By Rocco Motto
In the United States, more than 6 million car accidents happen each year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The day may come when you are involved in one. The experience, however minor, is jarring and traumatic. Sometimes the shock of an accident can disorient you. And yet, it’s essential that you do your best to take some important steps in the aftermath of an accident, especially one that affects more than one person. Here’s what you need to do when an accident occurs:
1. Stay calm. However upset you are, take a deep breath and stay focused on what you need to do to be safe and protect yourself. You may be upset that someone else has damaged your car, but by no means should you lash out at the other driver. You may feel guilty if you’ve damaged someone else’s car, but it is important you do not admit guilt. Do your best to manage your emotional response and take care of business. Doing so will protect you from possibly making a bad situation worse.
2. Get to safety. If your car is drivable, move it off the road. If not, certainly make sure you are out of harm’s way. It is not uncommon for people in an accident to suffer serious injury or death from oncoming traffic after the accident occurs – tragedies that could have been avoided by the accident victim remembering to move to safety.
3. Exchange information. Get information from the other driver, most importantly their insurance cards, driver’s licenses, and contact information. A quick way to get most of what you need is to photograph each other’s insurance cards and driver’s licenses
4. Take photographs. Document visually as much as you can, including the damage done to vehicles, scene of the accident, injuries sustained, and any pertinent information such as visible ice on the road. Do so immediately, not after the fact.
5. Call the police. Get police on the scene even for minor fender benders. They will verify what happened with a police report, which you may need later. The police presence may also be necessary to keep everyone calm.
6. Get contact information from any witnesses. In many car accident cases, both parties allege the other driver did something wrong. Having the contact information of someone else who was on scene provides you protection if a case arises out of the accident and you need someone to corroborate your version of events.
7. Seek medical attention. If you need immediate medical care, go to an emergency room and see if someone else can manage the steps discussed here. If you have suffered what seems like a minor injury, do seek medical attention of some kind within the next few days. Some injuries, such as head trauma and neck pain, don’t manifest themselves right away. You may not appreciate just how seriously you have been injured until you see a doctor.
8. Keep a diary. Diary everything that happened, including expenses incurred and when/where the accident occurred. You may need this information if it becomes necessary to seek an attorney’s counsel.
9. Contact your insurance company. Regardless of who is at fault, contact your insurance company. At the very least, doing so gives you a chance to describe in your own words what happened early on while your memory of the incident is clear.
10. Be vigilant. Don’t assume everything that happens next will go smoothly. Sure, for a minor fender bender, chances are that the situation will resolve itself quickly and routinely. But don’t assume anything. Stay on top of your insurance company to ensure that the follow-through is happening to your satisfaction. Make sure you get that police report on file. In a serious accident, be prepared to consult a personal injury attorney.
However severe or minor the accident is, remember that you are not alone. Don’t carry the burden of follow-up all by yourself. If you can, reach out to a family member or friend for help on the follow-up steps. In addition, if you need an attorney or simply have a question about an injury in Iowa or Illinois, the Capron & Avgerinos Illinois/Iowa Injury Network is here to help.
We are ready to assist you over the phone or in person. Call us at (800) 535-4542 with any questions you may have concerning your rights. All cases are performed on a contingent fee basis, which means we are not paid unless you recover compensation for your claim.
If you’ve suffered an injury either in your personal life or at work and you live in Illinois or Iowa, we’re here to help you get your life back to normal.