What To Do After a Car Crash (And What Not to Do)
A car crash is an extremely harrowing experience, even if you’ve driven for most of your life. All it takes is one second or one wrong move for everything to change for a driver.
You look down for one brief second to respond to a text message or change the radio. Next thing you know, you’re thousands of dollars in debt and facing tons of medical bills and a court date. The police may even suspend your license! It’s a nightmare, but it’s a nightmare that’s all too common in today’s world.
In fact, there are thousands of people hurt in car accidents in Illinois every year and more than 900 are killed in a car accident every year. About half of these car accidents happen in Cook County, Illinois.
Unless you’re a Chicago personal injury lawyer, it’s difficult to grasp all the complexities of determining fault and liability in a car accident. Add to that the stress of being injured in car accident and it’s a daunting task that may leave you frozen in indecision.
When it happens to you, will you be prepared?
For most of us, the answer is no. You can prepare yourself for the worst case scenario by reading this quick and helpful guide. Here’s a detailed list of what you should (and shouldn’t) do after a car crash.
What To Do After A Car Crash
Doing and saying the right thing after a crash is extremely important. Here’s a quick guide to help you make sure you’re prepared.
Stay At The Scene Of The Accident
First and foremost, it’s important to stay at the scene of the accident after a car crash. Now, this isn’t always as easy as one would think. Take a deep breath and gather yourself. Different people react differently when they have been involved in a car accident.
If your accident took place in a high traffic area like on the freeway or in a turn lane, move over to a safer location. However, it’s critical that you stay nearby. Staying at the scene will make it far easier for the authorities to find and document the scene of the accident.
The closer you are to the scene of the car crash, the easier and faster documenting the accident will be.
Now that you’ve found a safe location, get out of your vehicle and begin documenting everything. And we really do mean everything - gather as much information as you can.
Gather pictures of both vehicles as well as the road where the accident occurred. Having thorough photographic evidence can go a long way in proving innocence and may even keep you from paying higher insurance fees.
Next, write down the other driver’s information, including address, vehicle make and model and license plate. And of course, you’ll want to make sure you get their insurance information as well.
The more thorough the documentation, the easier it’ll be to prove who was in the wrong. Think of any and every possible angle that could be relevant and make sure to write it down or photograph it.
If you are able, collect the name and telephone numbers of any witnesses. You would not believe how car insurance companies will deny that their insured is responsible for a crash, even in the most ridiculous of circumstances.
Getting witnesses after a car accident has got to be a high priority, especially if anyone was seriously injured in the car accident.
After a car crash, time seems to move in almost slow motion. It’s understandable that you’d be a little bit shaken up. I have had clients who are light-headed and so shaken up that they should remain seated.
Sometimes, an injury is immediately obvious. Almost everyone has a strong emotional reaction to the fear and shock of being in a car crash. However, you’ll want to make sure that you keep as calm as possible.
It’s okay to talk to the other driver(s) and make sure that everyone else involved in the accident is okay. In fact, make sure everyone is safe and not in any danger.
This could include someone being trapped in a car which was involved in a car accident, or it could be that people are walking around the scene of the crash. There may be more traffic approaching, making the area unsafe. However, panicking is dangerous for two key reasons.
First, it makes you look guilty. The other driver’s insurance company will likely use whatever you say or do against you. As anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack can tell you, it’s not always easy to control.
Focus on deep, steady breaths.
Second, it may result in poor documentation. The lawyers at DeSalvo Law are talented, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need your evidence. Take things one step at a time and remember to document everything possible.
Fill Out All Necessary Forms
Along with car damage and potential injury comes piles and piles of paperwork. You’re looking at court dates, possible citations, insurance forms, medical bills - just to name a few.
It may be tempting to skip these forms, but it’s in your best interest that you treat this incident seriously. Fill out each form carefully and thoroughly.
What Not To Do After A Car Crash
So far, we’ve looked at four great tips on what you should do following a car crash. But what are some things that you should avoid at all costs? Here’s a quick rundown!
Don’t Assume You’re Fine
Injuries after a car accident aren’t always immediate, as you’re running on adrenaline. Sometimes, an injury takes days or even weeks to surface. Do yourself a favor and don’t automatically assume that you’re fine.
