After a Car Accident: Critical Do’s and Don’ts to Protect Yourself Physically and Legally
If you've ever been involved in a car accident, you know how emotionally, physically, and financially devastating the incident can be. The first few minutes after the accident are often filled with mixed emotion, and your first instinct might be to jump out of the car and confront the other driver or apologize for causing the crash.
However, taking the correct steps after a car accident is critical to protect yourself and family – both legally and financially. Here are a few do's and don'ts to keep in mind if you're ever involved in an automobile accident.
Do Make Sure Everyone Is Okay
Before you check the damage on your vehicle or even call the police, it's vital to ensure everyone in your car is okay. If anyone is injured, even if it’s minor, it's vital to call 9-1-1 immediately. Remember, even if the injury seems minor now, it could become serious in the future.
Additionally, if you believe the other driver is seriously injured, don't hesitate to contact the authorities right away.
Do Call the Police
Once you've determined that everyone is alright, your next step is to contact the police. While you're waiting for the authorities arrive, exchange information with the other driver. Under no circumstances, even if the accident is clearly your fault, should you ever apologize or express any signs of guilt. This seemingly simple gesture can come back to haunt you if the other driver files a lawsuit.
Now that the police are on the scene, don't hesitate to give your side of the story—especially if you are clearly at fault. However, never admit fault or lie to the officer. It's the officers job to get to the bottom of what happened, and if you lie or admit fault, it could—once again—come back to haunt you.
After answering all the police officer's questions, make sure to get their name and badge number. This information will prove critical when it comes time to get a copy of the police report.
The one thing you should never do is leave the scene of the accident. Even if it's clearly your fault, leaving the scene of a crime is a serious offense, and you will eventually be caught and the punishment will be much more severe.
Don't Forget to Gather Evidence
After you've spoken to the other driver and the police, go ahead and gather evidence of the scene. Grab your cellphone and take pictures of any injuries you or your passengers sustained. Next, take photos of the damage to your vehicle and the location of the accident.
Finally, talk to any witnesses who are willing to answer your questions. Ask for their names, phone numbers, and their account of the accident. This information will prove invaluable when it comes time to file an insurance claim or if you are later sued by the other driver.
Don't Underestimate the Importance of Legal Representation
Say the dust has settled and you've walked away from the accident with minimal damage to both your body and your vehicle. At this point, you probably think the ordeal is over and will simply need to contact your insurance and get the car fixed.
This is often the point when you are blindsided by a lawsuit from the other driver. No matter the circumstances of the accident, it is critical to protect yourself and contact an attorney. The attorney can help you determine if you have a lawsuit or provide you with advice and counsel if the other driver sues.
Automobile accidents are an unfortunate part of life. If you're ever involved in a fender bender, don't hesitate to contact the professionals at Gelman, Gelman, Wiskow & McCarthy, LLC.