After a car accident, everything can suddenly become a blur. Adrenaline begins pumping, and stress can make it difficult to think straight or decide how you are supposed to proceed. There may be significant damage to any vehicles and even physical injuries requiring medical attention. In the heat of the moment, you may need help understanding what to do and whether you need to contact someone, such as Paul Wilkinson, accident attorney.
Preloading your mind with the steps you should take in the event of a collision can make it easier to know how to deal with such an unfortunate event should it come to pass.
What Do I Do After an Accident?
Safety is your first concern. Analyze your condition and that of any passengers in your vehicle to see if there are any injuries, whether minor or severe. Once you have determined the state of your people, turn on your hazard lights and move to the side of the road if possible. Once you have done so, or if the accident prevents this action, immediately call 9-1-1 and exit the vehicle (if possible), moving you and anyone with you a safe distance away.
This has a dual purpose, even if the accident is minor and no one is hurt. First, officers will arrive on the scene to document the accident, collecting information that may be relevant if and when you contact your insurance agency and an accident attorney. Second, the dispatcher will ask if you need an emergency medical team on the scene. If you or anyone with you is hurt, or you can see injuries in another vehicle, you should accept their request.
Remember, just because you do not feel pain or are only suffering minor discomfort does not mean you do not have more significant injuries. Adrenaline can sometimes dull or obscure pain, and whiplash ailments manifest hours or even days after the accident. EMTs may be able to identify potential issues or offer advice that can minimize the risk of future medical problems.
What to Do Once Police Arrive
Once your phone call is complete, check on any others involved in the accident and let them know that help is on the way. Once the police arrive, you can exchange contact, insurance information, and other necessary documentation. Document the responding officer’s name, contact information, and badge in case you need to contact them later regarding the accident.
During discussions with others, including the officer, restrain from admitting any fault, even if you are responsible. Tell what happened and let the officer make that determination. If you start making admissions, it could affect your ability to receive compensation for any losses. You cannot be sure that there were no other mitigating factors, whether environmental or on the part of other involved drivers.
It is a good idea to use your phone to photograph and record the scene, including the position of the cars in the street and the vicinity. This can be useful when making an accident claim to your insurance as they can use the evidence to evaluate the scene and recreate the incident.
While it can be tempting to avoid calling your insurance company if the accident is a fender-bender, giving the other driver a pass or trying to arrange an under-the-radar compensation can come back to haunt you later. The other person may be dishonest with you or even have insurance, and a failure to report to your insurance could leave you liable for repairs. Sometimes damage that seems minor has greater repercussions, and more significant damage that you could not visually detect, and you will be on your own.
Once the immediate concerns are complete, now you have a few more decisions to make. First, you should visit a doctor for confirmation, even if you do not feel injured. Even if you had an EMT evaluation, a doctor is better equipped to identify problems.
Second, you need to decide whether you will call an accident attorney.
When Not to Call an Accident Attorney
Generally, if there were no injuries and any damage done to vehicles was minor, you may not need to call an accident attorney. Remember, however, to see a physician before you make this determination, as you may have suffered an injury and didn’t realize it.
If the case is clear-cut and not a significant situation, you will likely receive the compensation you need from your insurance company with no problem. If the necessary repair costs are minimal, it won’t make sense to add the additional expense of a lawyer.
In more severe circumstances, you have to do a mathematical calculation to decide if the expense is worth the benefit. For instance, if your insurance company makes a significant offer but not what you consider apt under the circumstances, you have to decide if the cost of hiring a lawyer will result in a net gain or loss and whether any increase is worth the trouble. If you are seeking $8,000, but the lawyer fee is $5,000, is this a battle you want to fight or not?
When to Call an Accident Attorney
However, there are situations when it is in your best interest to have a lawyer as your advocate, as they can review evidence, interview witnesses, and build a case to support you and defend you against culpability claims or insurance companies who are proving difficult or refusing to do their part on your behalf.
Here are some reasons you may want an attorney:
- Insurance is being complicated or refusing to fulfill their agreement.
- You or one of your passengers have suffered a severe injury requiring hospitalization, possibly resulting in broken bones, extended stays in which you cannot work, and potentially life-altering injuries.
- Someone suffered a fatality in the accident.
- You are blamed for the accident when you are not at fault or there is controversy about who is at fault.
- Medical expenses range in the thousands of dollars.
- The accident resulted in significant pain or emotional turmoil with lasting consequences.
- The technical or legal details of the accident are convoluted, police reports are inaccurate, or there were additional factors, such as the area being a construction zone or other unusual environments, which may have played a factor.
Many accident attorneys offer free consultations, so before making a final decision, you can always sit down and discuss with them to see if you have a viable case that is worth the effort!
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