There is a sense of guilt and disgrace associated with car accidents that can often prevent you from thinking clearly and taking the proper steps after you’ve been involved in a car wreck. The feeling of shame that you are not a very good driver can creep into your consciousness and distract you from some of the important tasks you must complete after the accident.
And do not let guilt, that you are somehow an incomplete and irresponsible person, cloud your judgment at this crucial time. Even if the accident was your fault, remember this – accidents happen to everyone, even the best among us. So gather your wits about you and concentrate on the following tasks and you should end up coming through this unfortunate mishap in pretty good shape.
Exchange Information with the Other Drivers
The first thing you need to do after the accident, once you make sure that not you, nor anyone else, are seriously hurt, is for all of the participants to share their pertinent information with each other. This includes all of your names, addresses, contact phone numbers, insurance companies, policy numbers, driver license numbers and license plate numbers for everyone involved in the accident.
There is absolutely no need to argue with each other about whose fault the accident was at this point. That will all be determined much later. And discussions of accountability right after an accident can easily turn into shouting matches, which could be dangerous, and libelous, for you. If other participants start doing this – whatever you do, stay out of it.
Once you gathered the information, and especially if you have input it into your smartphone, create a specific folder for this information, name it ‘Car accident’ and affix the date to that folder title.
Then take a few pictures of the scene – anything that can help you remember details, which you may need to recall many months later. Make sure all of these pictures go into the accident folder as well.
If any of the other drivers are reluctant to share their contact information, and especially if they don’t want to share the name of their insurance company and their policy number, you need to call the police.
This will be a hassle and will delay moving on with the rest of your day, but you have no other choice. Often if you explain to the emergency dispatcher that an accident participant is refusing to share insurance information, this may speed up the police response. The main thing you want is a police report stating that this other participant in the accident refused to offer insurance information. Your insurance company will require that police report later in the settlement process.
Hire a Lawyer
Unless your car accident is very minor, you should hire a car accident lawyer, one particularly experienced in auto accidents and the injuries that can result from these types of accidents. There are lots of different ways to find a good attorney. Probably the most reliable method is to benefit from the experience of friends or family members who have recently hired an attorney. If they had a good experience, chances are, so will you.
If you can’t get a personal endorsement, try the online referral sites, such as Angie’s List and Yelp. Be mindful when you are reading the reviews of the attorneys in your district that some of these reviewers may have a personal stake in their praise – these reviewers could be family members or close friends of the attorney, or even individuals acting as agents for the attorney who are paid to write positive reviews. Make sure you check the history of the reviewer and inspect their other reviews to determine the validity of their praise.
Also, be wary of extremely negative reviews on these websites. They often come from trolls, lonely people who are angry and have nothing better to do than disparage specialists and services for their own amusement. A quick check of the other reviews by critics like these will reveal whether they are trolls or not.
Your attorney and insurance company will make sure your car is returned to the condition it was in before the accident – or may even replace it. That won’t be much of a problem.
But, more importantly, your lawyer will probably ask you to be examined by a doctor to make sure there aren’t any soft tissue injuries that may not be apparent right after the accident, but can intensify after a while and even become debilitating much later in your life.
Make sure you follow the instructions of your lawyer and doctor and adhere to their recommendations for physical rehabilitation carefully. Down the line, your life could depend upon it.