What should you do immediately after a car accident…and the day after?
We hope that you are reading this blog entry purely for its educational value, and not because you have just had an automobile accident. Thereby, our first two questions, which are about what to do minutes after an accident, are for potential reference—should you ever have one. However, if you had an accident yesterday and need advice about what to do today, Q&As (3) through (13) will provide you with important information. Q&As include:
How should you behave immediately after an accident?
What should you do immediately after an accident?
Should you admit fault if you think it is yours?
What should you say to an insurance adjuster after an auto accident?
Should you agree to make a recorded statement to an insurance company?
Why are recorded statements to be avoided?
What should you expect from your own insurance company after an accident?
How much should you cooperate with your own insurance company?
How soon after a car accident should you retain an auto accident lawyer?
Can you handle a car accident claim without an auto accident attorney?
Do you need a car crash lawyer for minor injuries
What are “delayed” or “late appearing” injuries?
How much does it cost to hire a car crash attorney?
1. How should you behave immediately after an accident?
Bear in mind that there is a lot of adrenaline flowing immediately after an accident. Resist arguing with other drivers or passengers about who was at fault. Limit yourself to exchanging names and addresses among the drivers and passengers in the involved vehicles. Also, get driver's licenses and vehicle registration numbers.
You must also give the same information to the police; and in some states, you are additionally required to present evidence of financial responsibility (aka, your “insurance card). When answering police questions, do not be evasive. But be very careful not to incriminate yourself. Never apologize or admit fault (see 3).
2. What should you do immediately after an accident?
If there are injuries, call 911.
Call the police. In some states or localities, depending on the severity and/or location of the accident, officers might not come to every accident scene. (E.g. some police will not respond to accidents that happen on private property.) But you should nonetheless try to notify them. Be mindful that in most police jurisdictions, if the accident involved a hit and run, you have to notify the police within a certain period of time. I.e., the quicker the better.
Acquire the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and license numbers of all drivers involved in the accident. Also, get the license plate and vehicle identification numbers for their respective vehicles. (Ask to see vehicle registrations to verify the info matches the plate.)
Also get the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any passengers and—most importantly—that of any incidental witnesses.
If you can, take photos of the accident scene, including any traffic controls and visual obstacles. Also, take photos of the physical damage to cars and of any affected property (e.g., downed residential mailboxes, broken fences, torn up lawns, etc.).
If you cannot find the owner of a vehicle or property that has been damaged by the accident, leave a note with the names and addresses of the drivers and owners of the involved cars.
Notify your insurance company as soon as you can.
Be mindful that in most police jurisdictions, if there are injuries and/or if the damage exceeds a certain monetary amount, you are required to notify the police within a certain amount of time. Failure to do so might result in fines and/or the suspension of your driver's license.
3. Should you admit fault if you think it is yours?
Absolutely not! While you might think it “wrong” not to admit fault when it appears to be yours, you need to consider that you might be mistaken. This is because you only witness an accident from your own limited vantage. Thus, you are interpreting events from a single narrow view.
Other drivers, passengers, and witnesses will provide other perspectives. Their statements will offer additional evidence, which will be considered by the police and your auto accident attorney. They will together determine which parties might be at fault, and how much comparative negligence there might be.
You might be deemed to have been only partially at fault—or maybe not at all. But if you have apologized or otherwise admitted fault to the police (or any insurance company representative), you might wind up having to pay for the other party's damages, nonetheless.
Remember, your odds for success are poor if you are a layperson (i.e., non-lawyer) who is trying to deal with insurance adjusters in the aftermath of a vehicular accident. You are under psychological stress—and possibly physically injured—and so not at your best. They have tactics by which they can get you to make statements known to them to denigrate your case. You need the counsel of an experienced auto accident attorney.
4. What should you say to an insurance adjuster after an auto accident?
As little as possible. If no party in the accident admits fault, then it is likely that insurance adjusters will want to conduct their own investigations. Avoid chitchatting with insurance adjusters. No matter how friendly, helpful, and as congenial as they might appear, you must remember that they are definitely not on your side.
Instead, insurance adjusters are incentivized by their respective employers—the insurance companies that pay their salaries—to lay the fault upon you, or otherwise get you to say things that will degrade your chances for fair and complete compensation.
Never agree to speak with or make a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster unless he or she is from your own insurance company.
5. Should you agree to make a recorded statement to an insurance company?
Only if it is your insurer is the one who is doing the asking! Some insurance companies require that you make a verbal statement in order to file a claim. This should in all respects be kept to a minimum (date, time, parties involved, etc- NO SPECIFIC DETAILS). However, it would still be a good idea to talk with a car accident attorney before speaking into the microphone, please keep in mind these statements can be utilized against you by the adverse driver.
You have entirely no obligation to provide a recorded statement to your insurance company or anyone else who was involved in your accident. There is no U.S. state that requires you to do so.
