Car accidents can be stressful ordeals that have the potential to rattle even the most levelheaded people. If you get into an accident you may feel a wave of emotions ranging from scared to angry. However, no matter how you are feeling, it is important to remember not to say too much at the scene of the accident. Often, people say something like “he came out of nowhere,” which, in the long run, could hurt your accident case.
Car accidents seemingly happen when you least expect them. But, after an accident, there are things you can and should do. This is especially true in a rear-end collision crash: whether you are a passenger or a driver; whether you are in a taxi cab or bus; even if you are driving on the job, there are always things you should do.
The following are some useful tips that will help you navigate the aftermath of a car accident:
Immediately Following Your Accident
At the scene, try to find a safe place away from traffic where you can exchange information with the other driver and wait for emergency personnel. It is very important that you call the police and wait for them to arrive, unless it absolutely impossible for you to do so. If you cannot wait for police to arrive at the scene you should make sure to speak with them as soon as possible.
Exchanging information with the other driver is important. Try to obtain as much information as possible, within reason, about the other driver as well as any other passengers who might be in the other driver’s vehicle. Most importantly you need the name, address, and phone number of the other driver as well as the license plate/tag number for the other driver’s vehicle and the state that the license plate is registered. If there are any witnesses to the accident, get their names, phone numbers and addresses as well.
You should also take a look at our checklist for what to do at the scene of a car accident.
While you are not obligated to contact your insurance company immediately following the accident, we recommend that you do so as soon as you reasonably can. Typically, an insurance policy simply provides that you give them notice of the accident as soon as possible, but it is important to remember that insurance companies do not necessarily have your best interest in mind. They have their own best interest in mind. For this reason, you should always contact an attorney following an automobile accident. An attorney can help you deal with your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company, as well as help you handle the payment of medical bills and resolutions of property damage.
If an insurance adjuster calls you after the accident, you may not know if you should talk to him. You can talk to him, but we do not recommend it. The adjuster will likely want to take a recorded statement about the accident and your injuries. This benefits the insurance company, not you. Some insurance companies will also try to pressure you into settling your case early on in the claim process. Do not fall into that trap. Again, we stress the importance of contacting a qualified attorney who is used to evaluating personal injury cases before any settlement offer is considered.
Do not sign a release—not for the other driver’s insurance company or your own insurance company—to get your medical records. Simply put, the other driver’s insurance company is not entitled to a release from you for your medical records. Your own insurance company may be entitled to a release for your medical records so that they can pay your medical bills, but you should defer to your attorney before signing any medical release for an insurance company.
You should know what all of your damages and injuries are. But, of course, you may not know what they are in the very beginning. That’s why you should seek medical care as soon as possible following the accident. Tell your doctor about all of your injuries, but do not exaggerate. Pain and suffering are one of the main elements of damages in any personal injury case. Keep records of all of your medical bills, and of the expenses, you spent going back and forth to doctors. Keep your receipts for co-pay and deductibles. Do not forget that you are entitled to be reimbursed for any wages that you lose as a result of the accident.
Choosing Your Lawyer
If you decide to hire a lawyer to represent you, you should choose one who is not afraid to go to court. Not all lawyers go to court. Some lawyers who handle personal injury cases always settle them. Ask the lawyer whom you might hire whether they are skilled and experienced at trying rear-end accident cases in Pennsylvania.
For more information on rear end car accidents, please see the article “Whiplash Neck Injuries,” both of which can be found on the Carpey Law website.
You should also request a FREE copy of Purchasing Auto Insurance in Pennsylvania and The Biggest Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Pennsylvania Accident Case, two books written by Stuart A. Carpey.