No one ever plans on having a car accident, but unfortunately, they happen. Defensive driving can lower the risk, but you can’t control what other drivers do. However, you can remember a list of steps to take after an accident that will help protect your interests and legal rights. Here are the ten things you should do if you’re in a car crash:
Always remain at the scene until the police say you can leave. However, you should move your car out of the roadway if possible, to avoid further collisions. Missouri’s “Steer it Clear” law requires you to make a reasonable effort to move your car after an accident, so you don’t obstruct the flow of traffic. Find a safe place to pull over and put your car in park, then look around to see what the other driver is doing. If it looks like they have decided to leave the scene, do your best to get their license plate number. If that isn’t possible, write down a description of the car.
First, check in with everyone in your car to see if anyone is bleeding, bruised, or in pain. If there are any injuries, call 911 and ask for an ambulance, even if you think the injuries are not that serious. It’s imperative to get medical care right away.
If everyone in your car seems all right, consider if you can get out of your car safely to check on the people in the other car. Sometimes the door may be damaged, there could be broken glass, or the car could be in a precarious position. If it seems unsafe to get out, stay where you are, turn on your flashers, call 911, and alert the operator of the situation. If you can get out, check on the other car’s occupants and call an ambulance if needed.
Even if no one was injured, it’s still important to make a police report about the accident. This will be crucial if you want your insurance company or the other drivers’ to pay for your vehicle damage. The officer will take statements from all parties involved, observe the scene, and prepare a report on the accident, which you should be able to obtain a copy of a few days to a week later.
Sometimes the other driver really doesn’t want you to call the police. They may give you a story about being in a hurry, not wanting their insurance rates to go up, etc. They may even be uninsured. Do not listen to them – you need a police report to recover your damages. However, you should try to avoid an altercation. If the other driver seems agitated or aggressive, get back in your car and call the police.
Use your phone to document any damage to your vehicle as soon as you can after the accident. Also, get pictures from the rest of the scene, including the road, the side of the road, the other vehicle, and any debris lying on the ground. Get close-up shots of any dents of damage on your vehicle from every angle, as the insurance company will want to see the problem.
You should exchange contact info – names, addresses, phone numbers, emails – and insurance policy info (insurance company name and policy number). Ask to see their insurance card and take a picture if possible. Keep an eye out for any witnesses and get their contact info too, if you can. If you notice someone who might be a witness, but they leave in a hurry, write down their description in case you need to find witnesses later.
Again, if the other driver becomes angry or refuses to give you their information, you should disengage and wait in your car for the police to arrive. They will ask for the other party’s insurance info, and you can get it from them.
When talking to the police, do your best to accurately explain how the accident happened, but don’t speculate about fault. It’s not always possible to know what happened based on your perspective, as there could be information you don’t have. You’d be surprised how many people tell the police that an accident was their fault when it wasn’t.
Instead, tell the officer what happened, and if you don’t know something, say so. Don’t guess how the crash transpired. If the officer suggests that you let the paramedics check you for injuries, this is a good idea – sometimes people are injured but don’t have any symptoms right away.
Even if you believe the other driver is at fault and their insurance company should cover your claim, you still need to let your insurer know what happened. While you’re on the phone, find out about any deadlines for filing a claim, as these can vary from one insurance company to the next.
Although the accident may be the other driver’s fault, you might still need to file a claim with your own insurer in some situations where the other driver is uninsured or underinsured. (Missouri requires at least $25,000 in uninsured motorist coverage for bodily injury liability.) If you already know the other driver doesn’t have sufficient insurance coverage, you can file a claim immediately.
People who suffer serious injuries are usually taken to a hospital right away. But in some cases, even serious injuries don’t present pain or symptoms immediately after they happen. We have met clients who say they felt fine after an accident, but woke up with a lot of pain the next day, or a few days later. This is common with whiplash, back injuries, and even some traumatic brain injuries.
If you have minor injuries like scrapes and bruises, you may think you’re fine, but it’s possible you need stitches or further evaluation. Let the paramedics help you, and if they think you need to see a doctor, listen.
When you’re at the doctor’s office or emergency room, be sure to tell the doctor about all your injuries, even if they seem minor. It’s especially important to mention any blow to the head, even one that seemed minor because some serious head injuries don’t always cause pain or symptoms immediately.
Since you will probably need to make an insurance claim, we recommend keeping all documents related to your accident together. This should include the other party’s insurance info, the accident report, any recollections you have about witnesses, medical bills, rental car receipts, etc.
Contact an attorney about your accident before you talk to either insurance carrier. Both your own insurer and the other party’s have a self-interest in not paying your claim. Insurance adjusters may engage in what feels like a friendly chat, then misconstrue your words to paint you as an irresponsible driver who caused an accident, even if that’s not remotely true.
Your attorney can advise you on how to handle the insurance adjuster, or they may be able to negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, saving you time and stress. They will also assign an investigator to look into your case and preserve as much evidence as possible. This includes evidence like traffic cam or doorbell camera footage, witnesses, internal data from your car, etc.
If the other driver was at fault, you will need to file a claim with their insurance carrier. Your car accident attorney can assist you with this. One of the benefits of having a lawyer help with your car insurance claim is that they will thoroughly go over all potential damages you might have, including:
Even car accident cases that seem simple may turn out to be very complicated. If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a car collision, we recommend contacting an experienced car accident lawyer for assistance with your claim. Our team of attorneys, investigators, and other staff at Goldblatt + Singer, the St. Louis Injury Law Firm, will work to support you through the claims process, negotiation with the insurance company, and if necessary, filing a lawsuit to obtain compensation. We will always advocate for accident victims to preserve their rights and seek the financial compensation they deserve. For a free consultation about your case and options, please reach out to our St. Louis car accident attorneys right away.
We’ve worked to earn the trust of more than 25,000 clients over the years, and we are confident that we will earn yours. Your initial consultation is free, and there are no up-front costs – we don’t charge you anything until we win your case. Contact us today at 314-888-1000 or visit us online.
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