10 Important Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Accidents happen… but when you leave the scene, it becomes a crime. North Carolina law requires you to report any accident that involves injury, fatalities, or property damage. So, yes, in virtually every case, you must call the police - and if you’re not sure, call anyway to find out. Wait for them to respond.
It is important to report the accident so you can file an insurance claim. Remember, North Carolina is an “at fault’ state, so if the accident was caused by the other driver, his or her insurance should cover your vehicle’s damage. If you were at fault, your insurance will cover them.
If your vehicle is obstructing traffic and is still operable, move to the side of the road, a parking lot, or another safe location near the scene. If you cannot move your car, set up road flares and/or turn on your hazard lights.
- Check for Injuries
Are you hurt? If you have passengers, check on their wellbeing. If you are able to do so safely, ask the other driver and his or her passengers if they have injuries. When you report the accident, be sure to tell the dispatcher if anyone is hurt.
- Document the Scene
If you are able to do so safely, take pictures of the accident scene, specifically visible damage to your vehicle, visible injuries, road conditions, street signs and other identifying landmarks, the other vehicle, etc.
- Speak to the Police
Tell the responding officers what happened to the best of your ability. If you don’t know the answer to a question, do not guess or speculate. Don’t try to fill in the blanks. Stick to the facts as you know them, and do not offer extraneous information.
The officer may ask if you are injured. Do not say “No.” Why? In many people, car accident injuries do not present symptoms immediately. They may be masked by adrenaline, for example, and not appear for hours after the collision. However, telling police you are not injured can impact your ability to receive fair compensation from the insurance company Tell the officer that you don’t know and are going to seek medical attention as soon as you can.
- Exchange Information
The law requires all drivers to exchange names, phone numbers, addresses, driver’s license numbers, and vehicle registration numbers. While not required under the law, it is also a good idea to exchange insurance information.
If police respond to the scene, they do this as part of their investigation. If, for some reason, they do not, be sure to swap information.
- Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company ASAP
Many insurance policies require you to notify the company within 72 hours, and some require you to do so immediately. Don’t wait. You want to get the ball rolling on your claim and, if you have med pay for medical expenses related to the accident, you’ll want to get the info so your treatment is covered.
Insurance companies often require a damage estimate before they pay out. We’re happy to help you with that step.
- Seek Medical Attention
In all the chaos after an accident, you may be worried about insurance, damage, fixing your car… but don’t forget to take care of yourself. As mentioned, symptoms can be delayed but conditions such as concussion, brain/spinal injury, or internal bleeding can be serious or life-threatening if not treated. Go to an emergency room as soon as you can for a full medical evaluation.
This is also an important step to take so you can file a claim with the insurance company and/or if you decide to pursue a personal injury case.
- Keep All Relevant Documents
Keep a folder of all the documents related to your accident, including the police report, medical records, doctors’ notes, a log of calls with insurance companies, emails with insurance companies, receipts for expenses that resulted from the accident (car rental, alternative modes of transportation), etc.
- Consider Speaking to an Attorney
A car accident lawyer can help you if you’re getting the run-around from the insurance company, the other driver’s insurance is refusing to pay out, they’ve reduced your claim, or injuries sustained are severe.
- Get that Car Fixed!
Fortunately, most car accidents can be resolved without lawyers, and the insurance company pays out. When it does, be sure to repair your car to prevent further damage, avoid unsafe driving conditions, and fix dents and dings that can lead to rust and other issues. Your safety is our top concern here at First Aid Auto - but we also want your car to look good and retain its value.
If you’ve been in a car accident, you have our sympathies - and our help. Please do not hesitate to contact us.