If you spend a significant time driving, it’s likely that you’ll be involved in a car accident at some point in your life. As common as these crashes are, it’s rarely easy to sort out the damages and expenses in the days and weeks afterward. If you are ever involved in an accident, there are a few steps you should take to help protect your best interests and avoid unnecessary headaches.
The very first step you should take after a crash is to make sure you are in a safe spot. Nothing can substitute for common sense in this situation. The last thing you want to do is to convert a minor accident into a major tragedy. This happens much more often than it should, especially when drivers panic and do not think about the dangers their surroundings pose.
After you feel comfortable that you are safe, call the police. This is an often-overlooked step and many motorists pay the price later. When police officers report to the scene of an accident, they are trained to quickly investigate what happened and provide an accident report. This document can prove invaluable should the parties need to pursue an insurance or legal claim. Do not leave the scene of the accident. Depending on whether there are injuries and/or the amount of damage, there may be moderate to severe legal penalties for leaving the scene of an accident.
The next thing drivers should always remember to do is exchange information. Even when parties are angry at one another, this step should never be skipped. This means giving one another your names, phone numbers, addresses and, most importantly, insurance policy information. Even if you have no plans to file an insurance claim, you should have it just in case.
If you have a camera or smartphone handy, be sure to snap some pictures of the vehicles involved in the accident. This can help support any claims you may need to make with an insurance company regarding the actual damage caused in the collision, and may also prove useful in a potential personal injury lawsuit. Also, if you believe that there was a problem with the roadway, get pictures of the roadway. If you think that a traffic signal malfunctioned, get video of the traffic signal.
Another step, if you think you may have suffered a personal injury in a car accident, is to contact a Florida personal injury attorney and explore your options for seeking compensation from those responsible and their insurance companies.
What you should NOT do is to talk to the adjuster from the at-fault driver’s insurance company — even if you THINK you are not hurt. It is part of the adjuster’s job to try to get you to make a statement based on an incomplete understanding of the facts and an incomplete appreciation of your own injuries. It is not uncommon for someone to believe that they are fine immediately after an accident, only to find out in the days following the accident that they have suffered a significant soft-tissue injury. If you tell the insurance adjustor for the at-fault driver’s insurance company that you are fine, they will use that statement against you later. Keep in mind also that it is the adjuster’s job for the at-fault driver to try to try to get you to resolve your claim in the days following the accident for what could be pennies on the dollars.
Attorney Mark Link also contributed to this blog post.