Getting in an accident is one of the most stressful events a motorist will encounter.  Whether a car, truck or automobile accident, the initial rush of adrenaline and anxiety caused by the sudden impact can cause many people to do or say things in the heat of passion.  These actions and statements can often impact your rights in the long term when it comes to seeking restitution or compensation for injuries or damage.  Knowing what to do, and what not to do, in the event of an accident can make the difference between coming out ahead or ending up on the losing end of a claim or lawsuit.

Getting to Safety

Do Get to Safety

First and foremost, in the immediate aftermath of an accident you should remain calm and focus on safely getting out of your car—if you can—and out of further harms way.  If possible, put on your emergency lights.  If possible, do not move your car.  While you should move, you should not move your car.  You want the police to see what happened and why the other driver is liable, responsible.

Don’t Leave the Scene

Leaving the scene of an accident is never a good idea and could potentially be a criminal act.  Many states have laws stating that drivers of automobiles must stop and communicate or call the local law enforcement agency to document the accident.  This also makes good legal sense as you will want to collect evidence such as photos and witness statements and exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver.

Interacting with the Other Driver

Do Gather Insurance and Other Information

After you’ve ensured you and your vehicle are safe, you should attempt to gather information from the other vehicle or vehicles involved in the crash.  Obtaining basic contact information and exchanging insurance policy numbers and carriers on both sides will help facilitate the claims process later on.  See if you can get all of the witnesses names and numbers.  Witnesses are oftentimes key pieces to a case.  Police officers do their very best to take down all of the information, but witnesses sometimes leave before an officer can get the information.

Do Not Admit Fault or Become Confrontational

When interacting with the other driver, bystanders or law enforcement on the scene it is important to remain calm and not become argumentative.  Understandably, in the aftermath of a crash your emotions may be running high.  Anger, fear, frustration and worry are common feelings that may cause you to act in ways you wouldn’t normally.  You may feel guilty and want to apologize to the other driver if you feel you were at fault.  You may want to yell or question what the other driver was doing if you believe the accident occurred because of them.  If you are unable to remain calm in communications it may be best to wait until law enforcement is on the scene and communicate with the other party solely through their voice of reason.

Preserving Evidence

Do Take Pictures

After an accident, it is vitally important to document damage as much as possible.  A thorough record made as close to the time of the accident as possible will help create a clearer picture of what happened and is helpful to reconstructing the events leading up to the crash.  You should also take pictures of the crash location, any skid marks or other road markings.  Finally, document physical injuries both on the day of the accident and as bruising and pain sets in after.

Insurance, Agents, Claims and More

Don’t Feel Bullied or Helpless

While supplying information is important and necessary, you should know that not every request from the insurer, adjuster or other party is entirely reasonable and necessary.  For example, you are under no requirement to give a recorded statement.  In fact, we believe you shouldn’t. You should also never feel pressured to accept a quick settlement to your claim or accident, especially when the extent of your bodily injury, and the long-term impact of such, remains unknown.  In most states, you have two years to file a lawsuit and serve the other driver.  Some states have shorter time limitations and some have longer, but the general rule, and the rule in Georgia, is 2 years.  This is called the statute of limitations.  It is important to remember that in the event of a crash you are free to contact an auto accident lawyer Atlanta GA relies on to help safeguard your legal rights.  Legal counsel will often provide much needed guidance as well as their expertise in negotiating with corporate insurers and other parties.  Plus, most lawyers will provide a free consultation.

Butler TobinThanks to our friends and contributors from Butler Tobin for their insight into auto accident cases.