Car accidents tend to be stressful, even overwhelming experiences. They occur unexpectedly and suddenly, often causing severe damage and injuries. Those involved may be in a state of shock, and, as a result of these factors, it can be difficult to know what to do in the immediate aftermath of a crash.
For better or worse, the truth is that these initial moments can be critical – not only for your health and safety but for the success of any potential legal claims you might have.
In these circumstances, it’s likely that you could use the help of a car accident lawyer. Continue reading to learn about 5 things you should do after a car accident, as well as how you can best preserve your legal rights and interests following a collision.
Call 911 and Alert Law Enforcement
One of the first things you should do after getting into a car accident is to notify law enforcement of the crash, and the easiest way to do that is to call 911.
States differ on when this step is required by law. For example, in Maryland, drivers must call 911 and report the crash when the accident results in injury, someone is intoxicated, public property is damaged, or under other specific circumstances.
However, it’s almost always a good idea to alert the police of the accident – regardless of whether you are mandated to by law. Unless the collision resulted in only insignificant property damage (like a light scratch), having a police report on hand could be in your best interest.
Exchange and Collect Information
You should also collect as much information as you can from the accident scene if it is safe to do so. This means, for one, exchanging insurance and contact information with the other driver(s) involved in the accident.
It also means gathering evidence that may benefit your subsequent legal action against the at-fault party. For example, if there were any eyewitnesses who caught what happened, ask for their contact details as well. You might also take photographs and videos of the accident scene that help illustrate what took place.
Get Medical Treatment
Getting prompt medical care is also a key step to take after a car accident. In severe crashes, there’s no question as to whether this is necessary; in others, it might be less clear. However, it’s important to seek medical attention even if you haven’t sustained an obvious injury.
Not all injuries, including some traumatic brain injuries and other serious ailments, will present symptoms immediately. Of course, what matters first and foremost is your health. In addition, medical records can serve as valuable evidence if you need to file a legal claim for compensation against the party responsible for your accident.
Do Not Apologize or Accept Blame
This is more of a “don’t” rather than a “do,” but it’s important to mention nonetheless. Be sure not to apologize to anyone about the accident, nor accept blame. If you do, it could prevent you from getting compensation for your injuries and damages.
States differ in how they deal with this issue of contributory fault. Most states follow some form of comparative negligence, wherein the accident victim’s compensation may be reduced based on their assigned percentage of fault. In many states, the victim is barred from recovering damages if they share either 50% or 51% of the blame.
In a select few states, however, things are more strict. In Maryland, for example, drivers can’t recover compensation if they share even 1% responsibility for the accident. This system is referred to as contributory negligence.
Ultimately, regardless of the state you live in, accepting blame or apologizing can harm your legal interests.
Speak With a Car Accident Lawyer
Contacting a qualified car accident attorney is also one of the most critical actions to take following a wreck. A lawyer can advise you on how best to proceed, based on your situation’s particular facts and circumstances.
In addition, an attorney can help you through the insurance claims process. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses that wish to minimize or escape liability whenever possible. They’ll utilize many tactics to achieve that goal, but an experienced lawyer will know how to respond effectively.
Hiring a lawyer can ensure you recover maximum compensation for your injuries and other damages. They can handle the entirety of your legal claim while you focus on your recovery as well.
You Have Legal Rights Following a Car Crash
At the end of the day, you should know that you have legal rights after you’ve gotten into a car accident. If someone else was responsible for the accident, you may very well have a valid legal claim against them. Most lawyers in this area of the law offer a free initial consultation to review your case.
In addition, car accident attorneys generally work on a contingency fee basis. That means you can hire them at no cost, and you only pay them attorney’s fees if they successfully handle your case.