- What you do just after an accident can affect the value of your case.
- After an accident do not argue with the at-fault driver or the police.
- If you are hurt, do not say you are “fine,” just to be nice.
- Gather at the scene of a car accident by taking photos and talking to witnesses.
Definitely DO THESE THINGS
The aftermath of a car accident can be so chaotic and stressful that people may act in ways that they normally wouldn’t. There are some things you definitely want to do after a car accident and several costly mistakes you can avoid in order to ensure the best outcome.
Doing certain things, and NOT doing other things can have a dramatic effect on the value of your personal injury case. Above all, tell the truth and do not lie to the police, the at-fault driver, or the insurance companies.
DO THESE THINGS at the scene of an accident:
- Keep calm, cool, and collected in the direct aftermath of a car accident.
- Seek medical treatment to ensure that any and all injuries are properly documented.
- Gather witness statements and contact information as soon as possible.
- Take photos of the accident scene.
- Tell the police you are hurt – if you are hurt or think you are hurt.
- Ask for medical attention, to be examined by EMS, or to be taken to the hospital.
Gather your own information and evidence while at the accident scene if possible. This includes taking photographs of any skid marks, damage to vehicles and other property, and any injuries.
Definitely DO NOT
DO NOT argue with other drivers or the police. First and foremost, when speaking to the other people involved in the accident, do not lose your temper. Even if you disagree with them, keeping your cool will help you far more than confronting them with aggression. Remain calm even if the other person says some things that are not true in an effort to avoid liability for the car accident. For example, they might:
- tell the officer she was not on her phone when she was.
- claim that they were not speeding when they were.
- accuse another driver of cutting them off or coming out of nowhere.
- deny that they were distracted while on the road.
It is critical that you remain reasonable, cooperative, and focused while on the scene of the accident no matter what the other party says that might be a lie. Resist the urge to call the other driver a liar or confront them at the accident scene. It is imperative that you speak to the police officer respectfully and clearly to give him the best account of the accident as possible.
DO NOT say you are not hurt, if you were hurt. 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. Above all, you must tell the truth. If you are not hurt, do not falsely claim to be hurt. However, many people tell the police, the at-fault driver, or eyewitnesses, they are “fine” – even when they are not, because we’ve been raised to not be complainers. This can be a serious mistake, because the police report will include a statement indicating whether you reported being hurt or unhurt.
If you are hurt, but tell the police officer or the at-fault driver that you are “fine,” rest assured that the insurance company for the defendant driver will attempt to use this against you to pay less or even deny your injury claim, even though it is common knowledge that many injuries become more painful hours or days after an accident.
DO NOT refuse or delay medical treatment. Even if you plan to drive yourself or have a family member or friend take you to the doctor or hospital later, it can be a good idea to allow ambulance personnel to check your condition and take you to the hospital for care — if they recommend that. Many people are so pumped with adrenaline in the moments after a crash that they fail to realize how severely they have been injured. If you are hurt and don’t see a doctor immediately, then seek an examination within the next few hours or in the next day or two.
You know you are telling the truth, but the longer you wait to be seen by a doctor, the more likely it is that the at-fault driver’s insurance adjuster may claim you were not hurt or that you are faking your injuries. A doctor’s evaluation of your injuries is important evidence if you decide to file a personal injury claim.
DO NOT fail to notify your insurance company within 24 hours of a car accident. Failing to let your own motor vehicle insurance carrier about an accident, even if it was not your fault, could violate the terms of your insurance policy. It could even result in the cancellation of your policy or give your own insurer a reason to deny the claim, should you need certain benefits available through your policy.
DO NOT 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.
Important Recommendations From The State of Georgia
The DMV publishes a Driver’s Manual every year which includes recommendations of actions for people to take when they get into accidents. These recommendations include:
- Stop your car and pull over to the side of the road or another safe place after the accident.
- Report the accident immediately to local law enforcement if anyone has been killed, if someone is injured, or if there is property damage of more than $500.
- Provide assistance to injured parties if possible.
- Use the hazard lights on your car to alert oncoming traffic of the accident.
- Provide your name, address, license plate number, driver’s license number, and insurance information to any other drivers involved in the accident.
In the Driver’s Manual the DMV also provides a personal accident report which can be used for accidents where there are no injuries or there is damage of less than $500. Filling out that form can be essential in pursuing litigation later if necessary.
If police were called to the scene it is also important that you obtain the report number from the police officer who is on the scene and that you obtain a copy of the police report as soon as possible after the accident. Police reports are invaluable sources of information in personal injury litigation.
Get Witness Statements and Contact Information If Possible
If there were witnesses to the accident it is important that you get their statements about the accident and their contact information. This is essential because your personal injury attorney can contact them later for further details. Witness reports can become critical sources of evidence in a car accident case, especially when the people involved in the accident give conflicting statements. Unfortunately, this happens with many personal injury cases.
Call Your Insurance Company Within 24 Hours of Your Accident
If at all possible, it is imperative that you reach out to your insurance company within 24 hours of your car accident or as soon as possible after that.
When talking to your insurance company:
- Follow their instructions for getting damage estimates.
- If law enforcement is called and a police report is completed, get the report number from the officer and get a copy of the report as soon as possible.
- Share this report with your insurance company.
Review the Police Report
As soon as you receive a copy of the police report, review it for inaccuracies. Police are human and an accident scene is a chaotic environment where emotions run high and impressions may be wrong. It is important that you are aware of any inconsistencies in the report and bring these inconsistencies to the attention of your lawyer or the police.
How Long Do I Have To Make an Injury Claim?
The statute of limitations is a law that determines how long someone has to pursue a legal claim. In Georgia there are two critical statutes of limitations for car accidents you must be aware of.
- For a personal injury claim, the statute of limitations is two years. This means that if you’re injured in a car accident, you must file the case against the other driver within two years of the date of the accident. If you do not, most likely you will not be able to seek compensation for your injury.
- For damage to your car, the statute of limitations is four years. This means that you must bring any claim for damage to your vehicle within four years of experiencing a car accident.