Immediately following an accident, things can become chaotic and overwhelming. Following some basic steps can make handling your accident a bit easier. Even minor car accidents can present big problems in the future. First, you should think about your safety before you think about your insurance. If someone is injured, call 911. Next, stay calm. Being in a car wreck is a scary situation, but becoming increasingly upset will just make it worse.

Ironically, it’s what you do before an accident that will make you better prepared after an accident. Being prepared can prevent stress after an accident. Make sure to keep a copy of your insurance information and a pen and paper in your car; it will make the post-accident process much easier.

You are required by law to have proof of your insurance with you; to make this easier most insurers provide cards that have all your insurance information already on them. Many cell phones come equipped with a camera, but if your phone doesn’t have one or it takes low-quality photos, it’s a good idea to keep a disposable camera in your vehicle as well. Here are some valuable tips for dealing with a car accident:

Must-Take Steps after an Auto Accident

Get Off the Road

Before you start gathering information from other motorists after an accident, it is essential to get to safety as quickly as you can. If you had a minor fender bender, you do not have to leave the cars where they are. Move out of the way of oncoming traffic to keep you and other motorists safe. But if you cannot move your car without causing further damage, do not try. Your insurance company should be able to hire a tow truck to move your vehicle for you.

Assess for Injuries

Immediately following an accident, you should check for injuries. Make sure you check every passenger of the car for signs of injury, as well as yourself. Any injuries could be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. Whenever possible, use first-aid measures, but if you cannot, make sure highly injured victims stay in their current position and out of harm’s way until help arrives. If the wrong movements are made, certain injuries, such as those to the spine and neck, can become permanent.

Call the Police

Texas law requires that you report a collision if the accident results in injury or death or if the vehicle is damaged to the point of being immobilized.

Following such a crash, you should immediately contact emergency personnel using the quickest means of communication. In other words, call 911 and await help. An investigation report will be written by the police, which can be useful if you plan on filing a personal injury claim.

Some people may be confused about what they should do after a minor car accident in which no one was injured, or vehicles had limited damage. A situation like this may not warrant dialing 911. Moreover, a police report may not be filed. Still, when there is more than $1,000 in property damage or injuries, you must file an accident report within ten days. You may also be able to use this report to make a claim for compensation.

Obtain Medical Treatment

Your health comes first after a serious car accident. Seek medical attention right away. In some cases, injuries may not become symptomatic for several days after a collision. As a result, it is imperative you receive an accurate diagnosis and that you begin treatment immediately. A medical emergency could occur if you neglect to see a physician in certain cases, like those involving internal injuries.

In addition to seeking medical treatment after a car accident to evaluate your health, establishing your injuries through documentation will provide valuable evidence in supporting your case. In essence, it will causally tie your injuries to the accident. When the insurance company does not have any documentation, it is likely that it will assert that your injuries are not as severe as you claim or that there was another cause for your injuries, such as a prior injury or illness. Therefore, after a crash, you should obtain medical treatment as soon as possible so that you can preserve your legal rights.

Gather Information

Your insurance company will need specific information in order to file your claim. You may need to fill out information about the other motorists involved, the name of your insurance representative, and whether or not there was any damage to your vehicle.

If you are in a crash, write down the following information about the people involved:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Make, model, and year of the car
  • License plate number
  • Insurance carrier
  • Insurance policy number
  • Name and contact information for any witnesses

Take these photos if you can:

  • Damage to your vehicle
  • Accident location
  • People involved in the accident

Get information from the officer if there is one on the scene:

  • Name
  • Badge or ID number
  • Phone number
  • Police report number

Ask the police officer for a copy of the police report. The officer’s opinion of the accident will be useful in the event that any one of the drivers has a dispute during claims processing. The police report will also contain the officer’s information, in case he or she is needed to testify.

File Your Claim

Call your insurance provider to start your claim; your insurance company’s phone number is most likely staffed 24/7. Your claims representative will likely contact you within 24 hours to discuss the details of your claim.

What Not to Do after an Auto Accident

There’s no denying that your senses will be overwhelmed by a sudden, traumatic accident; however, you should do your absolute best to adhere to a few guidelines. Below is a list of things drivers or injured parties should not do after an auto accident.

Never Apologize or Accept Blame

After a car accident, drivers often feel inclined to apologize and see what they can do to fix the problem or get to the bottom of what happened. Apologizing for wrongdoing, whether it was your fault or not, is generally considered polite and encouraged in almost any situation.

However, when you apologize after an auto accident, you might be seen as agreeing to accept liability. An admission of fault might include any of the following statements:

  • “Sorry, I didn’t see you.”
  • “I’m late for work and in a rush.”
  • “I’ve been having car problems.”
  • “I’m so tired and wasn’t able to react in time.”

Even if these statements are factual, it does not guarantee that these actions were the cause of the accident. For instance, when a driver is tired, the accident may not directly result from the driver’s delayed reaction time but instead be caused by another driver running a red light. Because of this, it is important to keep the details of the accident as vague as possible and do not apologize to anyone.

Do Not Post on Social Media

Shared photos, thoughts, and other content on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are a common way of life for many people. Many people would find the involvement in a car accident to be a worthy event to share on social media.

