The immediate aftermath of a car accident can be disorienting and overwhelming. Whether it is just an aggravating fender bender or a serious collision, increased adrenalin can cause impulses and emotions to function in unusual ways, so the most important thing to remember after a crash is to remain calm. Serenity is probably out of the question, but do your best to maintain your composure: take deep breaths, assess your physical well-being, call 911, and then proceed to assist anyone else who may be in need of help. If it appears that someone has suffered a neck or back injury, do not move them. In addition to these immediate actions, though, there are a few other things to keep in mind after being involved in an accident. Our first impulses are not always the best ones, especially if we have just been in an intense situation.
First and foremost, never leave the scene of an accident. If you do, you could potentially be prosecuted and face heavy fines or even jail time. If you are able to do so, move your car over to the nearest shoulder so it will not obstruct the flow of traffic; this will also help prevent further incident. When the police arrive, be sure to be helpful and cooperative in assisting the officer to complete his or her report. The officer’s report will serve as an official document of the incident, which will subsequently be helpful when dealing with your insurance company and when filing a potential personal injury claim.
The next thing that you will want to do is exchange insurance information with any other driver(s) involved in the accident. This should include your name and phone number as well as the name of your insurance carrier, and the other driver(s) should provide you with the same. This information will also be filed along with the police report, and you will have access to it once it is available at the police station – usually for a small fee.
Once the basics have been accounted for, it’s important to begin thinking and acting as if your accident could potentially become a personal injury claim. For example, it might be tempting (or even just seem polite) to discuss what happened before, during, and after the accident with the other driver, but you should really just stick to the basics and get their contact and insurance information. Conversations about the crash are rarely productive and could even have significantly negative effects on your case, especially if your words are misconstrued or taken out of context. It is best to simply keep calm and quiet until the authorities arrive and not to provoke or to allow yourself to be provoked by anyone else involved.
After you have exchanged information with the other driver(s), you can politely ask witnesses for their contact information. At some point, these individuals could provide invaluable testimony corroborating your story and strengthening your case, but again, avoid lengthy conversations with them concerning the details of the accident.
Next, you will want to take photos of the scene. This is a crucial step for preserving evidence, as concreted visuals can help others to actually see the circumstances surrounding a crash (weather, time of day, construction, etc.) and the effects of the collision (collision points, injuries, property damage, etc.). These photos may also jog your memory at a later date and help you to remember important details of the accident that you may have forgotten without a visual reference. It doesn’t matter what type of camera you use (these days, most cell phone cameras do a pretty good job); just be sure to take many different photos from many different angles and distances. Keep common landmarks in photos (signs, fire hydrants, trees, etc.) so that the viewer can judge distance and perspective.
Once you take those photos, you’ll again want to keep the idea of possibly pursuing legal action in your mind. If you are active on any social media platforms, YouTube channels, or blog sites, do not share anything related to the accident, like photos, witness accounts, or any other details. Furthermore, if any of your family or friends are doing so, ask them to remove the posts immediately. There are laws in place that could prohibit the removal of those posts after they have been classified as evidence in a case, so if there is any information on your social media pages or those of your friends and family, make sure that they are removed as soon as possible. In fact, the smartest thing to do is to eliminate your social media profiles altogether, but short of that, you should, at the very least, suspend all social media activity until you consult with an attorney.
A couple days, sometimes sooner, after a crash, you may get a call from an insurance company. They will want to ask you questions about the crash. Know that you are not obligated to talk to them. Definitely do not discuss anything related to the accident with the other driver’s insurance company until you have had a chance to speak with a capable and reputable personal injury attorney.
The moments, hours, and days after a collision can be hectic, confusing, and frustrating. Often, the things that we would normally do – have a polite conversation, post on social media, etc. – can have profoundly negative effects on a potential lawsuit, even if you were not at fault and you were the one injured in a crash! It truly is in your best interest to contact an attorney as soon as possible after a car wreck. At Crosley Law Firm, we offer free consultations so we can help you decide what your best course of action is after a collision and answer any questions you may have – free of charge. Call us at (877) 535-4529 to schedule your free consultation or submit the details of your situation online using our free case review form to have one of our attorneys get in touch with you.