Car crashes are so frequent that even the most careful drivers may find themselves caught up in one at some point. Our Pasadena car accident lawyers share four things that all motorists should do in the event of a motor vehicle collision.
1. Don’t Panic
When a car crash occurs, our bodies often respond to the sudden trauma of the event by producing a flood of adrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals help us cope with frightening and stressful situations, at least in theory; in practice, you may feel stressed, shaken, and/or unable to think clearly. Do your best to stay calm by taking a few deep breaths before moving on to the next steps.
2. Check Yourself & Others for Injuries
Take stock of the situation. Are you hurt? Once you have established your own safety, check on your passengers before determining whether anyone else is injured. Call 911 immediately if so. Everyone’s safety should be everyone’s number one priority, so if you think you might need medical attention, do not hesitate to head straight to the hospital. You can take care of the rest later.
You might wake up the morning after your accident to discover that you are in pain from an injury you didn’t realize you had—this is likely because the adrenaline has finally worn off. Therefore, it is a good idea to always visit your doctor shortly after a crash, even if you don’t notice any obvious injuries.
3. Document the Crash Scene
Once you have your bearings, move your vehicle to a safe area (if it’s mobile) and then document the crash scene as thoroughly as possible. Leaving the scene of an accident before providing your name and insurance information to the other driver(s) is a criminal offense (also known as a hit and run), so do not leave the scene until you have done so. (Exceptions are made if you need to be rushed to a hospital.)
Before you leave the scene of the accident, do as much of the following as possible:
- Exchange contact and insurance information with any other motorists involved in the crash
- Ask witnesses for their contact information
- Take photos and/or record videos of the accident site
- File an accident report with the police and ask for a copy
- Write down the police officer’s name and badge number
- Take some quick notes on how you remember the accident happening while your memory is fresh
Do not apologize for the accident, even as a courtesy—simply saying the phrase “I’m sorry” can be seen by police and insurance agents as an admission of guilt. Once you have all the required information, it is best to limit further communication with others involved in the crash to avoid admitting guilt or pushing the blame onto someone else.
4. Contact Your Insurance Company
Notify your insurance carrier of the crash as soon as possible, ideally within a few days of the accident. However, if your agent offers you a quick settlement, consider consulting with a lawyer before signing anything. Otherwise, you might agree to a sum that is far lower than what you actually need—or deserve. At least wait until you have visited a doctor and have a good idea of the extent of your injuries before agreeing to anything.
If the driver who caused the accident’s insurance agent reaches out to you, do not give them a statement. They may be trying to build a case against you in order to force liability on you instead of their client. It is best not to speak with them at all.
Bonus: Consult with an Attorney
You probably don’t require legal advice or action if you have been in a minor accident with little to no injuries involved. If, however, you or a loved one has been seriously hurt, you may benefit from hiring, or at least consulting with, a local car accident lawyer.
Insurance companies tend to prefer to pay out settlements as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, so if you are facing serious long term or permanent injuries, a mere insurance settlement probably won’t cover all your medical expenses. An attorney will fight to secure the full amount of just compensation you need to reach the point of maximum medical improvement, even if you require ongoing treatment.
If you believe you may have grounds to file a car accident claim, contact Tedford & Associates now. We will listen to the details of your case during a free consultation and help you decide what the best move is for you.