The National Safety Council estimates that about 15,000 traffic accidents happen every day on the streets and highways of the United States. If you are involved in a traffic collision, you need to do some things at the scene of the accident and immediately afterward. This is a list of what will need to be done. In fact, you might even want to print this page and keep it with you in your vehicle:
1. REMAIN AT THE ACCIDENT SCENE
Do not leave the scene of an accident scene until everything that needs to be done has been completed. Anyone who leaves an accident scene, especially if someone has suffered injuries or a fatality, could potentially face serious criminal penalties for being a hit-and-run driver or for leaving the scene of an accident. Make sure that you’ve done everything on this list before you leave. If the police come to the accident site, they’ll tell you when it’s okay to leave.
2. CHECK EVERYONE’S CONDITION AND SUMMON MEDICAL HELP IF NEEDED
Of course, the very first thing to do in the aftermath of a traffic crash is to see if anyone involved needs medical attention and to summon medical help if it’s needed. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 2.5 million drivers and passengers are injured in traffic crashes every year. Don’t move anyone who is unconscious or injured unless a safety hazard (such as a vehicle on fire) requires moving a person.
3. IN MOST CASES, CONTACT THE POLICE IMMEDIATELY
You may not need to call the police for a mere dent or a minor fender-bender, but if an accident causes any injuries or fatalities or any significant damage, call the police at once. When the police arrive, get the names and badge numbers of the officers. Ask them to file an accident report, and find out how you can obtain a copy of the accident report and when it will become available.
4. EXCHANGE INSURANCE DETAILS
Obtain names, phone numbers, addresses, drivers’ license numbers, license plate numbers, and insurance contact information from all of the drivers involved in the crash. If there are passengers – or witnesses – try to obtain their names, phone numbers, and addresses as well. If another driver is hostile, intoxicated, or otherwise uncooperative, ask the police to help you obtain the information you need. Be as cooperative and as cordial as you can, but do not admit to anything, apologize for anything, or sign anything before you speak with an attorney.
5. TAKE PLENTY OF PHOTOGRAPHS
If it’s at all possible, take pictures of the crash scene, the damages to the vehicles, and your own visible injuries. Sometimes in personal injury cases, photos can make all the difference. Photographs also help your insurance adjuster to decide how much you should be compensated for the damages to your vehicle. Photos of your vehicle before the collision can help you show the genuine extent of the damages.
6. CONTACT YOUR AUTOMOBILE INSURER
Contact your automobile insurance company at once and tell them that you’ve been involved in an accident. Obtain a copy of the police accident report so that you can show the insurance company if laws were broken by any driver or if fault was determined by the police.
Cooperate with your insurance company and be truthful about the accident and about the extent of your injuries. If you deceive the insurance company or exaggerate in any way, you might be denied coverage for your damages or even find yourself in legal trouble.
7. KEEP A RECORD OF YOUR MEDICAL TREATMENT
Even if you “feel” perfectly healthy after a collision, have a doctor look at you. Often, injuries that may not even be apparent or visible – or that may seem trivial – can slowly become serious medical conditions. Keep records of all medical appointments and any doctors, therapists, chiropractors, or other healthcare professionals who provide treatment. Also, maintain a detailed record of the treatments and any medications you receive.
Request, make copies, and keep copies of all medical reports, medical bills, and any other documents or paperwork that can help you verify your healthcare expenditures. Also keep a precise record of your days missed from work, and if you have been injured seriously, keep a record of the activities you can no longer perform and how being injured has impacted your life and family.
8. GET YOUR AUTO INSURANCE COMPANY’S DAMAGE VALUATION
Obtain a copy of the insurance company’s damage valuation. If you’re not happy with the way your insurance company has evaluated your vehicle, get several independent estimates or replacement quotes. Tell the insurance adjuster about your concerns. In the state of California, if you can’t reach an agreement with the insurance company, you’ll want to consult with an experienced Fresno car accident attorney. If your injuries are serious or disabling, talk to the attorney first.
9. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY
Don’t speak with anyone regarding the crash except your lawyer, your insurance company, and the police. Never speak with anyone from another insurance company without obtaining your lawyer’s advice first.
If you are contacted by another insurance company, refer them to your own insurance company or to your attorney, and then promptly let your attorney know you received the call. Remember that anything you say can be twisted, misinterpreted, and used against you, so silence is the best strategy.
10. BE CAREFUL ABOUT QUICK SETTLEMENT OFFERS
If an insurance company offers you a settlement, don’t be quick to accept it. Speak with your attorney first about any settlement offer. You need to be certain that all of your physical injuries have been treated and no other latent injuries will emerge. Some injuries may not manifest for weeks or sometimes months. Don’t settle a claim until you are certain that you are being fully compensated for all of your injuries, medical care, and associated damages.
11. HIRE AN EXPERIENCED FRESNO CAR ACCIDENT ATTORNEY
In the state of California, if you’re injured in a traffic crash, and if you can prove that the other driver’s negligence caused the crash, you can sue for personal injuries and be compensated for your medical care, lost income, and related damages. Victims injured by negligent drivers in the greater Fresno area should obtain legal advice at once by consulting an experienced Fresno car accident attorney.
Many accident lawyers operate on a contingent fee basis, which means that your attorney receives a fee only if you are awarded damages by a jury or receive a settlement out of court.
12. STAY AS SAFE AS POSSIBLE
Always wear your safety belt. Be absolutely certain that your brakes, tires, and lights are in good working condition every time you drive. Do not let a negligent driver ruin your life just because you overlooked something or made a trivial mistake. If you’re injured by a negligent driver in a traffic collision anywhere in the state of California, contact an experienced Fresno car accident attorney and put knowledgeable, skilled legal help on the case right away.