In reality, many people do not realize that social media usage could negatively impact one’s ability to obtain compensation for a car accident. Many victims of car accidents recover the biggest portion of their losses by way of pain and suffering compensation and compensation for how injuries have impacted their normal activities and responsibilities.

Sharing photos of oneself exercising, traveling, at social gatherings, or engaging in other leisure activities that typically signify good health can negate a claim that a car accident victim is in considerable pain and unable to perform daily activities. Due to the public nature of social media, opposing lawyers and at-fault parties’ insurance companies may use them to reduce or reject settlement offers.

Don’t Talk to the Other Party’s Insurer or Lawyer about the Accident

Car accident victims are often contacted by the insurance company or an attorney of the party at fault shortly after the accident happens. Remember that the other party’s attorney or insurer has a professional and ethical duty to represent their client’s best interests, not yours.

Furthermore, insurance companies aim to maximize their profits and train their adjusters to minimize the amount of money they pay out for claims. Thus, it’s wise to decline requests for information or correspondence originating from the other party. Ideally, you should let your attorney handle all points of communication from opposing counsel or another insurance company.

Don’t Take the First Settlement Offer You Receive

The insurance industry is also notorious for offering early settlements after an accident occurs, leaving the victim unable to fully assess their losses. These are often absurdly low settlement offers and only represent a small fraction of a victim’s total losses.

A person unfamiliar with Texas personal injury law will have difficulty determining how much their claim is worth. As a result, victims tend to minimize their claims significantly. A car accident can cause numerous kinds of financial losses. Some of these losses may be recouped:

  • Medical costs
  • Lost income
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Property damage
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish

At Sutliff & Stout, we have established a network of expert witnesses and physicians with the goal of helping our clients receive the appropriate settlement. Our personal injury law firm has obtained large settlements for clients injured in auto accidents.

An Action Plan for Dealing with an Accident

Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Glove Compartment. Drivers should carry a mobile phone, as well as pen and paper for taking notes, a disposable camera to take pictures of the cars at the scene, and a card with information about medical allergies or conditions that may require special attention if there are serious injuries. Also, keep a list of contact numbers for law enforcement agencies handy. A set of cones, warning triangles, or emergency flares are advisable as well.

Keep Safety First. Drivers involved in minor accidents with no serious injuries should move cars to the side of the road and out of the way of traffic. Leaving cars parked in the middle of the road or at busy intersections can result in additional damage and injuries. If a vehicle cannot be moved, drivers and passengers should remain inside with seatbelts fastened for everyone’s safety until help arrives. Make sure to turn on hazard lights and set out cones, flares, or warning triangles if you can.

Exchange Information. After an automobile accident, exchange the following information: name, address, phone number, insurance company, policy number, driver license number and license plate number for the driver and the owner of every vehicle involved. If the driver’s name is different from the name of the insured, establish what the relationship is and take down the name and address for each individual. Also, make a description in writing of each car, including year, make, model, and color. Be sure to include the exact location of the collision and how it happened. Finally, be polite but refrain from admitting fault, even if you think you bear some responsibility for the collision.

Photograph and Document the Accident. Use your camera to document all vehicle damage. Remember, you want all of your photos to show the overall context of the accident in order to make your case to a claims adjuster. If witnesses were present, try to get their information; they may be able to help you if the other drivers dispute your version of the accident.

File an Accident Report. Although law enforcement officers may not actually respond to accidents unless someone is injured, Texas motorists should still file a state vehicle accident report, which is available at local police stations and sometimes available online. A police report can help quicken the claims process for insurance companies.

One of the biggest questions in dealing with an automobile accident is who will pay for the damages? If the accident was a minor one, you and the drivers involved may decide to take care of the damages yourselves, without having to involve insurance agencies. But this isn’t always the greatest idea.

While the other motorist may agree to pay for the damage to your vehicle on the actual day of the accident, they may see the repair bills and suddenly change their mind. At this juncture, too much time has passed, and your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company may try to deny your claim due to the passage of time.

Be Sure to Follow All Your Doctor’s Recommendations. As important as it is to seek medical attention after an accident, it is also crucial that you follow all medical recommendations regarding treatment and recovery. As part of your recovery, you should take any prescriptions that are prescribed to you, participate in all scheduled physical therapy sessions, follow directions regarding rest, pain medications, and time off of work and school, and attend all follow-up appointments.

People are hesitant to go to the doctor when they feel better, making it tempting to skip appointments or ignore treatment recommendations. Unfortunately, you risk getting your settlement reduced or your claim denied entirely if you are not following your treatment plan. Therefore, following your doctor’s directions entirely is a crucial part of protecting your rights and receiving the full compensation you are entitled to under Texas law.

Entrust Your Case to the Experts in Texas Injury Law

Car accidents take a huge toll on everyone involved, be it monetarily or emotionally. If you’re one of the few lucky motorists who have so far avoided being in a serious car wreck, hopefully, the tips provided above will help you keep it that way. Realistically, the chances of remaining accident-free are very low. If it does happen, don’t panic, keep your head on straight, and make safety your top priority. If you or someone you love has been injured through no fault of your own, make top injury lawyers Sutliff & Stout your next call.

If you have a legal question, you can get in touch with our office by phone or text at (713) 987-7111, or you can complete our online contact form. Obtaining a no-obligation, free case review from one of our Board-Certified expert attorneys is the best way for you to decide whether or not hiring an attorney is in your best interests.