Few incidents in life are more stressful than a car accident. One second you’re driving down the road thinking about tasks you need to accomplish or maybe it is a holiday and you are traveling to see friends and family. The next second you are coping with the impact of a collision causing whiplash, severe pain and injuries in some instances, and thousands of dollars in damage to your vehicle and potential damage to your longterm health.
It’s enough to rattle anyone and make you forget how to handle yourself. In the aftermath of an automobile accident, there are several steps to take, as well as missteps to avoid, to make sure that you don’t undermine your ability to be reimbursed for your injuries and property damages.
- Don’t let your temper take control. After a crash, you may feel a surge of adrenaline that vents itself as uncontrolled anger. Remain calm and maintain a business-like demeanor. Even if someone else caused the accident because of carelessness, don’t argue or make rash accusations. You will need to cooperate with the other people involved to make it easier to obtain information from them, including their insurance details and phone number. Work with police, answering their questions but don’t speculate on what might have caused the crash or give more information than they request.
- Take crash evidence into account. In the moments after a crash, check on everyone’s well-being in your vehicle, summon police, then gather as much information as possible while waiting for the police to arrive. If you are capable, use the camera on your phone to take photos of the accident scene, including position of the vehicles, vehicle damage, debris, skid marks and factors that may have contributed to the accident such as tree limbs or bushes that might have blocked a driver’s vision or other objects that might have shielded a yield or stop sign from view.
- Don’t discuss who was at fault or say that you are unhurt. It’s normal after a collision to want to reassure others, including the other motorist involved, that you are unharmed or try to minimize your injuries. It is a mistake to comment about your condition. You may feel unhurt at the moment, but sometimes injuries are not immediately apparent. You may wake up in the next day very stiff and sore or you may have a concussion. If you say that you are unhurt, your words may be used against you later to deny your claim, if it turns out that you have suffered an injury.
- Don’t refuse medical treatment. Even if you feel unhurt, allow ambulance personnel to check your condition and take you to the hospital for care if necessary. Many people are so pumped with adrenaline in the moments after a crash that they fail to realize they have been injured. If you don’t see a doctor immediately, then seek an examination within the next day or two because injuries that are not apparent in the moments after a crash could become serious. A doctor’s evaluation of your injuries is important evidence if you decide to file a personal injury claim.
- Don’t delay calling a personal injury lawyer. If you have been injured in an accident caused by another driver, call a lawyer and have them review the specifics of your accident and explain your legal options. A legal assessment should be provided at no charge and will allow you to make an informed decision. Do not talk or give a statement to an insurance claims adjuster representing the other motorist without contacting an attorney first.
- Notify your insurance company within 24 hours of a car accident. When you speak with a representative, avoid admitting fault or taking the blame for causing an accident. Let the police report speak for itself.
Georgia Laws for Drivers After a Car Accident Occurs
The Georgia Driver’s Manual advises people involved in an accident to:
- Stop and pull your vehicle into a safe area.
- Immediately report the accident to law enforcement in case of a fatality, injury or property damage exceeding $500.
- Give aid, if possible, to anyone injured in the crash.
- Turn on your vehicle’s hazard lights as a signal to other motorists.
- Share information with other drivers involved, including name, address, tag number, driver’s license number and insurance information.
- If law enforcement does not come to the scene, complete a personal report of accident for your personal use later. The form records information immediately after the wreck and could be used in a court of law if necessary.
Like most states, Georgia sets specific deadlines for taking legal action after a car accident. It is important to start the process early before evidence is lost.
- Personal injury claim: The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is two years, according to Georgia state law.
- Property damage claim: The statute of limitations is four years for filing a lawsuit for damages to a vehicle.
- Seek damage estimates as your insurance carrier instructs.
- If a law enforcement officer fills out a report on your car accident, get the report number and obtain a copy of the report as soon as possible to make sure you have an official record of the accident. This could benefit your effort to seek payment for injuries in case you take legal action, even though police don’t determine civil liability in personal injury cases involving car accidents.
Car accident victims who sustain injuries in the collision caused by another motorist in the greater Atlanta area should contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can provide advice on how best to proceed. If nothing else, a car accident attorney could provide a free initial consultation and let you know what steps you should take to protect your health and property.
Every accident has its own aspects, and an attorney can negotiate with an insurance company or guide your case through the legal system to make sure you receive the award you deserve for injuries and property damage. Don’t come out on the short end of a car crash by making a common mistake after a car accident.
Contact The Millar Law Firm today to learn how our skilled auto accident attorneys can help you get your life back on track. We offer free initial consultations, and we do not charge attorney fees unless and until we secure compensation for you.