Nobody wakes up and thinks, “Hmm. I wonder if I’ll be injured in a car crash today.” But serious accidents happen all the time. It’s important to be prepared in case you or one of your family members is hurt by a driver — whether the injury happens while you or your family member is in a vehicle or is a motorcyclist, pedestrian or biker.
What steps should you take right after a collision? Are there specific things you can do to protect yourself? Are there particular actions you should avoid? Where does the lawsuit thing come into play if the driver is negligent, distracted or drunk?
Your top priority is safety and appropriate medical care
This should go without saying, but it’s very easy to get caught up in a stressful moment. If you or a family member is hurt — even if you’re not sure how severe the injury is — get proper medical care right away. Some injuries, particularly injuries to the head, neck and back, can go undetected when adrenaline spikes and there is no blood or acute pain.
Don’t panic, but don’t underestimate the seriousness of any injury, even if the collision was a low-speed or rear-end accident. If you see or feel something, get it checked out.
Report the accident ASAP
Make sure you get the driver’s full name, insurance information, vehicle description and license plate number. Get law enforcement help and file a report. Notify your insurance company. If you can, get contact information from witnesses who saw the accident.
Document the accident
Take pictures with your phone if at all possible. Photograph the damage to your car and even your physical injuries, if appropriate. Record the time and exact location of the accident and the circumstances surrounding it. Write this information down or convey it to a family member or friend.
What NOT to do
Never leave the scene of an accident without getting the other driver’s information. Do not talk to the other driver’s insurance company about a settlement or give a recorded statement to that insurer; talk to your own insurance company.
Do not admit fault after an accident. Avoid posting accident details and photos on Facebook and other social media because that information could be used against you later.
Road rage can be dangerous, particularly after an accident. Never argue with or behave aggressively toward a negligent driver; stay calm and call 911 if there is any emergency. Though it may be tempting to lash out at a motorist who you know was distracted, drunk or reckless, you never know what can happen. Take care of yourself.
Talk to an attorney if you were hurt
Every accident is different. Some accidents lead to personal injury claims and lawsuits, but many do not. Get help from a reputable law firm if you aren’t sure; nearly all injury attorneys offer a free consultation to accident victims and their families.