Car accidents can result in traumatic or even catastrophic injuries. If a negligent driver caused your injuries, you may recover compensation for your medical expenses, lost earnings, and even your pain and suffering.
Even if you don't know the cause of the accident, you can significantly improve your chances of recovering compensation for your losses by taking action immediately after and in the days following your car accident.
Get to a Safe Place
If you can, and your vehicle is drivable, move it out of the road to an emergency lane or nearby parking area. Otherwise, approaching motorists may not notice an accident just happened and will have to take immediate measures to stop their vehicles or veer around you.
If you do move your car, do not leave the accident scene. The law requires everyone involved in a motor vehicle accident that resulted in vehicle damage, injuries, or death to remain at the scene until police arrive. Leaving an accident scene involving injuries or death could result in hit-and-run charges, a crime in Texas punishable by fines and prison time.
You'll also want to assess yourself for any injuries as well as the other passengers in your car and occupants in the other vehicle. Remember that you and others involved may not notice your injuries or their extent due to the shock of the accident.
You'll need to report the accident to 911 and inform them of any injuries you notice. Never assume the other driver made the call. They may try to talk you out of calling 911 and getting a police report of the accident. They may even try to talk you out of filing an insurance claim and offer to pay for your damages out of pocket.
Never accept an offer from the other driver. Call the police and have them come to the scene. The accident report can record vital evidence in your car accident claim, so you'll need to ask the responding officer how you can get a copy of his report.
The police report will include information from all drivers, witness testimony, and note any possible contributing factors. They may also determine which driver caused the accident and issue any citations.
Ask emergency responders to check you and other passengers for any injuries related to the accident. Accept any treatment they offer, and don't resist if they insist on taking you to the hospital by ambulance.
Exchange Information With the Other Driver
The law also requires drivers involved in auto accidents to exchange insurance information with each other while at the accident scene. Police will also include this information in their accident reports, but it can take time to get a copy. You'll save valuable time gathering this information from other drivers on your own.
Most people have a smartphone, so you can photograph the other driver’s insurance and registration cards, they will include their name, make and model of their car, and policy number. If possible, photograph their driver's license as well. And share your information with the other driver as well.
If the other driver doesn't have their insurance card or registration, take photos of their license plate or other identifying information.
Preserve Evidence at the Accident Scene
Any evidence you can collect from the accident scene can strengthen your car accident claim. Here’s some evidence you may want to collect:
Photographs and Videos
Use your smartphone to take as many photos and/or videos as possible of the accident scene, such as:
- Damage to the vehicles involved
- Injuries sustained by those involved
- Any debris from the collision
- Skid marks
- Road hazards or obstructions
- Property damages caused by the accident
- People at the scene
- Vehicle license plates
Ask other passengers in your car, occupants of other vehicles, or bystanders if they saw the accident, and ask if you can write down or record what they say. Get their names and contact information. You'll want to get their account of what happened as soon as possible after the accident, as memories fade in time and they can forget essential details.
Your Account of What Happened
You’ll also want to write down or record your own comments about what you did before the accident and what may have caused it. As with eyewitness testimony from others, your memory can fade as time goes by and you’ll want to capture the early details when they’re fresh in your mind.
Seek Medical Treatment
Whether or not emergency medical services saw you at the accident scene, you'll want to follow up with your doctor. Sometimes accident injuries don't present symptoms right away. Or, what seemed like a minor injury at first may begin to cause increasing problems in the days and weeks following your accident.
Seeking medical attention also establishes your accident injuries in your medical records and shows that you take the treatment seriously. Follow your doctor's advice regarding medical treatments, procedures, medications, physical therapy, and other tests. Failing to follow your doctor's orders can indicate to the insurance company less serious injuries than you claim.
Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
Notify your insurance company about the car accident. Most insurance companies require you to do so as soon as possible. You may report the accident by phone, online, or through a mobile app. You'll need to provide a few basic details, such as the time, date, and location of the accident; the make and models of the vehicles involved; and the name and insurance information of the other driver, if you have it.
Don’t give an account of what happened or admit fault in any way. The insurance company may use this information to reduce the compensation you deserve. Instead, provide just the basic information and let your car accident lawyer handle future communications with the insurance company.
Insurance companies like to make fast settlement offers, and they may offer one before you hire a lawyer. Do not accept a settlement offer from an insurance company until you consult a car accident lawyer.
The insurance company has not taken the time to fully assess your injuries and the impact they have on your life. You are likely due much more compensation than the insurance company initially offers. If you accept the settlement, you cannot ask for more money if you find you need more medical attention or supportive care for your accident-related injuries.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
Most personal injury lawyers, including those at the Francis Firm, offer free consultations to evaluate your case and explain your legal options. You need not hire the attorney you consult, but you will better understand the value of your claim.
If you hire a car accident attorney, they will investigate your case, determine all liable parties, and fight for the maximum compensation you and your family need and deserve. In fact, research has shown that accident victims who retain lawyers to handle their claims recover more compensation than those who choose to handle claims on their own.
Journal Your Recovery
In the days, weeks, and months following the accident, you and your family may experience physical and emotional challenges. Write down or record them all—your medical treatments, your level of pain, any limitations to daily activities, days missed from work, and how the accident affects you emotionally. Ask your family members to share how your injuries affect their lives.
Keep a Copy of Your Records and Receipts
Have a file or box ready to keep all accident-related records and receipts, such as:
- Police report
- Medical invoices
- Receipts for medications or medical equipment
- Mileage to and from doctor’s appointments
- Vehicle repair bills or estimates
- Rental car receipts
- Pay stubs
- Income tax returns
- Communications with your employer about missed days from work
Deadline for Filing Your Car Accident Case
Under Texas law, accident victims have two years from their injury to file a car accident claim in civil court. This is separate from the claim you make to your insurance company.
When you hire a lawyer to handle your case, they can advise you whether you should file a lawsuit in civil court. However, if you wait too long and miss this two-year deadline, you cannot seek compensation through the court system.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer Today
An experienced car accident lawyer can greatly improve your chances of recovering the maximum amount of compensation for all the damages you suffered.
Look for a car accident lawyer that has served victims like you for years, because that demonstrates their experience. It also indicates whether you can trust them to handle all the legal aspects of your case so you can focus on your own recovery.
Contact a car accident lawyer today for your free consultation. They can evaluate your case and explain your legal options.