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What to Do After a Car Accident

What to Do After a Car AccidentEvery driver should familiarize themselves with the steps they must take after a car accident. Knowing what to do after a crash can help you fulfill your obligations under state law and protect your legal rights to recover compensation from the at-fault driver. These steps begin at the accident scene and proceed into the following weeks and months as you recover.

Working with a car accident lawyer early in the recovery process may improve the outcome of your case.

Call for your FREE case review today. (989) 244-0440

Steps to Take at the Accident Scene

By their nature, traffic accidents happen suddenly and with little warning, often overwhelming victims and leaving them unsure of what to do next. Knowing how to react after a crash will go a long way to prepare you for the aftermath.

Ensure Everyone’s Safety

First, you should check yourself, your passengers, and the occupants of the other vehicles involved in the accident to see if anyone needs assistance or medical attention. Call 911 if someone asks or appears injured or in distress. Move your car to the shoulder or side of the road if you can safely drive it.

If the accident disabled your car, carefully walk to the side of the road or shoulder. You don’t want to leave your vehicle on the road, which may pose a collision hazard for oncoming traffic. If you must leave your car on the road, do not stay in or near it in case an oncoming vehicle hits it.

Exchange Information

Michigan law requires drivers to exchange information with everyone else involved in the accident. While you should remain polite when talking to the other drivers and passengers, keep your conversations brief. Do not discuss the details of the accident or try to assign blame for the crash, as doing so may negatively affect your legal rights.

Alert the Authorities

State law also requires drivers involved in car accidents to report the crash to law enforcement. You can contact the local police department or state police through their non-emergency line if no one called 911.

Document the Accident Scene

Take photos and videos of the accident scene if you can do so safely. You should document essential details such as the damage to the cars involved in the crash, visible injuries you’ve suffered, skid marks on the road, traffic controls at the scene, each driver’s visual perspective right before the crash, and weather, lighting, road, and traffic conditions if relevant. Try to gather contact information from any eyewitnesses to the crash in case you need their statement for your car accident claim.

Steps to Take After Leaving the Accident Scene

You can continue protecting your health and your legal rights by taking these steps in the days after the wreck.

Seek Medical Attention

You should go to the hospital or see your doctor immediately if you declined medical attention at the accident scene. The shock of a car crash can cause an adrenaline rush that can mask pain and other symptoms of injuries for hours or even days.

A doctor can examine you and perform diagnostic tests to identify any injuries you may have sustained in the accident. By obtaining a diagnosis immediately after a car accident, you can strengthen your argument that your injuries occurred in the accident rather than from pre-existing injuries or degenerative conditions.

Notify Your Auto Insurer

Remember to notify your car insurance provider about the accident as soon as possible after the crash. Your insurance policy may require you to notify the insurer within a certain period, often around 72 hours.

Provide timely notice under the terms of your policy to ensure your eligibility for coverage, including personal injury protection coverage. Your insurance company will want prompt notice of the accident so it can begin investigating before evidence gets lost or people’s memories fade.

What to Do in the Weeks Following a Car Accident

You have important actions to take in the weeks after a car accident. Doing the following can preserve your rights to pursue financial recovery for your injuries and losses.

Follow Your Treatment Plan

Carefully follow your doctor’s treatment plan and instructions. Do not put off treatment or delay procedures, as your long-term health is at stake.

Furthermore, if you do not follow important instructions or medical restrictions, you may give the insurance company grounds to argue that you have failed to mitigate your losses. The insurer may contend that you’ve allowed your injuries to worsen without treatment. If your aggravated injuries require more expensive medical care, the insurance company may argue that you shouldn’t recover full compensation for your medical expenses.

Keep Copies of Records of Your Losses

Remember to keep copies of any records of your expenses from the accident, including:

  • Car repair invoices
  • Appraisal reports to calculate the value of your car if the insurance company declares it a total loss
  • Receipts for car rentals or rideshares
  • Medical bills and invoices
  • Receipts for out-of-pocket medical expenses, including prescriptions or purchases of durable medical equipment
  • Travel expenses from seeking specialist medical care
  • Invoices and receipts for home health services, housekeeping, or home maintenance
  • Contractor invoices from work to install disability accommodations in your home

If you miss time from work or transfer to a part-time/light-duty position that pays you less than you earned before the car accident, gather copies of your pay stubs or income statements to calculate your lost wages.

Start a Diary or Journal

Keeping a diary or journal during your recovery from a car accident provides important documentary evidence for your claim. You can use your journal to record pain, emotional distress, and physical limitations you experience because of your injuries or medical treatment.

A record of your injuries’ effects on your quality of life will bolster your claim for pain and suffering compensation if you become eligible to file a liability claim against a negligent driver. You can use your diary or journal to push back if the insurance company argues that you’ve fabricated or exaggerated your pain and suffering.

