If you’re able to do so safely, move your vehicle to the side of the road. Call an ambulance for yourself or the other driver if needed.
Call the Police
Filing a police report is an important step regardless of the severity of the accident. Reporting the crash creates a record that can make your insurance claim easier to prove. Here in Washington state, you must call the police after an accident if the collision involved criminal activity, caused injuries, or resulted in more than $700 in property damage.
Still not sure? It’s better to be safe and call anyway. There’s nothing to lose by establishing a paper trail as early on as possible, and making that call could give the at-fault driver’s insurance company the opportunity to claim that you didn’t meet due diligence.
In a perfect world, the driver who caused the accident would notify their insurance company and their insurer would pay the damages. However, there are many situations in which things don’t go this smoothly. The at-fault driver may decide not to report the accident. They may provide false information on how and why the accident occurred out of fear of rising insurance premiums or punishment for illegal activity. If they were driving without insurance, the burden of proof falls on you instead and you will have to rely on uninsured motorist coverage, if you have it. Worse still, the other driver may flee the scene of the accident, making the incident a hit and run. All of these examples are why it’s critical that you document as much information on the accident as possible.
While you wait for the police to arrive, gather the following information that can be useful in proving fault in an auto accident:
Name and contact information of the at-fault driver (name, address, phone number)
Driver’s license number of the at-fault driver
Insurance policy information of the at-fault driver
Names and contact information of any witnesses and any statements they are willing to provide
Pictures of the accident scene, such as the at-fault driver’s license plate, road conditions, traffic signs and signals, damage to your vehicle, any injuries you have sustained, etc.
Contact Your Insurance Company
While the at-fault driver’s insurance company should theoretically cover any damages caused by their policyholder, it’s rarely that simple. They may try to shift blame for the accident onto you, or offer you a much lower settlement amount than is warranted. In a worst-case scenario, they may even deny your claim altogether. That’s why even if you don’t believe a car accident was your fault, it’s still a good idea to tell your own insurance company about the accident.
If you are contacted by an adjuster from the other driver’s insurance company, it is very important that you remember the following:
Never give a written or recorded statement
Do not admit blame for the accident
Avoid accepting a settlement offer over the phone without first consulting a car accident lawyer
Contact a Car Accident Attorney
The actions you take after a car accident that wasn’t your fault can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case. Ensure that your rights are protected by working with an experienced car accident attorney who can help you navigate the often stressful waters of insurance claims and guide you towards the most favorable outcome possible.
Emery Reddy Serious Injury Department can help you understand legal documents and pursue the fair compensation you are owed for your medical care, vehicle repairs, lost wages, and more.
To request a complimentary consultation, call us now at (206) 202-2562. We serve drivers throughout the greater Seattle area.