It can take a few moments to collect yourself when you are involved in a car accident. You may have trouble making the right decisions in the heat of the moment. Knowing the correct steps to take can make all the difference in the resolution of your case. To make sure that you protect your legal rights after a car accident, it is best to follow the tips below, as a trusted car accident attorney like one from Chicago Car Accident Lawyers can further explain to you:
Remove Your Vehicle From the Road and Make Sure Your Passengers are Alright
After a car accident, you are still at risk. There is no guarantee that other drivers will come to a stop or slow down as they approach a crash site. Stay inside your vehicle until it is safe to get out to view the damage, as stepping out of the car without taking care may put you squarely in harm's way. If it is possible to safely do so, move your vehicle over to the side of the road.
If you are unable to move your car, you may want to remain in the vehicle until emergency services can arrive. Be aware that staying in the car in or near traffic can be dangerous as well, so be certain you contact emergency services as quickly as you are able. If there are any passengers in the vehicle with you make sure they are okay. When speaking with emergency services let them know if there were any injuries sustained in the accident, as doing so can help ensure paramedics arrive quickly to begin providing treatment.
Related: Illinois Car Accident Statistics
Call the Police
If you or another person are injured in a serious car accident call the police as quickly as possible. Never accept money from the other driver and never let them convince you to not call the police. In the event of an injury or property damage, you are required to attempt to contact the local police department to inform them that a car accident occurred.
If the police department is facing a high call volume or a higher priority call they may not be able to reach you, but it is your responsibility to make a genuine attempt to contact them. An officer responding to an accident will create an accident report listing what took place and may provide evidence of who was at fault.
Take down the name and badge number of the officers on the scene (not only the one who took your statement). Make sure you get a copy of the police report, it will be the first evidence of the crash and is important for filing a personal injury claim for damages and when dealing with insurance adjusters. Police reports on accidents often contain information such as:
- Contact details for all involved parties. This can include names, addresses, phone numbers, and insurance details.
- Witness information and statements. As discussed below you should always look to get information from witnesses yourself, but having details corroborated in the official police report can be hugely beneficial.
- The date, time, location, weather, and lighting conditions of the accident. All of these details can play a role in determining fault and strengthening your position.
Do NOT Admit Fault
When you talk to the police officer taking your statement you should be honest, but do NOT admit fault in the accident. Even if you think you caused the accident, you may be mistaken in how events took place. Accident victims frequently are disoriented and in shock following the crash, so it is not uncommon for them to get important details wrong. In the case of traffic accidents, fault is determined by a court. Admitting fault at the crash site can remove any chance you have of collecting a fair settlement later on.
When dealing with the other driver, the same holds true. Watch what you say and how you say it, as apologizing, expressing guilt, or accepting blame for the traffic accident can all be used against you in court and cause your claim to be denied. It is in your best interest to avoid speaking to the other driver as much as possible, as explained further below.
Document Evidence at the Scene
If you are not seriously injured in an automobile accident, taking the time to document as much as you can about the accident scene should be a top priority. This includes photos of property damage and injuries, witness information, and the police report. Good evidence can make all the difference in the outcome of your future claim, and the more you have the better off you will be.
Make sure you talk to any witnesses you notice at the scene. Try to get as much information from them as you can regarding what they saw happen and take careful notes. Be willing to ask questions to gather more details. You may be in shock or confused after the accident, so gathering more information from witnesses will help you moving forward.
It can be critically important that you collect their contact information to provide to your insurance company and legal representative. Go ahead and ask the witness for their permission to be contacted by your insurance agent and experienced car accident attorney. Your case will be stronger the more witness testimony you can gather as compelling evidence, so be thorough. This is also a good chance to make sure that statements from different witnesses are consistent so that they won't jeopardize your accident claim later on.
You should also take pictures of the scene and the surrounding area:
- Focus on the locations of any vehicles involved in the accident, the road conditions (is there ice or water?), details such as skid marks which can show driver negligence through speeding, and landmarks near the accident scene to help pinpoint locations.
- Take pictures of vehicle damage, both internal and external, for any cars involved not just your own.
- Also take pictures of anything external that may have contributed to the accident, such as a traffic light or stop sign.
Detailed and thorough photography of the scene can be used by an accident reconstructionist to recreate the accident and help show any negligent behavior by a driver and identify liable parties. Be sure to photograph any injuries sustained by you or your passengers, as these can be used in your insurance claim.
Try to include both pictures in which you can identify the injury victim as well as closer, more detailed shots. Make sure you can easily reference the date the pictures were taken. With all these in hand, you will have fantastic evidence to support your case and help in identifying the liable driver.
If you do not have a phone capable of capturing photos at the scene, ask if one of the witnesses will take pictures for you. Having access to the information these can provide after the fact can be of critical importance when dealing with insurance adjusters.
Do Not Trust the At-Fault Driver
The other driver involved in the accident will not be looking out for your best interests. They may try to persuade you to deal with the accident between the two of you and to not call the police. These should be immediate red flags as they are often a sign of guilt. A driver pushing for no police involvement may be uninsured, may be driving with a suspended license, or may have something on their record they don't want the police to notice, none of which are good for you when trying to deal with them in clearing up the accident.
Try to only speak to them when necessary, such as checking if they are in physical pain after the accident, and exchanging vehicle and insurance information. When you do speak with the other driver be careful of what you say. Offer only the essential information, as you may accidentally say something that will harm your case. It's best to keep your communication minimal after an accident and let an injury lawyer in Chicago handle it to avoid any potential complications.
Make Sure You Get Medical Treatment
If you need immediate medical help after an accident be sure to say so when reporting the incident to authorities. Doing so will help you get quick care from paramedics who can get you to a hospital if necessary. The details and paperwork from ambulance treatment or hospital treatment, including doctor notes, are vitally important to getting you due compensation in an insurance claim.
If you feel you do not need emergency care and were in a minor accident, you still should see a doctor for medical treatment as quickly as possible. Car accident injuries can take time to manifest, and early treatment can help reduce physical pain or keep things from getting worse down the road.
It is fairly common to feel fine following motor vehicle collisions, accept an initial settlement, and then develop symptoms from a latent injury with an expensive treatment that you will now be responsible for paying for. Catching a physical injury early can also help your initial claim, as insurance companies may argue that your symptoms were not caused by the accident or even that you are making them up.
Getting a copy of medical records, bills, and doctor's notes can be critical evidence in getting a fair settlement through an injury claim. Obtaining these will be helpful in dealing with an insurance company.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney
Take legal action. It's a good idea to speak with an auto accident lawyer about your case if you have to file a claim for financial damages. Having an experienced car accident lawyer is extremely beneficial to your car accident claims in a number of ways. It is possible for your lawyer to protect your accident rights and hold the negligent driver accountable in the difficult times when you need them the most. If you have physical injuries having a Chicago car accident attorney help will allow you to focus on your recovery while they handle all the rest.
A personal injury attorney protects you from insurance companies trying to reduce or deny your claims for damages in pursuit of compensation. Insurers are required to communicate and negotiate with your lawyer concerning your case. Your lawyer will also conduct their own investigation into the case in order to make sure that you get a full and fair settlement award for your injuries. While an attorney navigates your claims through the legal process and deals with the insurance provider, you will be able to focus on what's most important - your recovery.
If you have been involved in a car accident and are seeking compensation, contact the legal professionals at Chicago Car Accident Lawyers to begin the process. You have the right to appoint legal representation to communicate with insurance professionals, calculate your damages, document evidence of fault, negotiate a settlement agreement, and help you in asserting and protecting your rights during every step of the process. Call our firm today at (312) 300-2515 to get started with a free consultation.