Question: I was in a car accident. What should I do now?
Answer: Roughly three million people are injured in motor vehicle crashes each year in the United States.
Car accidents can happen for any number of reasons: distracted driving, defective tires, rollovers, DUIs and DWIs. But no matter the cause of the crash, there are specific steps you should take immediately after it to ensure not only your own health and safety but also your right to file a claim for compensation if the accident warrants one.
1. Call the police then stay where you are. Do not ever leave the scene of a car accident, even if it was the other driver's fault. Call the police and check yourself as well as anyone else involved in the crash to determine the extent of any injuries. Call for emergency medical help if needed.
2. Gather evidence. Police will make an official report when they arrive. It is also advisable that you collect your own evidence. Take pictures of the accident scene, including any damage to your car and/or personal property. Gather statements from witnesses who can verify the facts about what happened and obtain the other driver's personal and insurance information. You will also want to request a copy of the police report for your own records.
4. Call your insurance company. You are obligated to report an accident to the insurance company, even if you were not at fault. This applies even to accidents where no one was injured.
5. Seek medical help. Visit your doctor, even if you walk away from the accident with only cuts and scrapes. Seemingly minor injuries can sometimes develop into much more serious conditions. Tell your doctor you were in an accident and have him or her assess your injuries. Keep records of your diagnosis, after-care instructions, medications prescribed, and follow-up visits.
6. Call an attorney. If you intend to file a claim for damages, it is best to do so under the guidance of an experienced car accident attorney. Car accident cases are full of fine print and tricky details. The right attorney can help you effectively navigate these things.
Theodore Babbitt is senior partner in the law firm of Babbitt & Johnson, P.A., and is a member of the Inner Circle of Advocates, which is limited to the top 100 personal injury lawyers in the United States.
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