Millions of car accidents happen in the U.S. each year and result in injuries to an average of 3 million people. According to the National Safety Council, an estimated 40,000 people were killed in car crashes in 2018. Forbes reports that people over the age of 16 experience three to four car accidents during their lives. Even though car accidents happen frequently, some people do not know what to do after an accident. It is important for you to do several things when you are the victim of a car accident to protect your rights. Here is what you should do after a wreck.
- Call the Police
- Seek Medical Attention
- Exchange Driver Information
- Take Pictures and Video of the Scene
- Get Statements from any Witnesses
- Should I Go to a Chiropractor?
- How to Deal with the Insurance Company
- Do I get a Rental Car?
Call the police
Immediately after an accident, stay at the scene and call the police. If you leave the scene of an accident, you can be charged with a crime. Check yourself and others for injuries and provide first aid to anyone who needs it. When the police arrive, tell them what happened before and during the crash. Do not say that the accident was your fault. Something might have occurred that you are not aware of such as the other driver talking on his or her cell phone or something similar. Do not say that you are not injured. If the officer asks you if you have been injured, you can tell him or her that you want to see a doctor to get an examination. There are some injuries that may not show symptoms for several days after an accident, so you should still see your doctor even if you initially believe that you have not been injured.
Seek medical attention
If you have suffered a serious injury, tell the officer that you want to go to the emergency department of your local hospital. If your injuries are not as serious, you should at least go to urgent care to get initial treatment for your injuries. A car accident doctor can give you a thorough examination to identify any injuries that you might have suffered. Some types of injuries, including whiplash and internal bleeding, may not be immediately noticed but can be serious. Even if your accident only resulted in minor damage to your car, you may still have these types of injuries and should seek a medical evaluation.
After you have received initial treatment for your injuries, you should follow all of the recommendations that your doctor gives you. Keep your follow-up appointments and follow your doctor's orders.
After an accident, you are required to exchange information with the other driver. Make sure to get the driver's name, contact information, and insurance information and provide him or her with yours. It is also a good idea to write down the vehicle's license plate number and make and model.
Take pictures and videotape the scene
Pictures are important pieces of evidence in car accidents. You can use your smartphone to take photographs. Take pictures of your injuries and pictures of the damage to your car and the other car. Photograph the scene as a whole, and take pictures of such things as skid marks, traffic control devices, speed limit signs, and other things that could be relevant. Photographs can be used by accident reconstruction experts to help them to determine what caused the accidents. It is best to take as many pictures as you can. It is also a good idea to videotape the accident scene. You might also want to write down or record your own statement of what you remember about the accident while your memory is still fresh.
Get statements from any witnesses
If anyone saw your car accident, ask them what they saw. Encourage witnesses to remain at the scene to give their statements to the police. You should also ask the witnesses for their contact information before they leave the accident scene. Ask for their names and their phone numbers. Getting this information is helpful so that your lawyer can get into touch with the witnesses later on for your personal injury claim.
Should I go to a chiropractor after an accident?
After you are injured in an automobile accident, you should see a doctor so that you can get a medical evaluation of your injuries. While many people go to their personal doctors or to the emergency department, some also choose to see a doctor of chiropractic. Chiropractors are specialized types of doctors who attend a professional school after they obtain their bachelor's degrees. Chiropractic care can help with some common types of car accident injuries, including whiplash, soft tissue injuries, inflammation, back injuries, and chronic pain.
In addition to the help that chiropractors can provide, most will agree to treat you on a letter of protection. A letter of protection is a letter that is sent by your personal injury lawyer to a medical doctor that guarantees the payment of the costs of your treatment out of your eventual settlement or award from the at-fault driver's insurance policy. After a car accident, some doctors will not treat patients without a letter of protection. This is because some health insurance plans will not pay for your treatment after an accident because they want you to recover money from the at-fault driver's automobile insurance coverage to pay for your medical bills.
If you do not have your own health insurance, you may have to rely on a chiropractor for your treatment. A chiropractic doctor is more likely to agree to treat you based on a letter of protection than another type of medical doctor. Getting treatment from a chiropractor can help with many types of injuries, and you should not avoid seeing a chiropractor if doing so is your only choice.
Dealing with the insurance company
If the other driver caused your accident, you will submit a claim to his or her company. After your injury accident, an insurance company representative or adjuster will contact you. Insurance adjusters may seem very caring and compassionate. However, you must be aware that their loyalties are to their employer. The job of insurance adjusters is to try to keep the amounts that the insurance companies might have to pay low. They might ask you to give a recorded statement, but you should not agree to do so. Insurance companies try to get recorded statements from car accident victims to try to get them to make statements that the companies can use against them in their injury claims. If the adjuster asks you to give a recorded statement, you can politely refuse and tell him or her that you want to consult with a personal injury lawyer before you make any statements about your accident.
An insurance company representative may also ask you to sign a medical authorization for the company to access your medical records. You might be told that the company needs this to get information about your injuries. You should not sign a medical authorization for an insurance company. The insurance companies use these authorizations to search through your entire medical record in an effort to identify any earlier event that they can blame your injuries on instead of the accident. The insurance company might also extend an offer to you early in the process. However, you should have any offer reviewed by a personal injury lawyer before you agree to it. If you sign off on an offer that is unreasonably low and that isn't enough to cover your losses, you will be prevented from seeking more money to cover your costs in the future.
Do I get a rental car?
It is possible for you to get a rental car to use while your car is being fixed or for a set period of time after the insurance company declares your vehicle to be a total loss. However, if you are under age 21, this can be problematic since rental car companies will not rent to people who are under age 21. If you are unable to get a rental car, you can seek loss of use of your vehicle damages in addition to the other types of damages that might be available to you.
Contact an attorney
After you have sought medical treatment for your car accident injuries, you should contact an experienced car injury lawyer. You should bring the evidence that you gathered at the accident scene, including the pictures, witness statements, and the contact information and names of the witnesses. Get a copy of the police report for your accident, and bring any medical records of your treatment with you. This can help your lawyer to analyze your case and to provide you with a potential range of values of what your case might be worth.
While the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is three years in South Carolina, it is better for you to see an attorney as soon as possible after your accident or if you were an innocent bystander in an accident such as a high-speed police pursuit injury. Doing so allows your lawyer to preserve evidence that might be lost as time passes. Your personal injury lawyer can handle the negotiations with the insurance company for you so that you can concentrate on recovering. Lawyers can also litigate your case on your behalf if the insurance company tries to deny your claim or offers an unreasonably low amount. Having the help of an attorney may make it more likely for you to recover compensation in an amount that pays for your economic and your noneconomic losses.