Even if you feel okay, it’s not a bad idea to get yourself checked out. Injuries like whiplash and sprains seem harmless enough but they can cause major problems down the line.
If you are hurt, make sure that you are at least checked out by medical professionals after being involved in a car accident. You would not believe the number of people who do not like going to the doctor, so they put off getting medical help after being in a car accident.
This is a big mistake. Insurance companies love being able to argue that “If he was really hurt, he would have gone to the doctor…” In most circumstances, it is best that you see a doctor right away, but a short delay is okay.
A Chicago personal injury lawyer has a much better chance of making your claims stand up in court when they have an official patient report that details your injuries. Even if you don’t feel like the injury is that bad, it’s very important for you to see a doctor.
Should you develop a more serious injury after the accident, an opposing lawyer will try to suggest that the injury was caused by something else.
Many of my clients actually feel worse over the next several days after being in a car accident than they did on the day of the crash. This is very common. DO NOT avoid medical care.
You get one body in this life and whether you have a case or not, your health has got to be your top priority.
Don’t Admit Fault
Even if you’re almost 100% sure that the injury was your fault, it’s a bad idea to admit fault immediately. There are few instances where only one driver is to blame. Accidents are often rather complicated situations.
Therefore, avoid playing the blame game and just focus on the immediate future.
Were any injuries sustained? How bad is the damage to one or more of the vehicles involved?
Often, the less you say at the scene of an accident, the better. Liability is a complicated legal concept and until all the information is made available, it may not be clear who is liable.
Don’t Engage In Catastrophic Thinking
Auto accidents are often high-intensity situations. Even if it’s just a fender bender, it’s easy to start thinking grandiose thoughts about how this one accident could destroy your life.
Remember what we discussed earlier: stay calm. Take deep breaths and focus only on the accident. You can deal with the rest later.
Don’t Forget To Call A Lawyer
In all the hustle and bustle of a crash, it’s easy to lose your head and forget about what’s important. Injuries can occur in even the smallest of accidents.
Consider speaking with a lawyer, especially if there is an injury. Insurance companies treat people more fairly for car damage repair than they do for personal injury after being in a car accident.
If you talk to anyone in the business, there can be a very little question that insurance companies are waging an all-out war against injury claims.
Many of my clients get treated fairly when it comes to repairing their vehicle, only to have the auto insurance company change their tactics when it comes time to discuss a reasonable settlement.
Like most injury lawyers, I offer a free case evaluation, so talking to me in person or by telephone is no cost and no obligation. Studies show that injured people recover three times as much with a lawyer in an injury claim as compared to not using a lawyer.
It’s important that you make sure to get the proper legal representation you deserve. You may have to miss work or time with your family dealing with insurance companies and court dates. If you were injured, you’re entitled to a pretty hefty payment.
Call an accident attorney right after you leave the scene. The sooner you call, the sooner you’ll get paid. In the event you can’t make it to see Chicago personal injury lawyers, avoid talking to the insurance company until you do.
Their business depends on minimizing claims payouts. They have lawyers on hand and are aware of what information they need to weaken your case.
You should also avoid signing anything without consulting personal injury lawyers. Whether you believe the insurance company is trying to pull a fast one or not, it will still pay to have an expert advocating on your behalf.
Do Not Let Auto Insurance Pay
DO NOT agree to let the auto insurance pay your medical bills as they are incurred. Once your bills are settled, the auto insurance company no longer has any incentive to pay you a fair settlement, because you are not allowed to the Judge and Jury about bills they paid.
This is actually a sneaky maneuver by many insurance companies — once they pay your medical bills, they offer you nothing for your injuries after a car accident.
Involved In A Car Crash? Let Us Help
If you or a loved one were involved in a car accident, the Law Office of Scott DeSalvo is here for you. Car injuries can take valuable time and money away from you and those you love. But we can help.
You’re entitled to a free case evaluation, so get in touch today and get the money you deserve. Have you been in a car accident? Do you still have questions about what your next steps should be? Talk to a Chicago personal injury lawyer today.
The Law Office of Scott DeSalvo has unique experience with personal injury related to car accidents. Give us a call at 312-500-4500 for a free initial consultation.
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