Car accidents are traumatic for everyone involved regardless of who is at fault. After a high-impact collision, you might be in pain, shocked, or confused. In case of an accident, it is always important to call the police and get medical help for everyone involved.
If you are not at fault, remain calm and assess the damage. If the accident was caused by the other driver, you have the option to sue the at-fault party for damages such as medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering caused by the accident.
First steps to take after a car accident
Car accidents can be life-changing especially if the involved parties suffer severe injuries. According to the CDC, over 2 million people ended up in the emergency room because of car accident-related injuries.
The first step to take after an accident is to move your car to the side of the road. Then, call 911 if there are any injured people, and contact the police to notify them about the accident. It is critical to prevent anyone else from getting injured.
1. Call the Police
Whether you are involved in a minor or major crash, a police report is important and goes a long way in supporting your insurance claim. Stay at the scene and talk to the police if the accident was not your fault.
Even in cases where the other driver does not want to involve the police, we do not recommend negotiating reparations without a police report. This is because it can be difficult to estimate the damage on-site.
If it is difficult to establish which driver caused the accident, having a police report and collecting evidence makes it easier to make an insurance claim.
2. Collect relevant information
Typically, the driver at fault is supposed to report the accident. However, there are no guarantees that they will make the report. You can only prove the accident with evidence from the scene of the crash. That is why it is critical to collect information before leaving.
Take information such as:
- Name and address of the driver who caused the accident
- Driver’s license number
- The make and model of the other car
- Their insurance company and policy number
- Names, phone numbers, and addresses of witnesses
- Pictures of the accident scene detailing damage, and the license number of the driver at fault
- The responding officer’s name, badge number, and contact information
Only talk to the other driver to take the above information. Do not discuss the accident or which driver caused the crash. You can also sketch a map showing the direction every car involved in the crash was traveling and other details such as buildings or pedestrians.
Ensure you gather as much information as possible at the scene as it may be difficult to obtain it after you have left. You can also record the accident in writing immediately after you get home to help you remember the details more accurately.
3. Inform your insurance company
We recommend calling your insurance company immediately after an accident. Most car accidents happen quickly so it may be difficult to capture the full details of the crash. You might be partially at fault or the at-fault driver’s insurance may refuse to cover treatment and other damages.
Informing your insurance company ensures they can contest damages and other expenses. In addition, if you are partially at fault, your insurance company is required to cover repair costs and other damages.
Talk to your adjustor to make sure that the at-fault driver’s insurance is in agreement to ensure the damages are covered within the shortest time possible.
Suing the at-fault driver
If the insurance company of an at-fault driver denies your claim or refuses to pay for any damages and expenses, you can choose to sue them or reach a settlement. We recommend hiring a lawyer to sue the company.
However, if the cost of damages and medical expenses is less than what it would cost you to hire a lawyer, you do not have to contest the claim legally. Consult an insurance attorney to find out your options.
What if you get injured?
Even at low speeds, car crashes can cause serious injuries and you may suffer from injuries that are not immediately apparent such as numbness, headaches, personality changes, abdominal swelling or pain, and others.
Visit a healthcare facility for a comprehensive medical exam to determine whether you have suffered any internal injuries or other serious issues.
This allows you to document your injuries for your claim against the at-fault driver. If their insurance cannot cover all your medical expenses, consider using your uninsured driver’s coverage.
You may also be eligible for Personal Injury Protection if the accident was not your fault.
What if you lose your car in an accident?
In case you lose your vehicle, the at-fault driver is required to pay you the cost of the car. This is the actual amount the car would cost if it was totaled. Insurance companies calculate it as the replacement cost less depreciation cost.
In this case, the replacement cost is how much it would cost to buy a similar model and the depreciation cost is the value of depreciation over the years. The at-fault driver is also required to pay the sales tax on the replacement vehicle.
You can also claim your deductible from the at-fault driver. However, it takes a long time to process, and you may not be able to use your car. If you need your car back on the road immediately, you may have to pay for the deductible yourself.
Understand your state laws and insurance coverage
Depending on where you live, different states have varying laws to govern insurance and cover innocent parties when they are involved in an accident. In no-fault states, your insurance company may be responsible for medical bills and any other expenses if you are involved in a minor crash.
In no-fault states, drivers rely on their insurance company for compensation up to a specific limit no matter who caused the crash. In these states, you can still follow the above steps after an accident that was not your fault. The driver who caused the accident can still be held responsible for any damaged property.
In other states, the driver responsible for the accident must pay for medical bills, property damage, and other damages caused by the accident such as lost wages.
Understanding the laws in your state helps you know which laws apply to you in case of an accident even if it was not your fault.
What not to do after a car accident?
Avoid doing the following things if you have been involved in a car accident to safeguard your rights and compensation:
- Do not leave the scene of the accident. Even if the accident was not your fault, always stay on the scene and wait for the police
- Do not move any injured victims as it may cause more damage
- Do not admit blame or apologize for the accident. While it is normal to feel concerned, admitting blame or apologizing can be used as evidence against your claim.
- Do not speak to the insurance company of the at-fault driver other than to give them your insurer or attorney’s contact information
Car accidents, no matter how minor, can leave you physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally distressed. It is important to take care of yourself and follow your doctor’s instructions.
Report any change you detect, no matter how small, as it may have a significant impact on your health down the line.
If the car accident was not your fault, you should not have to suffer the subsequent cost to your health and bear the financial implications. An attorney can help you seek compensation to help you on your journey to recovery.