A car accident is a terrifying and unplanned event that can change a person’s life instantly. A crash usually catches people off guard, leaving them scrambling to figure out what to do next. Having a plan of action after a car accident that helps you assist others and protect yourself can make a critical difference at the scene when things are being straightened out with insurance companies. Protecting yourself and acting with intention after an accident will make you more prepared and better positioned to make good choices and help others during a very stressful situation.
10 Actions to Take (Or Not Take) After a Car Accident
Car accidents are traumatic and stressful experiences that leave victims overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next. During all the chaos and confusion, it's important to take deliberate actions to help protect your well-being, safeguard your rights, and minimize damages from the accident. In this blog, we'll discuss ten actions you should take - or avoid - after a car accident so that you can navigate the aftermath with confidence and clarity.
- Move Out of Harm’s Way: Once everything stops moving, you need to assess where you are. Are you off the road or in danger of being hit by oncoming traffic? If you are still in danger of being hit again, get the vehicle out of harm’s way. If that is not possible, try to get everyone involved off the roadway and to a safer location. Texas law requires a vehicle operator to move a stopped or standing vehicle off the main roadway unless it is impossible. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) advises it is not necessary to wait for the police to respond and to move your vehicle to safety as quickly as possible. Moving vehicles from their initial resting places may affect the accident investigation. If it’s possible to get pictures of the original crash scene before moving the vehicles, that evidence may prove helpful to your case later.
- Check to See if Anyone is Injured: If there are injuries, call 911 to get an ambulance on the way. Any vehicle operator involved in a car accident must render aid to anyone else who is injured in the crash. The required assistance includes arranging for an injured person to go to a doctor or hospital if necessary or if they request it.
- You Must Call the Police after Most Car Accidents: There could be any number of reasons why someone involved in an auto accident might be hesitant to call law enforcement. Regardless of these feelings, Texas law requires anyone involved in an accident to contact the police after a serious crash. Even when a collision may seem minor, having a police report of the incident can provide credible and objective evidence that may prove helpful when making a personal injury claim.
TxDOT recommends Texans always call the police when any of the following circumstances exist after a car crash:
- Someone is injured or was killed
- Any of the vehicles are unmovable
- There is suspicion a driver may be intoxicated
- A driver involved in the accident does not have insurance
- A driver involved in the accident flees the scene
- When someone is injured or killed, or a vehicle is not movable, an accident must be reported immediately to local police by the quickest means of communication.
- Do Not Leave the Accident Scene: Everyone involved in car accidents must stop at the scene to determine whether there were injuries and provide reasonable aid if necessary. They must also provide contact information to the other drivers involved. There are potential criminal penalties for drivers who try to avoid responsibility after a car accident by leaving the scene. A driver who fails to stop or leaves without providing the required information may be charged with a felony if the accident results in a fatality or serious bodily injuries. Even a hit-and-run driver who merely causes property damage to another vehicle can be charged with a misdemeanor for leaving the scene of a crash without identifying themselves.
- Gather as Much Information about the Crash as Possible: One of the first things any insurance company will want to know is how the car accident happened. A second thing the insurance company will want is proof to back up your story. People involved in car crashes may not always be able to collect evidence at the scene, and in those instances, the police report may contain the only evidence gathered at the crash site. Insurance companies do give weight to a police report, but they will also do their own investigating if a police report is unfavorable to their customer (the insured.) If possible post-crash, take pictures of the scene. Pictures and videos of the property damage to all vehicles, any obvious injuries, and any other conditions that contributed to or resulted from the car accident could prove valuable to your case. If witnesses stopped, find out what they saw and get their contact information. The more credible evidence that can be produced, the less pushback an insurance company will be able to get away with, and the more likely a fair settlement can be reached.
- Be Mindful of What You Say After a Car Accident: A car accident can be a real shock to the system, and people may not be thinking about the potential legal ramifications of what they might say or do right afterward. But things that are said or done can and most often will be used against the person they incriminate, so it is best to take a moment to think and not offer unsolicited information. Determining who was at fault for an auto accident is crucial for those involved and injured in the crash looking for compensation for their losses. In Texas, fault will be apportioned among everyone involved in an accident – including each claimant. A partially at-fault claimant is still allowed to recover for their losses if they are no more than 50% responsible for causing the car accident. However, any amount of damages awarded will be reduced by a percentage equal to the percentage of their fault. Do not ever say anything that could be construed as some kind of admission of responsibility for causing even part of the wreck. Stick with providing only the information legally required to be exchanged, and do not chit-chat. Right after a car accident, adrenaline may keep an injury victim from realizing they have been hurt. So, delaying a definite answer about your injuries is better until after receiving a medical examination. Sometimes awareness of injuries comes after leaving the accident scene. Not realizing you are injured and responding ‘no’ to the question at the crash site can cause problems with a later personal injury claim. It is better to respond that you do not know the extent of your injuries and will be seeking a medical evaluation.
- Seek Medical Attention Just in Case: Anytime someone is in a car accident more serious than a tiny tap, they may be injured and should get checked out by a medical professional. Car accidents can result in internal injuries that may not be immediately apparent but could become serious if not diagnosed and treated. Going to a doctor after an auto accident also establishes a connection between the crash and any claimed injuries, which is important for proving your case.
- Document the Accident and Your Injuries: As soon as it can be reasonably managed, it is a good idea to write down everything you remember about the car accident while the details are still fresh. You can then refer to what you have written and be sure to provide the same details every time you are asked about the incident. Being consistent supports the credibility of what you say. It can also be very helpful for proving non-economic damages – such as pain and suffering or diminished quality of life – to keep a journal about the progress of injuries and how they affect your daily experiences.
- Report the Car Accident to Your Own Insurance Company: Most auto insurance policies require drivers to report car accidents soon after they happen – no matter who may be at fault. Reporting a crash too late can be a reason for an insurance company to deny coverage. However, even before talking to your own insurance company – and even if you do not believe you have any fault for the accident – it is a good idea to have written out your version of how the accident happened, so you are able to answer questions accurately and provide consistent information.
- Don’t Speak to the Other Party’s Insurance Company: The unfortunate reality is that an injured person is in an adversarial relationship with the insurance companies representing the at-fault parties. If car accident injuries weren’t already bad enough, now you may face a literal battle to collect the compensation owed. Insurance companies use attorneys to try and minimize their liability. An injured claimant is not likely to have the knowledge or experience needed to represent their legal interests, and this gives insurance companies the advantage.
Contact Farah Law Today
Without legal representation, claimants may end up resigning themselves to accept an amount much less than their claim is worth. A person may help themselves considerably by taking advantage of a free consultation offered by an attorney or law firm. These consultations are without obligation and can provide valuable information to someone who is going to be dealing with an insurance company about a personal injury claim. For an attorney who will help you investigate your car accident, reach out to the legal team at Farah Law. You can schedule a consultation by calling (888) 481-9359 or sending a message online right now!