Auto accidents are incredibly stressful. No one enjoys their vehicle colliding with another, whether it’s a parking lot paint scratcher or a high speed head on collision. Tempers rise and voices follow suit. Lights flash from impatient vehicles caught behind, police and ambulances arriving and tow trucks being called. Even minor collisions can injure someone, and it’s possible you have to deal with everything while in pain. Who should you call? What should you say?
Check Everyone Involved
Make sure no one is injured. In a minor accident, it can be unlikely that a dangerous injury occurred, but the higher the speed, the worse an injury may be. Don’t worry about your car, your insurance or the police. Your first call should be to 911 if there is any injury. Calling paramedics and having a record of injuries sustained on the scene can be important if insurance companies have to go to court, and not calling immediately can be a liability in a settlement.
Be Kind and Calm
Apologize, if you feel you must, but do so carefully. Avoid saying anything that might be an admission of guilt. Just like talking to police, anything you say may be used against you. Avoid admitting any liability, even if apologizing is the polite thing to do.
Talk to any witnesses on the scene. If anyone saw the accident and stayed on hand, obtain their contact information. In the best case, you’ll never need it. In the worst case, you may need them as a witness in court. It can be valuable to have someone on hand that saw the whole thing.
Your Insurance Company
Contact your insurance company. Your accident needs to be reported, regardless of fault. As soon as you can, start keeping a record of any time and money spent dealing with your insurance claim, just in case a settlement calls for reimbursement of damages. Especially note any wages lost from time out of work due to potential injury. When you talk to your insurance, get a quote regarding the cost of damages. It will serve as a guideline as to whether you will buy a replacement vehicle or will repair the damage.
Gather evidence before the police arrive. Put a camera to use. Whether it’s your phone’s camera or a disposable one kept in the glove box for accidents, keep a record of damages to both your vehicle and the other involved. Keep a written record of everything that is said, if possible. The stress and chaos of an accident scene can result in poor memory of the situation, so having a written record can be valuable. Just like with pictures, note down injuries or damage to vehicles.
If you are beyond the common “fender bender” and think you may be heading to court, call a lawyer. If there’s any legal dispute about the resolution of your accident, or if a legal battle ensues between insurance companies, you want someone on your side. They can tell you if a settlement offer is valid or if you can hold out for more, as well as helping you communicate with the other parties in a way that won’t compromise your position.
Take a deep breath. If you’re prepared, there’s nothing an accident can throw at you that you can’t handle. Being overly stressed will simply make things harder to handle. With these tips, you’ll be able to deal with your accident much more easily.
This article was contributed by Green Country Law, Tulsa injury attorney, Green Country Law, The law firm of Gorospe and Smith.