If you’ve been in an auto collision, taking the right next steps can be a challenge. Accidents are both physically and psychologically traumatizing, potentially preventing you from thinking clearly and reacting in the best possible way.
Because our team at Lam Law Firm understands how difficult this situation can be, we’ve put together the following compilation of steps to take immediately after an accident. If you follow this list, you will have a better chance of protecting the physical wellbeing of yourself and all other parties, as well as filing a successful personal injury claim. As always, please get in touch with us if you have additional questions or concerns.
1. Get to Safety
Unless your vehicle is no longer running, drive to the side of the road or another safe place. Getting your car out of the middle of the road can prevent additional accidents. Be sure to turn on your hazard lights and use any cones, warning signs, or flares, if you have any of these with you.
We also recommend turning off your vehicle as soon as possible. This can safeguard against electrical hazards like sparks igniting flammable liquids.
If you cannot relocate your car (and you are not seriously injured), walk to the side of the road.
2. Call Emergency Responders
You may need to call an ambulance, police, or both. Checking yourself for injuries is important because adrenaline is a natural anesthetic, and you may not initially realize you’re injured. Check any other drivers or passengers as well.
In South Carolina, you aren’t legally required to report an accident unless someone has been injured or killed. However, a police report can be incredibly useful evidence in a future personal injury claim. Consider contacting the police even after a minor accident.
3. Collect As Much Information As Possible
A police report isn’t the only data that can be used in court. Any photos or notes you take can help you prove circumstances that demonstrate another party’s liability for the accident.
Valuable evidence may include:
- Names and contact information of all involved parties (including police officers and eyewitnesses)
- Vehicle descriptions, driver’s license numbers, and license plate numbers
- Insurance information of all involved parties
- Information about the scene of the accident (i.e. location, date, and time)
- Photos of the entire accident scene
When gathering evidence, it’s impossible to be too thorough. Document and take photos of anything you believe might be related to the accident. Write down every detail you remember about what happened before, during, and after the crash, as your memory will fade over time.
4. Be Careful of What You Say
Even if you think the accident was your fault, avoid saying so. Admitting fault in any way can jeopardize your eligibility for compensation, and it may even help another party hold you liable for damages. Refrain from signing any documents (unless it’s for the police).
We even discourage speculating about what happened. Many agents, officers, and other attorneys will attempt to “jog your memory,” coercing you into admitting certain factors that may or may not have occurred, later allowing another party to hold you liable in court.
5. Seek Medical Care
Even if you don’t believe you’re injured, see a doctor as soon as possible after the accident. Pain may take several hours or days to present itself, and some injuries (e.g. internal bleeding) may be difficult to detect.
Additionally, failing to seek treatment for an injury can jeopardize your eligibility for compensation. If your injury gets worse over time, but you don’t see a doctor, the defendant may be able to prove that you did not uphold your “duty to mitigate damages.” As a result, they may not be responsible for covering your treatment because you could have reduced the costs by seeing a doctor sooner.
6. Retain Qualified Counsel
One of the most critical steps you can take is hiring an experienced attorney. At Lam Law Firm, we can help you work with your insurance company, gather evidence, and present your case in the best possible way. Insurance companies and any other parties involved in the accident will likely hire their own lawyers, which means you will be at a significant disadvantage if you represent yourself.