The moments immediately following a car wreck can be confusing, especially if you are injured. However, this time is often the most important if you are planning to file a claim for compensation.
The steps you take after an accident can help ensure your injuries receive the care they need and that your best interests are protected.
Our auto accident attorneys recommend that you follow these steps if you have been injured in a car accident .
Immediately After the Accident
There are several important steps you should take while you are still at the accident scene immediately after the accident.
Do Not Leave the Accident Scene
Always stay at the scene of an accident until law enforcement or medical personnel release you. According to Florida Statutes, all drivers have a duty to provide information and assistance to anyone who is involved in an accident.
If possible, you should also attempt to move all vehicles out of the road and into a safe place. This can help prevent additional accidents from occurring and can help preserve evidence.
Check for Injuries and Seek Medical Care
Safety should be your number one priority after an accident. You should check on everyone involved to make sure that everyone is okay.
However, you should never attempt to move someone who is unconscious or may have a neck or back injury.
If someone is injured, you should call 911 immediately.
If you have suffered an injury, even one that appears to be minor, you should always seek medical care and never refuse medical treatment.
Furthermore, some injuries, such as whiplash, will not be immediately apparent at the accident scene, so it is best to visit your doctor soon after the accident to ensure you have no hidden injuries.
Call the Police
Car accidents involving injuries or property damage of more than $500 must be reported to the local police department, sheriff or Florida Highway Patrol.
Reporting the accident will ensure that an accident report is submitted by the responding officer. This report provides important details about the accident and will be a vital piece of evidence for proving your claim.
You should make sure to provide the responding officer with as many details about the accident as possible. However, do not speculate, inflate or minimize any information.
Before leaving the scene, obtain a copy of the accident report, as well as names and badge numbers of the responding law enforcement officers. Copies of the report can also be obtained online.
It is important that you collect the contact and insurance information for drivers who were involved in the accident. You should also obtain information from everyone at the scene of the accident who could serve as witnesses and provide more information about what happened.
You should collect:
- The other driver’s name, phone number, address and email address
- The other driver’s insurance company name, phone number and policy number
- Names and contact information for any witnesses
If witnesses are willing to provide a statement at the time, you can record it with your cellphone or write it down with your notes about the accident.
You should take photos of the accident scene, any property damage and your injuries. Photograph road and weather conditions as well as vehicles involved.
If you are unable to take photos immediately following the accident, you can return to the scene later.
Take Notes About the Accident
The details of the accident will fade from memory more quickly than you expect. To ensure nothing is forgotten, you should take detailed notes about the incident as soon as possible. You should include:
- Your immediate thoughts about the accident
- What you saw, heard and felt leading up to, during and after the accident
- Details about the other vehicles and drivers involved
- A timeline of the accident with details about everything that happened
Notify Your Insurance Company
Because Florida is a no-fault insurance state, you will contact your own insurance company to report the accident. You should do this as soon as possible.
However, you should be careful about what you say to the insurance adjuster. You should:
- Never downplay the seriousness of your injuries
- Never speculate about what happened
- Always tell the details of the incident as you remember them
- Tell the adjuster you do not know the answer to a question if you are unsure
- Never take blame for the accident
- Talk with an attorney before providing a written or recorded statement
The insurance adjuster can use anything you say against you to minimize or deny payment of your claim. For this reason, you must be very careful with what you tell him or her.
Never Admit Guilt or Apologize
To ensure your best interests are protected at all times, you must be careful about who you say what to. It is best that you limit who you talk to about the accident.
You should also never admit guilt or apologize for causing an accident as this can have a significant impact on your claim and the compensation you are able to recover. Florida’s comparative negligence law allows compensation to be reduced if the injury victim was partially at fault for causing the accident.
In the Days and Weeks After the Accident
Although the accident may be over, the days and weeks following a crash are just as important. There are several things you should do during this time to help ensure your rights are protected and that your claim has the best chance for success.
Follow Your Doctors’ Orders
If you have suffered injuries in a car accident, you will have to receive medical care. It is vital that you follow all of your doctors’ orders.
This can include:
- Taking medications as prescribed
- Limiting work or physical activity
- Visiting a specialist
- Undergoing physical therapy or other treatment
If you fail to follow your doctors’ orders it will appear to the insurance company that you are not as injured as you claim, which means it can provide you with less compensation.
Keep a File of Important Documents
Bringing a successful claim will require evidence and documentation of all of the damages you have experienced because of the accident and your injuries.
You should keep a folder with important documents related to your claim, including:
- Copies of your medical records
- Copies of the accident report
- Receipts for anything you have purchased out of pocket such as medications, crutches or doctors’ visits
- Estimates or bills for repairs to your vehicle and other property damage
- Notes about the accident
- A detailed journal about how your injuries affect your everyday life
Carefully Review Any Settlement Offers
It is likely the insurance company will try to settle your claim as quickly as possible. Before signing or accepting anything, you should carefully review the details to ensure that all of your injuries and other related expenses are covered. If all of your injuries have not been treated, you should not accept the settlement offer.
If you feel the offer does not provide the compensation you need, you should contact an experienced car accident lawyer who can review the details of your claim and the offer.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney
A car accident lawyer has your best interests in mind and will make sure that you are receiving the maximum compensation you deserve.
Our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means we only receive a fee if you are awarded compensation. Your initial legal consultation with our firm is also free.
If you have been injured in a car crash, do not wait to contact an attorney. The car crash attorneys at Gordon & Partners will get to work immediately to help maximize the value of your claim.