Driving is a daily occurrence for most of us. It’s as common as eating and sleeping when it comes to our routine. Unfortunately, accidents can happen due to inclement weather, distracted driving, and other unforeseen instances, and many of us simply have no idea what to do after a car accident.
In the state of Louisiana, a crash resulting in injuries happens every seven minutes, but any type of accident can be traumatic. Panic sets in, especially if you have passengers in the car with you. Even if everyone in your car is safe, what about the other people involved in the crash? How much will this cost you? Is your car a total loss? Your mind will likely be racing as you try to figure out what to do.
At Huber, Thomas & Marcelle, we're dedicated to helping Louisiana residents make sense of the legal system and this post covers one of the most important aspects of that. In the moments after the crash occurs, these are the vital things you should know about what to do after a car accident to protect yourself and your rights.
What to do after a car accident
One of the most important things to keep in mind after a car accident is to stay calm. This will help you get through a series of steps to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you.
Keep in mind, though, that while we’re focusing on car accidents in this particular post, many of these tips are relevant for other types of accidents as well. You should follow similar steps for motorcycle accidents or any situation involving a bicycle and pedestrians. You will even find many of them applicable after a boating incident.
Here are ten of the most important steps to take immediately after an accident.
1. Stop and move to a safe area
Always remain on scene after an accident. Leaving the area can result in serious consequences, especially if you are at fault.
That said, it’s important to get to a nearby safe area. People often get hurt or cause a chain reaction of accidents when they aren’t in a safe area away from the flow of traffic.
If possible, pull into an adjacent parking lot or at least to the shoulder. Turn on your hazard lights so other cars can clearly see that you’ve pulled away from the road. If you have emergency flares, that’s even better, especially at night.
2. Call for help
Once you’re in a safe area, it’s time to call for help. If you, your passengers, or people in the other vehicle are injured, call 911 and ask for emergency medical assistance. Traumatic brain or head injuries, in particular, should be dealt with immediately.
If everyone is unharmed, you’ll still need to call police. Even when damage seems to be minor, you’ll want an official car accident report to give to your insurance company or attorney, if necessary.
3. Exchange information
Regardless of how minimal the damage may seem, it’s essential to exchange information with the other people involved in the crash. You will need their name, contact information, license plate number, and insurance details.
Although it isn’t a requirement for everyone to show their license, it’s a good idea to ask. This can simply confirm they are who they claim to be.
4. Find witnesses
Unfortunately, accidents can quickly become controversial. In order to avoid the blame game, it’s important to find witnesses who saw the crash take place.
Perhaps this is someone who pulled over to help or saw it happen from a nearby crosswalk or sidewalk. Be sure to gather contact information from these people. If they've arrived at the scene, connect them with police officers to give statements.
5. Take photos
In today’s world of advanced technology and smartphones, this step is easier than ever. Take detailed photos of the crash from several different angles, as well as close-up images of any damage. You may also find it beneficial to get a video of the entire scene in order to provide context and a total view of the area. Get evidence of any debris, skid marks, or other damage.
This can help your insurance company calculate just how much damage has been done to your vehicle or any other vehicles involved. In the unfortunate event that your case does go to litigation, this type of evidence is critical.
6. Contact your insurance company
It’s important to get in touch with your insurance company. Give them a call and inform them that you have been in an accident, BUT don’t give them any details yet. Let them know you will be contacting them again soon once you have spoken to your attorney (see #10).
7. Get professional help
Once the dust has cleared and you've left the scene, it's time to get help.
Take your vehicle into a reputable shop for an extensive look. Ask them to provide notes about the damage, along with a cost breakdown for repairs.
Even if you feel fine, visit a doctor for a thorough check-up. You may not feel some injuries due to shock, while others like whiplash, can take a few days to appear.
8. Keep records of all medical treatment
If you’re suffering from injuries after a car accident, medical bills can pile up quickly. From initial tests and X-rays to hospital stays and subsequent check-ups, keep an extensive paper trail for every medical appointment you have.
Ask your doctor, the hospital, and even your health insurance company for records of everything. Create a file and keep it in a safe place. You may want to consider scanning these documents in order to keep them on your computer for easy access and emailing.
All of this will be very important if you do go through the personal injury claims process.
9. Proceed with caution
In the days following an accident, be wary of unsolicited phone calls from the other party’s insurance company or attorney. Remain polite and professional, but explain that you’ll be in touch through your own representation.
In some cases, they may try to offer you an early settlement. If you were hurt, this could prevent you from seeking much-needed compensation in the future. It’s important to be sure that you understand the full scope of your condition and any future complications before you accept and sign off on any settlement.
Furthermore, even property damage estimates take time. What if it turns out your minor car repairs are in fact extensive? In most cases, an early settlement will only provide money for simple repairs. Don’t let the other party or their insurance company pressure you into anything.
10. Contact a New Orleans car accident lawyer
A skilled New Orleans car accident lawyer can navigate complex legal matters with your best interests in mind. The stress of a car accident can be intense, especially if you’re dealing with injuries or extensive vehicle damage that leaves you without reliable transportation.
How do you know if you need a lawyer? There are three instances when it is critical to find professional representation:
- You or a passenger in your vehicle were injured in the accident
- Anyone in the accident was severely injured or killed
- There's significant and costly property damage
You may also want to contact an attorney even if the damage was minor. A short consultation can give you a better idea of the best way to protect your rights and property after an accident.
If you work with our team at Huber, Thomas & Marcelle, you can be confident that the best Louisiana car accident lawyers are on your side. Our case victories have resulted in millions of dollars for our deserving clients. If you've been in a car accident and want to ensure that you receive a fair settlement, contact us today for a free consultation. We will be here for you every step of the way.