What to Do After Getting Into a Car Accident
Even the safest drivers can get into serious auto accidents. After a car crash, you might feel dazed, frightened, angry or guilty about your own conduct. You also may be injured more than you know at the time. It is important to stay as calm as possible and to protect yourself and your right to claim damages.
Here are the steps you should take immediately following an accident:
- Get to safety but do not disturb the scene — Make sure that you and others in your vehicle are out of harm’s way. Leave your vehicle where it is and ask the other driver or drivers to do the same. Put on your hazard lights and set up any available cones or flares to warn other drivers.
- Call the police — If any driver, passenger or bystander has been injured in the auto accident or vehicles have undergone significant damage, call 911 to get emergency responders to the scene.
- Do not discuss fault with other drivers or passengers — In the stress of the moments following an accident, people may be prone to apologizing or otherwise admitting fault. This can only hurt your claim for damages. It is better to give your account of the accident only to police.
- Ask for a police report to be filed — Determining fault is critical to establishing each party’s right to damages. Be sure to tell the responding police officer about any injuries you believe you have suffered. Request the officer to file a report and ask how to obtain a copy.
- Document the scene. — Take photos of the accident scene and make notes of key information. This should include any damage to the vehicles involved or the surrounding area.
- Exchange driver information — It is a good idea to exchange basic information with other drivers, such as driver’s license and plate number, insurance company and policy number.
- Get witness names and contact information — You may want to collect contact information from any witnesses. Also, get police officers’ names and badge numbers.
- Seek medical attention — Even if you don’t have any immediate symptoms, it’s a good idea to seek medical attention after a car crash. Often, symptoms of injuries like whiplash don’t materialize until days after an accident.
- Report the accident to the DOT — In Washington state, you have four days to report an accident to the state Department of Transportation if there are injuries or more than $700 in property damage. Failure to do so could result in license suspension. You should also notify your insurance company as soon as possible.
Finally, you should contact an attorney who can counsel you on your right to seek compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, pain and suffering and other losses stemming from the accident. At Bottimore & Associates, P.L.L.C., in Tacoma, we make it our mission to be sure you receive a fair and adequate settlement or award. To schedule a free consultation, call 253-272-5653 or contact us online.