The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is tasked with tracking crash statistics. In 2016 alone they found there were 7,277,000 total police-reported crashes. Of those, 2,177,000 crashes involved injuries. Based on that number, nearly a third of all vehicle accidents result in an injury for one or more people that are involved.
Sometimes injuries after a car accident are very apparent, but other times you may not be able to tell you were injured without medical attention or until the next day. Given how common car accidents are and how debilitating the injuries can be, it’s important for everyone to know how to protect themselves if they’re involved in a crash.
The five steps below are important to take after a car accident regardless of whether or not you’re hurt, and if you are injured they’re extremely influential for your recovery, both medically and financially.
Step 1. Assess the Situation to Make Sure the Scene is Safe
Immediately after the accident, take a minute to assess the situation if you are physically able to. Find out how many people were involved, if anyone was seriously injured and whether the vehicles are still drivable.
You’ll also want to take in your surroundings. Is the road you’re on heavily trafficked? Are there others around that can help? Is there smoke coming out of a vehicle? How safe is it to stay where you are?
Priority number one is ensuring that you and everyone else involved are as safe as possible. Leaving the vehicles in place may make determining what happened and who’s at-fault easier, but if it’s a minor accident the safest option may be to get off the road if possible. You’ll also want to:
- Turn the vehicles off.
- Put the hazard lights on for all vehicles.
- Mark the area off with safety cones if they’re available.
- Get everyone who isn’t seriously injured out of the cars and safely out of traffic.
If someone is seriously injured moving them could do more harm than good. Only attempt to move a seriously injured person if there’s immediate danger such as a fire or something is restricting their ability to breathe.
Step 2. Call the Police to Report the Accident and Possibly an Ambulance
If someone is obviously injured or complaining of pain the first call should be to 9-1-1. Again, safety should always come first.
Even if it’s a small fender bender without any obvious injuries, call the police. An officer will:
- Come to the scene to create a report.
- Speak with everyone involved in the accident as well as anyone who witnessed the accident.
- Observe the accident scene from every angle and probably take photos.
All these things are taken into account so the police officer can determine what actually occurred and who is most likely at fault. You should receive a copy of the accident report for an official record that the accident did occur, when it happened, the location and who was involved.
One thing you never want to do is admit fault for the accident. Unless the other driver has already admitted fault for the accident, don’t attempt to claim the other driver was at-fault. Just stick to the basic facts of what happened as you remember it.
If the police officer believes it’s necessary they may also issue traffic tickets or conduct a field sobriety test if either driver seems to be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
Step 3. Exchange Information With the Other Driver
Even though the police office will get everyone’s information, it’s best to exchange information with the other driver If you’re physically able to do so. The information should include:
- Drivers license number
- Insurance provider and policy number
- License plate number
- Phone number
- Any other contact information they’re willing to provide
The more information you can gather the better. It’s also a good idea to call the other driver while you’re there together at the scene to make sure you have the correct phone number and that it works.
Step 4. Take Pictures of the Accident Scene
After the scene is cleared, people may have different or conflicting recollections of what happened and who was at fault for the accident. That’s why taking pictures of the accident is crucial. The photos provide a much clearer picture of what actually occurred. They can:
- Help establish what happened
- Help determine who was most likely at-fault
- Show the extent of the vehicle damage
- Validate injuries
Give these pictures along with the other driver’s information to your auto insurance company as soon as you can.
Step 5. Seek Medical Attention
If there’s any possibility that you were injured during the accident seek medical attention right away. Don’t wait for the pain and discomfort to resolve itself.
Insurance companies have been known to deny injury claims if a person doesn’t get evaluated right after a car accident occurs. They may argue the injury could have occurred due to another reason or incident after the accident if there’s a delay in getting medical attention.
Seeking medical attention right away also provides peace of mind and can identify serious, life-threatening injuries that may not be evident right away. This is certainly possible if you suffered a blow to the head or harmed your spine.
When It’s Time to Call an Experienced Car Accident Attorney
Many people are hesitant to contact a car accident attorney, but it is in your best interest if you’ve been injured. It may also be necessary if the other driver attempts to deny they were involved in the accident or claims you were at fault.
The sooner you hire a car or truck accident attorney the more protection they can provide. Your attorney can handle all correspondence with the insurance companies and file claims so that you receive adequate compensation for your injuries and property damage.
If you’ve been involved in a car accident Hurt Get Help has the network you need to find help fast. We’ll match you with a licensed attorney that’s experienced with handling car accident claims in your state. Submit a claim to get in contact with an attorney today!