What do I do if I’ve been in a car accident?
Holiday weekends bring with them get togethers with family and friends, but also mean more drivers on the roads, more long distance traveling, and inevitably, more car accidents. After an accident, you may be left wondering – How will my medical bills be paid? How will my car get fixed? What if I can’t work? This article will give you a brief overview of steps you should take immediately after a car accident to protect your rights. After doing these few simple things, you should immediately contact an attorney to discuss the specifics of your car accident and see if hiring counsel is in your best interest.
1. Make sure everyone involved in the collision is okay. If anyone is injured, or thinks they may be injured, call 911 and request medical assistance immediately. Be cautious of the fact that the adrenaline rush of being in a collision may mask injuries. Someone who initially feels fine may begin to experience pain and need assistance several minutes after the initial shock of the collision wears off. Pay attention to your own symptoms, and don’t decline medical treatment if you are experiencing pain anywhere in your body or you believe you hit your head.
2. If you are physically capable, document as much information as you can at the scene, including the position of the vehicles, damage to the vehicles, witness names and phone numbers, lighting and road conditions, and any other factors that may appear to be important. Get the names and phone numbers of all drivers and passengers and note which vehicle they were driving or occupying. Even if the police investigate the car accident, they may not accurately note all of the relevant information, and witnesses may leave before the police arrive.
3. The police may ask you for a statement, either at the scene or at the hospital if you are taken from the scene by ambulance. You should cooperate with the police investigation, but avoid making statements about who was at fault, or being aggressive toward the at fault driver. Provide the police your version of what occurred as calmly as possible.
4. Exchange insurance information with all drivers involved. If the driver of the vehicle is not the owner of the vehicle, try to get both the driver and owner’s insurance information.
5. Contact your insurance agent or company to report a claim. If you will incur medical expenses, you need to contact your insurance company to open a medical claim even if you were not at fault for the collision. Your insurance company may also open a liability investigation to determine fault in case the other driver attempts to present a claim against you. They will also investigate liability for the purpose of determining who is responsible to pay to repair your car. If you have collision coverage, your insurance company may pay to fix your car even if you were not at fault and then seek reimbursement from the other insurance company through a process called subrogation. If you do not have collision coverage, you can make a claim to the other driver’s insurance company for the damage to your vehicle. If your vehicle was towed, be sure to start this process right away, as most insurance companies will only pay storage charges for a certain period of time. Every day your vehicle sits in a towing lot, it accrues storage costs. Many storage costs are exorbitantly high – $50-$75/day.
6. If you seek any type of medical treatment for your injuries, either the day of the incident or thereafter, be sure to provide your doctor or other medical provider with the medical claim number and your car insurance information. Under Pennsylvania law, your insurance company is the first source of payment for auto-accident related medical bills. If you were injured in an accident as a pedestrian or passenger, and do not yourself have auto insurance, contact an attorney to discuss how to obtain coverage.
7. Finally, DO NOT believe that ANY insurance company is going to operate with YOUR best interests at heart. Contact an attorney as soon as possible after your accident to avoid compromising your valuable rights. Insurance companies act quickly after a car accident to try to get you to settle your case for a small sum at the outset, usually before the full extent of your injuries is even known. You must cooperate with your own insurance company in their investigation, but if they ask for a recorded statement, you should contact an attorney first to have your attorney present for the statement. If the other driver’s insurance company asks you for a recorded statement, or asks to meet, contact an attorney to discuss your car accident claim immediately.