Auto Accident

What do I need to do after a car accident?

1) STOP.  Whether you are on private property or on a public roadway, and even if you were the only one involved, make sure that you don't leave the scene of an accident.  Different states have different penalties for leaving the scene of an accident and doing so can effect your legal rights.

2) MAKE SURE EVERYONE IS OKAY.  The most important thing is to make sure that nobody is hurt.  If anybody is hurt, provide immediate first aid to those that need it and call for help.

3) CALL THE POLICE.  Try and get an accident report.  This will become necessary for any criminal actions, civil litigation, and in filing an insurance claim.  The police officer's report is invaluable because it is written at the same time as the accident and by a neutral third-party.  Tell the police officer exactly what happened in your own words.  Make sure that any statements you give the police say what you mean for them to say.  Even if the accident occurred on private property, it is important to call the police to make sure there is a log of the accident happening.

4) DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.  Make sure that you don't interfere with the police investigation by protecting the accident scene and making sure it is unchanged until the police get there.  Don't move your vehicles unless they pose a threat to safety or block the roadway.  Also take as many pictures as possible to show how and why the car wreck happened, and what the result was for you.  Your pictures need to document visible damage to your vehicle and the other person's vehicle, as well as any obvious bodily damage to you.   Finally, if there are witnesses, try and get their contact information.

5) EXCHANGE INSURANCE INFORMATION.  Confirm that you get the other driver's insurance information in case you need to file a claim against their policy.  The easiest way to do this is to ask to see their insurance card, but at a minimum you should get the other driver's name, the name of their insurance company, and their insurance policy number.

6) MAKE AN INSURANCE CLAIM.  Call your insurance company and report what happened.  Most insurance policies require timely reporting and full cooperation with the adjuster in order to receive payment.  Be open and honest, but remember that insurance adjusters are not your friend.  Find out if you have any medical benefits ("medpay") as part of your coverage and send your accident-related bills to the insurance adjuster.  Medpay covers all the occupants of a vehicle and not just the driver.  Once medpay benefits are extinguished, your health insurance becomes the primary coverage.

7) SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION.  Your next priority after the accident is to seek prompt medical care.  Many people think that they do not need medical care and fail to realize that the soreness after an accident can be the sign of larger problems.  Getting medical advice early can save you headaches (literally and figuratively) down the road.

8) PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS.  Keep a file with all the papers and important information related to your claim.  While you aren't required to consult with an attorney, he or she will likely know how to best ensure that you are protected following an accident.  Just because you can deal with the insurance adjuster by yourself doesn't mean that you should.