Being in an auto accident is one of the worst experiences you can encounter. You feel sick, terrified and confused, and you may even be injured. Unfortunately, those first few minutes after the accident are also critical in making sure you get any compensation to which you are entitled for repairs to your vehicle or injuries you suffer. Learn what to do after a car accident, from documenting the scene to information exchange, record keeping and contacting an attorney. Taking the right steps will make all the difference.
What to Do After a Car Accident: The First Steps
- Stay Calm
The moment the accident happens, the first thing that goes through many peoples’ minds (assuming they are not seriously injured) is what to do after a car accident. The first thing you need to do is be calm. Raging or losing your head won’t help anyone.
It’s okay to take a moment to try and re-center yourself. Breathe and take stock of your situation. Make sure you’re okay. Then, make sure everyone else involved was okay, and call for any medical help or first respondent attention you may need. Your first concern should always be the health and well-being of everyone involved.
- Stay on Site
Never leave the scene of an accident until everything has been taken care of, until all those who need medical attention have been looked at, and until you’ve exchanged information with the other driver and documented the accident. Leaving the scene can not only cost you in compensation; it can open you to criminal charges.
- Never Apologize
At no time during your discussions with witnesses or other drivers should you apologize for anything. This may seem an innocuous act, but it can be viewed as an admission of guilt should the settlement be questioned later.
- Document the Scene
Talk to witnesses. Get their names, phone numbers, addresses and other contact information. Take notes about what they say. Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. Photograph the scene in as much detail as possible, including broad overview shots and close-up shots of any damage or even injuries. The more records and the more detail you keep, the better off you will be later.
- See a Doctor
Even if you don’t feel injured, get looked at by a medical professional. The adrenaline from your car accident can cause you to overlook symptoms of an injury which can sometimes take days to occur. The sooner you see a doctor, the better off you are. Keep records of any and all medical treatment received such as: visits to the doctor’s or an urgent care center, diagnosed medications, physical therapy and recovery treatments or major medical surgery.
Call Your Insurance Company Afterwards
As soon as you get home from the scene, notify your insurance company about the accident. Normally, you have up to 24 hours to do this, but the sooner, the better. Be honest and open about what happened. Lying to an insurance company is fraud, which can not only cost you in denial of coverage but can result in criminal charges.
Talk to an Attorney
The next step you should take is to get in touch with a qualified personal injury attorney. Never sign any papers accepting or agreeing to any sort of terms or settlement. Insurance companies will almost always try to settle for less than you actually deserve. You can be compensated not only for your vehicle’s damage, but for such things as:
- Lost and potential wages
- Medical bills and treatment
- Loss of relationships and consortium
- Pain and suffering
- Lost opportunities
An attorney knows how to fight for your rights and ensure you get full compensation for your injuries.
If you have been in an accident in South Carolina, then Harris & Graves, P.A. is here for a no-obligation consultation of your case. Read about our car accident services, and get in touch with us today—there’s no fee if we don’t win your case!