If you have provided a recorded statement to someone else’s insurance company, contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible, and start the conversation by telling him or her that you have done so. Knowing this at the onset of your case will determine how your car accident lawyer will proceed in your interests.
6. Why are recorded statements to be avoided?
As mentioned in (5), recorded statements may be used against you in the hands of someone else’s insurer, they can be devastating. For example, your off-the-cuff remark that you were running late for work that day can be twisted to infer that you were speeding and driving recklessly. Or the answer to a seemingly innocuous question about your recent health can be used to suggest that your injuries are preexisting conditions or not a consequence of the accident. In the aftermath of an accident, your best course of action is to hire an auto accident attorney to speak to insurance companies on your behalf.
7. What should you expect from your own insurance company after an accident?
Generally speaking, after an accident, your insurance company is obligated to acknowledge your written or oral claim and provide assistance in a reasonable amount of time. They should also advise you of all your policy benefits, coverage, time limits, and any other provisions relative to your accident.
Your insurance company should act on the claim immediately—i.e., accepting or denying it—but usually within a required timeframe dependent upon in which state you reside.
Proof of claim is documentation that provides evidence for the claim. This can be:
Accident scene photos
Damaged vehicle photos
Data from vehicles’ event data recorders
Electronic evidence (E.g. cell phone records)
Manufacturer records and recall information
Medical and work records
Police crash reports
Assembling and presenting such evidence effectively is crucial to your case and something with which a skilled car accident lawyer can help you.
8. How much should you cooperate with your own insurance company?
You have a duty to cooperate with your own insurance company—but not with any insurer of anyone else involved in your accident. The level of cooperation required will vary according to whether yours is a “no-fault” vs. “fault state.”
In a “fault state,” your degree of responsibility for the accident will impact how compensation is paid to the injured.
In a “no-fault state,” your insurance company will pay for damages up to your policy limit regardless of who was at fault for the accident.
9. How soon after a car accident should you retain an auto accident lawyer?
It is best to hire a car accident attorney as soon as you can. This lessens the odds that you might incidentally say something to an insurance company adjuster that diminishes the value of your claim. Also, your car accident lawyer can recommend specialist physicians who can speak to causation, prognosis, or disability regarding your injuries: considerations that are crucial to establishing your case. Nonetheless, you can hire a lawyer to help you with your car accident injury case any time before the settlement is closed by the insurance company.
10. Can you handle a car accident claim without an auto accident attorney?
You probably can if your injuries are minor and you have the time and energy to gather the required evidence and documents. You should additionally be willing and able to negotiate with insurance company adjusters. But as a layperson (i.e., non-lawyer), the odds are heavily against you for achieving fair and complete compensation without the help of a skilled auto accident attorney.
11. Do you need a car crash lawyer for minor injuries?
You can suffer significant injury and pain, particularly whiplash and other neck injuries, even when a crash involves vehicles that are traveling very slowly, and little or no property damage occurs.
If you have absorbed any sort of physical impact in a crash, you should consult a car accident attorney as soon as you can. Many injuries initially appear minor when they happen, only to manifest their severity days after a car crash (see 12).
12. What are “delayed” or “late appearing” injuries?
Delayed injuries” are also called “late-appearing injuries.” Both names are a misnomer, which is because delayed injuries are not delayed at all.
Instead, thanks to your body’s endorphins, the pain of such injuries is suppressed for a time. Consequently, a low-speed crash causing little or no damage to vehicles or property can still cause seriously debilitating injuries—some of them lifelong.
(i.e.,. Endorphins are the main constituent of your body’s onboard system to quell pain temporarily as you either “fight or flee” after a trauma.)
Some examples of “delayed” or “late appearing” injuries are:
Soft tissue injuries. These are traumas to your muscles, ligaments, and tendons that manifest in pain, swelling, bruising, and physical damage. They are classified as contusions, sprains, tendonitis, bursitis, stress injuries, and strains. Whiplash is a soft tissue injury that is common to rear-end accidents.
Concussions. These are traumatic brain injuries that can cause headaches, as well as degrade your concentration, memory, balance, and coordination. Some concussions can cause loss of consciousness.
Emotional harm. This refers to suffering that arises from the effect or memory of your accident, causing anxiety, depression, loss of ability to perform tasks or physical illness.
13. How much does it cost to hire a car crash attorney?
Galindo car crash attorneys charge no upfront or out-of-pocket fees. We are only paid a percentage of the compensation we are able to secure for you. So by working with Galindo Law, you incur zero financial risk.
Contact Galindo Law today if you have suffered major or minor injuries in an automobile collision.
Remember that proper compensation for pain and damages consequent to an auto accident is your right. You are not asking for charity. You deserve to be adequately compensated for your loss.
Or, if you prefer, email us.
And thank you for reading our blog!