No one likes getting into a car accident. Unfortunately, these tragedies occur on a daily basis, especially in and around Los Angeles.
However, knowing how to handle a car accident can give you the confidence you need to properly deal with the situation if it ever happens to you.
Here are 10 steps you should take if you’re ever in a wreck:
#1 - Don’t leave.
It may seem like common sense, but it’s worth stating. If you’re in a crash, do not leave until you are cleared to go. There are serious consequences for fleeing the scene of an accident—even very minor crashes—so it’s best to stay put until it is safe to leave.
#2 - Make sure the scene is safe.
Do what you can to protect yourself and other motorists from being involved in another crash due to your accident. If you have them, set up flares around the accident scene, and be sure to turn on your hazard lights.
If your car is blocking any traffic lanes, snap a few photos of the vehicles as they are (if possible) before moving yours out of the way of traffic.
#3 - Call 9-1-1.
It’s in your best interest to obtain a police report detailing the events of the crash (even if no one was injured). This documentation will be very important for your claim, so make sure you get the accident report number from the officer before he or she leaves. Most accident reports are available 10 business days following the incident and are typically retrievable online.
#4 - Be honest with the police about what happened.
When providing your side of the story to the police, be sure to include all relevant details. Try to provide the most accurate information possible. If there are certain facts you’re unsure about, be honest and say you don’t know. Don’t try to speculate or make assumptions about any of the details of the crash.
If you’re unsure whether you are hurt, tell the truth about that, too. Don’t say you are unharmed if there’s a chance you might have sustained an injury (even a relatively minor one). Keep in mind that not all injuries materialize right away. In fact, it is common for the symptoms of certain injuries to take hours, days, or even up to a week to appear.
If possible, do what you can to ensure the other party(s) involved in the accident also provide an accurate account of what happened.
#5 - Take photos.
It’s wise to take photos of the following after a crash:
- Visible damage to your vehicle
- Visible damage to the other party’s vehicle
- Any visible injuries you’ve sustained
- Any other relevant factors that led to the accident, such as:
- Weather conditions
- Road conditions
- Debris in the road that caused the accident
#6 - Trade information.
The police officer who comes to write the report should do this for you, but it may also be wise to collect this information yourself, too. Be sure to collect the following information from others involved in or who witnessed the crash, including any passengers and bystanders:
- Phone number
You should also take photos of the following documents from the other driver(s) involved in the crash:
- Driver’s license (front and back)
- Insurance card (front and back)
- Vehicle registration
#7 - Obtain medical care.
If there’s a chance you were injured in the accident, it’s a good idea to have a medical professional check you out as soon as possible after the crash. As mentioned above, you may not realize you are injured right away. The symptoms of your injuries may take hours, days, or up to a week to materialize. Even mild accidents can cause serious injuries with lasting impacts.
#8 - Consult a skilled car accident attorney.
It’s a good idea to consult a skilled car accident attorney right away to help with your case. The right lawyer will know how to deal with insurance companies and the tactics they use to avoid paying claims. Be sure to contact an attorney before providing an accident statement to the insurance company as anything you tell them will be used against you in order to undervalue or deny your claim.
#9 - Contact the insurance company.
Do not contact the insurance company without first speaking with a skilled car accident attorney. Insurance companies often use recorded statements against claimants, so it’s in your best interest to speak with a lawyer before calling the insurance company to provide your statement.
However, many insurance companies require claimants to report accidents right away, so be sure to consult an attorney about the accident as soon as you possibly can.
Remember, you don’t have to provide your accident statement over the phone if you don’t want to. In addition to providing one over the phone, you have the following options for providing your statement:
- In writing
- Your attorney can do it for you
#10 - Stay organized.
You’ll have a much easier time dealing with your claim if you keep all documents related to your accident safe, organized, and in one place. The following information should be included in this file:
- Claim number
- Claim’s adjuster handling your claim
- Names and contact information of all relevant parties
- Rental car receipts
- Any other expenses incurred due to the crash
If you’ve been hurt in a car accident, we’re here to help. We have helped many others in similar situations and we may be able to help you, too.