A car accident is disorienting, frustrating, and painful. Many people struggle to determine what to do next, especially if they believe they sustained only minor injuries—or, in a best-case scenario, no injuries at all. However, even if you think your car accident didn’t injure you, here’s how to protect yourself and raise your odds of a full recovery from your accident.
Step One: Keep yourself out of danger.
Do not do anything after a car accident that will put you in additional danger. If you have immediate injuries, including bleeding, seek medical care. Do not step out into the road or put yourself in a position that could raise the risk of further injury, especially on a busy road.
Step Two: Call 911 and wait for the police to arrive.
Notify the police of your accident and provide the dispatcher with your location. The dispatcher will let you know that an officer will arrive shortly or if an officer cannot come to the accident scene, you will need to handle the exchange of information on your own.
When you call 911, let the dispatcher know if anyone at the accident scene has obvious signs of injury. In some cases, an ambulance may need to take injured people to the hospital. Provide any relevant information about the severity of injuries so that dispatch can determine how to prioritize your accident: for example, if one victim suffers from serious blood loss, or you have a victim disoriented and struggling to remain awake, an ambulance will need to come faster.
Unless you need to seek immediate emergency medical care, wait at the accident scene for the police to arrive. If you leave the accident, you could face criminal charges, even if you did not cause the accident.
Step Three: Collect information for your records.
While you wait for the police to arrive, carefully consider your physical condition and immediate needs. If you can safely move around the vehicle without risking further injury, get out and take photos of the accident scene.
- Photos of the damage to both vehicles
- The other vehicle’s plates
- The broader scene of the accident
- The make and model of the other vehicle
- Any features of the scene that contributed to the accident
- Your injuries, in the case of visible injuries
In addition, collect the other driver’s contact information, including a photo of the driver’s license and insurance cards. Keeping all those photos in one place can make it easier to access them later, especially as you need to provide that information to your own insurance company.
Finally, if any witnesses are available, go ahead and collect their contact information. You can share this information with your lawyer if you file an injury claim.
Step Four: Provide the police with the information you have.
Inform the police of what you saw that contributed to the accident, including any geographic features that raised the risk or caused the accident. You can also provide the police with information about any erratic driving behavior from the other driver, including suspicions like distracted or drowsy driving; however, keep in mind that the police will draw their own conclusions about those conditions.
Step Five: Pursue medical care.
If you have severe injuries, leave the scene of the accident in an ambulance. Immediate medical care can make a huge difference in your ability to protect yourself and recover after a severe accident.
Listen to the instructions issued by any first responders at the scene. If an officer notes that you show signs of injury, even if you do not feel any pain or notice any distress at the time of the accident, you should still pursue medical care.
If you do not have to leave the scene in an ambulance, you should receive an evaluation from a medical professional within 24 hours of the accident. Ideally, you should seek medical care immediately if you have any signs of pain or suffer from disorientation due to the accident. A medical care provider can rule out serious injuries and ensure that you get the treatment you need.
After the Accident
Once you take care of the immediate needs associated with the accident, you may need to take other steps to help protect yourself and promote the fullest recovery possible, further protecting your right to recover compensation through an injury claim.
Step Six: Listen to and follow all instructions issued by your medical care providers.
Do not ignore any steps provided by your doctor, whether that means you need to pursue a specific type of care or therapy, do specific exercises to help you regain strength, or avoid specific activities for the duration of your recovery.
You can worsen your injuries or extend your recovery time by ignoring your care provider’s instructions. Not only that, if you take any steps that worsen your injuries, you may be liable for any associated increased medical costs.
Keep track of all your medical records and medical bills following the accident. Your records create clear evidence of your injuries and limitations, while your medical bills will show the costs you faced due to your accident and your injuries.
Step Seven: Create your statement about the accident.
Memory can fade quickly, especially after a traumatic event. You may find that the more time goes by, the less you remember about the accident. Take the time to create a written or verbal record of what you observed at the time of the accident, including any necessary details that can help establish liability. You can keep that statement for your records even if you do not need it later.
Step Eight: Talk to your health insurance company.
If you sustained severe injuries in your car accident, you likely have substantial medical bills. Talk to your health insurance company as soon after the accident as you can. Your health insurance company can give you a better idea of how much coverage you have and how much you can expect to pay out of pocket for any medical care related to the accident.
You may want to ask your health insurance company about:
- Your copay and deductible amounts
- Your out-of-pocket maximum for the calendar year
- In-network versus out-of-network providers
- Coverage for the medical care elements you will need for your recovery, including durable medical equipment, in-home care, a stay in a long-term care facility, and physical or occupational therapy
By knowing what coverage you have, you make arrangements for your care and recovery while taking all your injuries into account. Your doctor or care team will often work with you to find solutions that fit with your insurance coverage. Your insurance coverage may prove particularly vital if you have injuries that require long-term care and a long road to recovery since you may need to use your insurance coverage long after your injury claim ends.
Step Nine: Contact a lawyer.
Before you begin your insurance claim, talk to a lawyer. Often, car accident victims start their claims on their own. They may assume that the insurance company will give them a fair offer, or worry that they will pay so much for a lawyer that they won’t receive the compensation they deserve for their injuries.
A lawyer can offer vital support following a car accident. Most injury lawyers, including car accident lawyers, will start with a free consultation: a chance to go over your claim, determine whether you have grounds to sue for compensation, and provide an idea of how much you should expect through the insurance company.
In most cases, a car accident lawyer will not accept a case unless the firm can help the victim acquire more compensation than the victim would by handling their claim alone.
Working with a lawyer offers many critical advantages as you move forward with an injury claim. First, a lawyer can help you understand the compensation you deserve, which may prevent you from accepting a settlement offer that fails to reflect your needs after an accident.
Next, a lawyer can work with you to collect evidence related to the accident, which may help you establish your right to compensation. Finally, a lawyer can help with your claim’s legal details while you focus on the most important element: your recovery.
Step Ten: Notify relevant parties.
You may need to notify several parties about your car accident, your injuries, and the limitations you face moving forward.
Your Auto Insurance Company
In addition to the liability insurance policies on their vehicles, Florida drivers must carry personal injury protection insurance: car accident insurance that provides essential assistance with medical costs immediately after the accident. If you suffered injuries in a car accident, you likely need to use your PIP insurance to cover your vital medical bills.
Notify your auto insurance company about the accident and your need to use your PIP insurance.
You may also need to notify your auto insurance company if you need to use your own coverage for:
- An accident with an uninsured motorist
- An accident with a motorist that does not carry adequate insurance
You should also notify your insurance company if you know you totaled your vehicle in the accident and will need to close out the policy on that vehicle before you move forward.
A car accident can interfere with your ability to work. Often, you miss work immediately after the accident while you deal with your immediate medical needs and the legal snarls that accompany a car accident. In addition, you may find that your car accident injuries impact your work for quite some time, especially in cases where severe injuries prevent you from getting back to the office promptly.
Talk to your employer about your options for managing your work while you recover from your injuries. Sometimes, your employer may want you to stay out of work and focus on your recovery after the initial accident. Other times, your employer may allow you to work from home temporarily or provide you with the support that will make it easier for you to return to the office.
If you do have to miss work, keep track of all hours lost, including whether you used short-term disability, had to use sick or vacation time, or took unpaid time off in the aftermath of the accident since all these factors influence your injury claim.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer for Help After Your Accident
Car accidents leave many victims with substantial questions about their next steps and how to manage their claims. If you have questions, a lawyer can help. Contact an attorney as soon after your accident as possible to learn more.