Major or minor, motor vehicle crashes interrupt your plans and turn normal activities into chaos.
That is why knowing what to do after a motor vehicle crash, especially one that was not your fault, is crucial to protecting yourself from long-term physical, mental and financial damage.
At the law firm of Pittman Dutton & Hellums, we have worked with thousands of motor vehicle crash victims. We have put together the following checklists to walk you through the necessary steps for a safe and swift recovery from your motor vehicle crash.
If you have more questions about your options after a motor vehicle crash, contact our law firm anytime for a free consultation about your case.
What to Do After an Accident
1. Document the scene
Once you have exited the vehicle and are in a safe place, take photos of the scene. If possible, include close-up photos of the damage to your vehicle; if necessary, ask a policeman to accompany you so that you do not put yourself in danger.
Take photos of any injuries you might have, as well as any surrounding property damage or side effects of the crash, such as skid marks or glass on the road, and any contributing factors in the crash, such as a broken traffic light or something lying in the road
If there are witnesses, ask them for their names and contact information.
Finally, write down all the details you remember from start to finish. Make notes of what happened to you physically in the vehicle. If you have any pain that is not accompanied by a visible injury, write that down in your description as well.
2. Get the other driver’s information
When exchanging information with the other driver, keep your interaction short and do not discuss the crash in any way. Even saying something as simple as “I’m so sorry about this” can be construed in a way that is harmful to your case. In addition, do not give any information besides your name, your vehicle’s make/model/VIN, and the name of your insurance company and policy number.
3. File a police report
Even if a witness calls the police to report your crash, filing a police report on your own will go a long way toward
supporting your claim that the motor vehicle crash was not your fault. If for some reason police do not come to the crash scene, you can file a report at your local police station.
Once you have filed your report, ask for a copy of it, and make a note of any police officers or investigators you spoke with.
In the event of a very serious crash, you may not be able to make the police report right away or even get the information of the other driver. In that case, the best thing you can do, as soon as you are able, is to contact an auto accident attorney. An experienced attorney will handle all the details of the legal process for you, so that you can focus on your physical recovery.
4. Contact your automobile insurance carrier
Before contacting your insurance company, review your policy to make sure you know what is covered. Use your notes from the crash to offer your insurance representative all the information they need to quickly process your claim.
5. See a Doctor
Even if you are lucky enough to “walk away” from the motor vehicle crash with no major injuries, it is possible that you could have sustained deeper injuries that do not show up until much later. Some motor vehicle crash victims end up dealing with years of physical pain and suffering that they could not have foreseen.
For this reason, the first thing you should do after leaving the scene of a motor vehicle crash is schedule a check-up with your physician. During your appointment, explain exactly what you experienced during the crash, physically as well as mentally. Even if you do not feel any lingering pain, seeing a doctor after a motor vehicle crash is a very important step to take. Not only will it alert your physician to the possibility of long-term injury, but it will also create a record that could be useful in the legal process of filing a motor vehicle crash claim.
6. Keep Track of Your Condition
During the days and weeks following your motor vehicle crash, make notes on how you are feeling physically, mentally and emotionally. Even small things like feeling unusually tired, forgetful or extra emotional could be signs of hidden injury or trauma. Keep a log of your doctor appointments, medical treatments and any medication you take.
Along with your injury record, keep a running total of all financial costs involved in your recovery process. This includes things like receipts for your vehicle’s repairs, the cost of alternative transportation, time and money spent traveling to the hospital, etc. In addition, be sure to track all the work you may have to miss while recovering from your motor vehicle crash.
What You Don’t Do After an Accident
- Do not admit fault or apologize to the other driver, or discuss the crash in any way.
- Do not give your personal contact information to the other driver, passengers or even witnesses to the motor vehicle crash.
- Do not give the other driver any information other than your name, insurance company name and policy number, and details of your vehicle. Do not allow your driver’s license or registration to be photographed or written down.
- Do not discuss your motor vehicle crash with anyone besides your doctor, your insurance claim representative, and your attorney. This includes at the scene of the crash as well as afterward.
- Do not throw away anything that could be used as evidence of the motor vehicle crash. This includes things like torn or blood-stained clothing, bandages used at the scene of the crash, or even broken vehicle parts. If your vehicle is being repaired, ask your mechanic to hang onto the damaged parts until further notice.
- Do not sign anything or make any verbal agreements without first consulting an attorney.
Important Tips to Remember
After a motor vehicle crash where you were not at fault, you may have the right to financial compensation to aid in your recovery.
Many states have a statute of limitations for the time in which motor vehicle crash victims can pursue a claim. In the state of Alabama, motor vehicle crash victims have two years from the time of the crash to file a claim of personal injury or death.
It is important to remember that the other driver’s insurance company is not neutral. Rather, they are working diligently to reduce the payout their company is liable for. This is especially true when the other driver is the one at fault. If you are contacted by the other driver’s insurance adjuster, you are not responsible for responding to them, no matter why they might contact you. Instead, tell them to speak with your insurance company directly, then immediately contact your own insurance adjuster as well as your attorney.
There are situations in which your own insurance company may not be fully on your side after a motor vehicle crash. For example, if your injury damages exceed the at-fault driver’s available coverage limits, the insurance company may be reluctant to deal with you as fairly as they ought to. If you have difficulty speaking with your insurance claims representative, or if you experience long delays in communication, contact an attorney right away to make sure that your rights are honored.
Contact an Experienced Birmingham Accident Attorney
A major question that many auto crash victims have is when to hire an attorney after a motor vehicle accident.
The truth is that every motor vehicle crash situation is unique. While it can be helpful to talk to friends or family members who have been involved in motor vehicle accidents in the past, no one will be able to provide the exact advice you need in your situation. To fully understand your rights, you should talk with an auto crash lawyer with a proven track record of success. An experienced attorney will be able to walk you through the entire process with the least amount of stress.
When searching for an attorney after an auto crash, the main thing you should be looking for is a track record of proven experience. At Pittman Dutton & Hellums, we have handled thousands of motor vehicle crash cases and helped motor vehicle accident victims in every possible circumstance, from fender benders to severe highway crashes involving commercial 18-wheeler trucks and even trains. Our expertise is unparalleled in the state of Alabama, and our established connections with medical and forensic experts ensure that your case gets the support it needs.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a motor vehicle crash, contact us to discuss your case. Calls are completely confidential and involve no cost or obligation to you. We are here to answer you questions and help you understand how to claim compensation after a motor vehicle crash.