Request Copies of Records To Support Your Claim

You can also begin collecting and organizing other evidence to help support your car accident claim, such as:

  • Medical records from your treatment
  • Photos or videos you or your passengers took at the accident scene
  • The police accident report
  • Dashcam footage from your car
  • Any surveillance footage of the accident
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Correspondence with the insurance companies

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer

Speak with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible after the crash. Most car accident lawyers offer free initial consultations where the attorney can explain your legal rights and discuss your options for recovering compensation. In particular, a car accident lawyer can walk you through Michigan’s no-fault insurance system, which may restrict your ability to file a claim against an at-fault driver and instead require you to seek compensation for certain losses from your auto insurance provider.

What Not to Do After a Car Accident

Knowing what not to do after a car accident is just as important as knowing what you should do. These mistakes can jeopardize your right to recover compensation for your injuries and car damage.

Here are some things you should refrain from doing after a traffic collision:

  • Admitting fault or apologizing. Be careful when talking to the other driver or drivers at the crash scene or to the insurance companies following the accident. Do not admit fault or responsibility for the accident or say anything that may serve as evidence of your fault, such as, “I didn’t see the other vehicle.” You should also refrain from apologizing to the other driver. Although you may feel compelled out of a natural desire to offer sympathy to the other people involved in the crash, the police or the insurance company may see an “I’m sorry” as a sign of your guilty conscience. Even if you believe you caused the crash, the evidence may ultimately prove that another driver or party bears responsibility for the car accident. Don’t jeopardize your rights to recovery before you know what they are.
  • Blaming others for the accident. You should also avoid assigning blame. The police or insurance company may see that behavior as an effort to deflect liability. Pointing fingers may end up hurting your credibility.
  • Failing to report the accident to law enforcement. If you need to pursue a car accident claim, a police accident report can provide key evidence for your case. Insurance companies often rely on police crash reports since officers have training and experience in investigating auto accidents and can provide a neutral perspective of the accident. But if you don’t report the accident to the police, you won’t have a police accident report.
  • Failing to notify your insurance company. Your auto insurance policy may require you to notify your insurer that you’ve been in a car accident within a certain number of days following the accident. Failing to timely notify your insurer may jeopardize your coverage or financial recovery.
  • Failing to seek medical attention or follow through with treatment. Not getting medical treatment for your injuries may worsen those injuries, which may adversely affect your health and your legal rights to recover compensation after the car accident.
  • Posting about the accident or your injuries on social media. Insurance companies sometimes monitor the social media accounts of car accident victims to see if they might post something that contradicts their claims. For example, suppose you’ve claimed to have suffered disabling injuries, but you post photos or videos of yourself participating in physical activities or traveling. In that case, the insurance company may assume you’ve fabricated or exaggerated your injuries.
  • Agreeing to provide a written or recorded statement to the insurance company or to sign a medical release. An insurance adjuster may ask you for a written or recorded statement about the accident. These professionals are adept at asking questions designed to get an accident victim to say something the insurance company can use to undercut their claim. Insurers may also ask you to sign a medical release form to get access to your medical history. However, signing a release will allow the insurance company to fish through your medical records for pre-existing injuries or degenerative conditions that the insurance company may cite as the underlying cause of your injuries instead of the car accident.
  • Signing documents the insurance company provides without having a lawyer review them. The insurance company may present you with documents to sign. However, you should always have a lawyer look over anything the insurance company gives you before you sign it, as the terms of the document may adversely affect your legal rights.

How Can a Car Accident Lawyer Help You?

Hiring a car accident lawyer can help you recover from a life-changing crash.

While you focus on your treatment and rehabilitation, a car accident lawyer can handle the details of your legal claims, including:

  • Investigating the facts and circumstances underlying the accident to recover evidence you may need to pursue an insurance claim or lawsuit
  • Identifying applicable insurance coverages and potentially liable parties
  • Explaining your legal options to you and preparing you for what to expect at each stage of the legal process
  • Recording your injuries and losses to determine how much compensation you need
  • Preparing and filing your insurance claims and communicating with adjusters on your behalf
  • Filing litigation and advocating for you in court if necessary to pursue a favorable result in your car accident case

Taking the Right Actions After a Car Accident Can Help Preserve Your Right to Financial Compensation

Immediately following a car accident, you should ensure the safety of everyone involved in the crash, collect contact and insurance information, and report the accident to law enforcement. Next, you should seek medical attention for any injuries you’ve suffered and gather evidence to support your insurance or legal claims.

Finally, get in touch with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you recover the money you need to move forward with your life.

Experienced. Local. Lawyers. (989) 244-0440