Actions to Take After a Car Wreck
You are never going to be 100% prepared for the traumatic experience of being in a car wreck. It just takes a second for another driver’s wrong move or inattentiveness for everything to change in the blink of an eye. Maybe someone was driving south on Ward Parkway here in Kansas City and looking down at their phone to send a text, swerving into your lane and throwing you into another car as your airbags deploy. Your heart will definitely be racing as fast as its ever been as you hope and pray that you and anyone else in your car will be okay.
As you sit in your car after you realize what you just went through your mind is probably also racing. It is difficult in these moments to think about all the ways in which you can immediately begin to protect your interests and strengthen your potential claims. So here are a few actions that you should take (or not take) immediately after a wreck to put yourself in a better position with respect to your claim:
Slow down and catch your breath. You are still alive. Determine if you have been seriously injured and, if so, call 911 or have someone call 911 for you.
Stay at the Scene
Do not leave the scene of a car wreck but please move over to a safe location away from heavy traffic. The police will likely come and they will need to take your, the other driver, and all the witnesses’ statements about how the accident occurred. The authorities will also want to document the scene of the wreck.
Get as much information you can from the other driver and witnesses. Exchange insurance information with the other driver and take a picture of his or her license plate and insurance information. Get his or her contact information, along with all of the witnesses contact information. Maybe even see if you can get the witnesses to make a statement for you.
Even if there is a chance you were at fault, you were just in an upsetting experience and do not know whether the wreck was actually your fault. Sometimes you may feel like saying sorry because the other driver may be more injured than you were and you feel like the wreck is partially your responsibility. However you might not know how or why the wreck occurred, like whether the other driver was on his or her phone or texting at the time and it was his or her fault. Innocent statements like saying “you’re sorry” could come back to haunt you if you are trying to later seek compensation for your injuries.
Do Not Assume You Are Fine
If you are asked to go to the hospital because a paramedic believes you may have been injured, go to the hospital! You were just in a traumatic event and may not even know how injured you actually are. You do not want to go home, only to realize how injured you truly are and waste valuable time of having a professional diagnose and treat your injuries. Many times injuries manifest themselves many weeks after the wreck because you were running on adrenaline and may not understand the extent of your injuries.
As stated above, get medical attention quickly. If you ever want to be compensated for what you experienced and your injuries, insurance companies will use the fact against you that it took you weeks to get to the hospital and will argue you are faking your injuries or that your injuries could not be that bad. Do the right thing for your body and get checked out.
The other driver’s insurance company will likely call you quickly after the wreck to tell you they will take care of you, your medical bills, and make sure you are treated fairly. Do not believe them. They want to offer you some money so you can sign a release that prohibits you from ever suing them for your damages you experienced in the wreck. As mentioned above, sometimes your injuries are much worse than you thought you had right after the wreck. Sometimes that shoulder injury from the wreck that you thought you would get over is really a torn tendon. If you already had settled your case you will not be able to have that surgery paid for and the pain and suffering damages that come with it.
You need an attorney on your side. Once an attorney gets involved, the other driver’s insurance company is no longer allowed to talk to you and has to talk to your attorney instead. The insurance company will try more than anything to get you to say anything to hurt your case before you have a lawyer by trying to trick you and have your statement recorded. The insurance company’s claims adjuster is not your friend or an advocate for you – they represent the interests of insurance companies that naturally make money by minimizing the payouts on claims submitted to them. That’s an adjuster’s job. Let your lawyer deal with the insurance company and handle all the paperwork that comes with your case. For example, you may not have any experience of dealing with a lien in the injury context, so let your lawyer worry about that so you can focus on getting yourself better.