The last thing anyone ever expects when getting into a car is being involved in a car accident. Unfortunately, auto accidents still happen every day, meaning there is a real chance of being a victim at some point in your life.
According to the Department of Transportation, an average of six million car accidents are reported in the country every year, leading to approximately 20,000 fatalities. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that auto accidents are the fourth preventable cause of death in the United States.
Since nobody anticipates being involved in a road accident, its aftermath can be traumatizing and difficult to handle. The injuries suffered in an auto accident can range from bruises to permanent disability, paralysis, and even death.
So, what should you do if you are involved in a car accident that wasn’t your fault? Read on to find out everything you need to know about protecting your rights when you have been involved in an auto accident that isn’t your fault.
First Thing: Don’t Leave the Accident scene
If you have been involved in a car accident, don’t leave the scene until a law enforcement officer arrives. This is pretty much the same law in every state in the country.
Even if the other driver flees, don’t follow them. Running away without recording a statement with the police and exchanging your information with the other driver turns the accident into a hit-and-run which can attract hefty fines or even a jail term.
The key is to remain calm and follow the right steps, no matter what happens. Always keep a small notebook and pen in your car for these types of emergencies.
A notebook will never lose power or network connection like a mobile phone can. So, you should never trust your mobile phone for notes and recording memories of a car accident.
Right After the Crash: Check for Injuries and Stay Safe
An auto accident can be so stressful, especially if it is your first time being involved in such an incident. So, remember to breathe, stay calm, and check on those involved, including yourself.
If anyone of you has suffered severe injuries, be sure to seek medical attention immediately. You should also ensure everyone is out of the way to prevent further damage.
If the cars are in the middle of the road blocking the free flow of traffic, move them to a safe location if you can. Otherwise, don’t mess with the exact position of each car involved in the crash because it helps preserve the accident scene.
As Soon As Possible: Call the Police
The laws on reporting car accidents tend to vary slightly from state to state but fleeing the accident scene is a crime everywhere. In most states, you must call the police immediately if there is an injury/ death or property damage worth more than $1,000.
You will also be required to file a car accident report with the police if your insurance company requires you to do it. Technically, there are very few instances where you would not be required to report an accident.
Therefore, it is always good to call 911 and inform the police about what happened. If the other motorist flees the scene, they will have committed a hit-and-run, prompting the police to launch a man hunt for them.
While Waiting for the Police: Gather Critical Information
Before the police arrive at the accident scene, gather critical information that may help you seek compensation.
Be sure to get the name, phone number, and physical address of all motorists involved in the accident. You should also get their insurance company name and the policy number. If possible, take clear pictures of the accident scene, any damage to your car, and physical bodily injuries you may have suffered.
Check if there are any eyewitnesses around and request to have their contact information. All these pieces of information will form a critical component when seeking compensation from the at-fault driver.
While the at-fault motorist is responsible for reporting the car crash to their own insurance company, you need to keep in mind that not everyone follows the law.
Therefore, you need to gather as much information as possible to prove the accident did happen and you suffered damages. Plus, you will need to file a personal injury claim with the at-fault driver’s car insurance company.
Ask for a copy of the Car Accident Report
After the accident, a police officer will arrive at the scene and start investigating. Part of the investigation will entail drafting an official car accident report.
In most cases, the police will only release a copy of the report to those involved in the accident or their respective car insurance companies. So, if you don’t get a copy, be sure to request it from either the police officer or the department.
The police report will play a critical role in your insurance claim. For instance, the report will have information such as the at-fault driver’s name and contact details which you may not have gathered.
The report will also contain other vital information, such as the weather and road conditions at the time of the accident. Plus, it will indicate whether any traffic laws were violated and if anyone was cited for the violation.
This information will help paint a clear picture of how the accident happened, making it easier to prove who was at fault.
Speak to an Attorney Before Speaking with an Insurance Company
Not knowing what to do after a car accident that isn’t your fault is relatively normal. It is difficult to know who to trust and who to speak to for assistance after a traumatic incident.
However, one of the most critical things you should always avoid is speaking with an insurance company before consulting an experienced car accident attorney.
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First, trust the law enforcement officers to do their job thoroughly. Be sure to answer any questions they may have about the car accident, no matter who was at fault.
However, don’t commit the mistake of speaking with insurance company representatives before talking to an attorney. The reason is that insurance companies will always try to take advantage of car accident victims who don’t have legal representation.
The first thing an insurance company will do is call you and ask for a recorded statement. They will try to get you to say things that may reduce the amount of compensation you are entitled to.
Remember that insurance adjusters are paid to act in the company’s best interests, not yours. Accepting the insurance company’s first settlement offers means you are most likely settling for less than you deserve.
Working with an attorney will protect you from such occurrences as they will handle all communication with the insurance company on your behalf.
Retain All Your Receipts, Medical Bills, and Payroll Information
If you can’t prove your losses, you won’t be able to file a claim for them. This includes bills for your doctor visits, hospitalization, medication, and even surgeries.
It also includes car repair bills, hospital follow-up care, lost income, and emergency and ambulance services bills.
If you are involved in a car accident that isn’t your fault, you need to keep every bill and receipt related to your auto accident and injury to serve as evidence in your case.
You must also provide your car accident attorney with your comprehensive salary information to help him calculate your lost and future income and the paid time off you had to take as a consequence of your injuries.
Create a File to Store All Your accident-related Documents
When trying to recuperate from an accident, the last thing you want is to spend hours looking for essential documents when your attorney asks for them.
So, create a physical or electronic file and store all correspondence related to your accident in it. This will make it easier and faster to find what you are looking for when you need it.
The file should include police reports, insurance company correspondence, medical records and bills, lost wage information, photographs of the accident scene and your injuries, and any other document related to your accident.
Keeping these documents in a safe place will ensure that you have them when you need them.
Pick Your Battles Wisely
The at-fault motorist’s insurance company may instruct you to seek compensation from your own insurance company because it has no sufficient evidence that their client was at-fault for the accident.
Even though most states make it illegal for any insurance company to deny claims without investigating the facts, it may not be wise to pick a fight with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Instead, you can file a claim with your own insurance company and let them fight the other insurer for fair compensation if it finds that the other motorist was at-fault.
If you decide to fight the at-fault motorist’s insurer, ensure you have hired a highly experienced car accident attorney to help you with the case. A lawyer will help you navigate the murky laws governing insurance claims in your state.
Even though you may have full evidence of the other driver’s fault, their insurance company can still deny your claim. This can happen when the driver tells their insurance company a version of how the crash happened that doesn’t tally with yours.
In some cases, the insurance company will choose to take their client’s side even if it contradicts what is indicated in the police report. Therefore, you need to be careful with the battles you choose to fight to avoid dragging the matter on for too long.
Get a Free Case Evaluation from an Experienced Car Accident Attorney
After a car accident that wasn’t your fault, the best thing you can do is to seek legal assistance as soon as possible.
An experienced attorney will review your case and help you determine the best legal course of action. They will also give you an honest assessment of your case and the compensation you are likely to get.
Most personal injury attorneys offer free initial consultations, so you have nothing to lose by scheduling a meeting with one.
If you are involved in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, you can do several things to ensure you get compensated fully and quickly.
You should start by keeping all the documents related to your accident, including medical bills, police reports, and wage statements. You should also take photographs of the accident scene and your injuries.
It is also essential to pick your battles wisely and avoid taking on the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The best thing to do is hire a car accident attorney to help you with your case.
Since most car accident lawyers offer free initial consultations, you have nothing to lose by scheduling a meeting with one.