In life, you prepare for events that are important or that require you to act quickly or with great care. You practice fire drills at school and work. You take practice tests for a significant exam. You learn CPR, and you even practice for an interview. Unfortunately, one thing that people often do not consider or prepare for is what to do if you are in a car accident.
No one anticipates being in a car accident, but your actions immediately after and for months or even years to come can impact not only your physical health but also your legal rights. Knowing what to do after a car accident can help make this stressful situation easier in both the short and the long term. Here is a checklist of what to do if you are in a car accident.
Be Careful What You Say
After an accident, do not admit guilt, apologize, or discuss who is responsible for the crash. In fact, it’s probably best to say as little as possible until you have spoken to a lawyer. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, it can be very tempting to do so, but it is not the time to be polite or accept blame. Even a simple apology could ruin your personal injury case. The other party and their attorney could use an apology as evidence that you were at fault for the accident, jeopardizing your ability to recover compensation. Other parties to the accident may want to discuss how the accident occurred or who is at fault, but you should avoid talking about it.
You should also avoid discussing the accident with any witnesses at the scene. Instead, if possible, get their contact information. If necessary, they may act as witnesses on your behalf.
Get Medical Care
The most important thing after a serious accident is that you and anyone else who might be injured get emergency medical help. Do not hesitate to call 911, no matter how minor the injuries might seem.
Even if you did not need emergency medical care immediately after your accident, be aware that injuries may not show for a few days or even a couple of weeks. It is a good idea to get checked out by your own physician within a few days of any accident. They should document your symptoms, possible diagnoses, and what treatments they recommend.
It is your job to follow the medical advice of your physician and other members of your healthcare team. By not following their advice—whether to have a follow-up X-ray, not go to work for a period of time, or not lift anything heavy—you could make your injuries worse or at the very least prolong your own healing. If you do not do what they say, it may have a negative impact on your case as well since failure to seek medical care or follow your doctor’s orders can be used as evidence by the other side to show that your injuries are not as serious as you claim they are.
Keep Documentation and Records
To protect your legal rights, you should document how your accident has affected your life. Keep careful records of:
- Your pain and suffering. You may want to keep a daily log of your pain, how bad it is, what it kept you from doing what you normally would have done
- Your travel to medical appointments. You might recover compensation for the expenses related to getting to and from medical appointments.
- Your missed days at work. Keep track of the hours you miss at work, either for medical-related appointments or simply because you cannot physically or mentally work as you can ask for reimbursement for lost wages
- Your medical bills. Start a file for all of your accident-related medical bills as this will help calculate your special damages
- Your medical records. Although your car accident attorney can obtain copies of your records from your medical providers with your written consent, it can also be helpful for you to keep your own records to reference if needed.
Avoid Talking About the Accident
It is natural to want to share details about your accident and injuries with friends, coworkers, and even on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and other platforms. After all, you want people to know what is going on with you, and you need their support. However, be aware that the more you share about your accident, the higher the chances are that the defense in your case will have evidence to use against you. What you say to others could get into the wrong hands and be twisted and used against you.
In fact, avoiding social media altogether is usually the best choice. If you post on a social media site about going out to dinner with friends or taking a vacation, the defense could argue that you must not have had serious injuries since you can go out to dinner or take a vacation.
Get the Help You Need
After any kind of vehicle accident, get the help you need. Seek medical attention and schedule a meeting with a skilled car accident lawyer who can discuss the viability of your case. An attorney can help ensure that you do not take any actions that could endanger your claim. What you do in the moments, days, and months following your car accident can have a substantial impact on your legal claims. If you do not take the proper steps, you could lose the compensation you deserve for your injuries, leaving you to be responsible for the damages caused by someone else’s mistakes.
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