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What to Do After a Car Accident?

Written by Ankin Law Office

There are certain steps that crash victims need to take to ensure the safety of those involved and help increase their chances of filing a successful accident claim. Knowing what to do after a car accident is vital. A car accident attorney can help victims navigate the accident claims process and maximize their settlement.

How Accidents Take Place

Car accidents occur every day, many of which are serious or even fatal. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 6,756,000 motor vehicle accidents took place in 2019, with 1,916,000 resulting in injuries and 33,244 involving fatalities. Other accidents may involve private property crashes that only result in property damage, but this damage can come with steep costs.

There are many potential causes of car accidents, such as:

  • Distracted driving
  • Drunk driving
  • Road hazards
  • Inclement weather
  • Defective automotive parts
  • Driver error

Accidents may be more likely to take place in locations such as particularly dangerous Chicago intersections.

If any type of accident occurs, there are specific steps that people should take to preserve the safety of everyone at the scene and help build a claim in the days and weeks following the accident.

Steps to take After a Car Accident

The following are the actions that individuals should perform if they’re involved in any type of accident. These steps also detail what to do after a truck accident in Illinois, which can be more serious than accidents only involving cars.

Stay Calm and Move Everyone to a Safe Location

Immediately after an accident takes place, individuals involved may experience an adrenaline rush and panic, which can negatively impact their decision-making abilities. This is why it’s best to try to remain calm after the accident and assess the situation.

Drivers should then move their vehicle to a safe spot if possible. If the car is damaged to the point where it’s immobile, drivers should switch on their emergency lights if available and functioning. At this point, everyone should move to a safe location away from the exact site of the accident while remaining at the scene.

If the accident is minor in nature and nobody is injured, individuals should make sure children, disabled adults, elderly passengers, and children are also in a safe spot, which may be in the vehicle if it’s secure and in a safe environment. However, if children are in car seats during a collision, it’s best to wait for first responders to arrive and remove those children from their seats, as they may have sustained injuries that aren’t visible. 

Dial 9-1-1

Once everyone is safe and secure, individuals should check to see if any victims sustained injuries. Even if injuries appear minor, it’s important to call 9-1-1 and request medical assistance in addition to law enforcement. 

When calling the authorities, callers should provide as many details as possible about themselves and their location. These details could include the caller’s name and other personal details, along with the specific city and street names. 

Individuals should keep in mind that in Illinois, people involved in an accident must file a crash report with the police if the accident resulted in more than $1,500 worth of property damage, deaths, or bodily injuries of any kind. 

Having the police develop a crash report can be hugely beneficial, as it may help support victims’ statements when filing a claim or lawsuit. Police look at the accident as objectively as possible to determine how it occurred.

When speaking to law enforcement, it’s important to be honest about how the accident occurred to the best of the person’s memory, but people involved should never admit fault. Even apologizing for the accident could indicate that the person was at least partially at fault for an accident, even if they actually weren’t.

Speak with the Other Driver

The next step is to talk with the other driver involved in the accident if it’s safe to do so. If individuals suspect that the other driver’s anger or aggression played a role in the accident, it’s important to practice extra caution when speaking with them.

Again, it’s important to avoid apologizing or giving any other sign of fault, as this could harm a future claim. At the same time, individuals should remain calm when talking with each other and never blame the accident on others. 

It’s generally in everyone’s best interest at this time to avoid discussing fault entirely, as people may be unclear about all of the factors involved that contributed to the accident. 

Additionally, people involved in an accident should avoid discussing injuries. Medical professionals will be able to examine and assess injuries later to determine their severity and make proper diagnoses.

If the other driver decides to make an offer to personally compensate with a cash deal, individuals should never accept it. The case may be worth more than the driver claims, and these “handshake deals” often lead to greater costs at a later point.

Gather as Much Evidence as Possible

While at the scene of the accident, individuals should collect as much information as they can once everyone is safe.

It’s crucial to record all driver’s license information, license plates, and the names and contact information of those involved. Insurance information is also vital.

People can also take photos or record video footage of any damage to vehicles or other property, along with visible injuries. They can also photograph the scene of the accident at large, including tire tracks, debris, and weather conditions present in the area.

If any witnesses were present at the time of the accident, it’s necessary to gather their information, including their names and contact details. 

Seek Professional Medical Treatment

Regardless of how minor injuries may seem after an accident, there could be underlying damage to soft tissue and organs that may develop into serious conditions later.

Following an accident, it’s best to consult with a medical professional for a proper health assessment. A doctor may discover certain conditions and prescribe treatment before they have the chance to worsen.

Not only can seeing a doctor help put accident victims on the road to recovery early on, but this will also generate medical records and bills that could support victims when settling injury claims with insurance companies.

Otherwise, when filing a claim, failing to seek medical treatment early enough could indicate to insurers that injuries aren’t as severe as the victim claims. 

Begin Building a Claim

It’s also important for accident victims to speak with their insurance company as soon as possible after the accident. Doing so will help initiate the claims process, and individuals may find that their insurer can provide them with other services based on the details of their policy.

Insurance companies can also answer any and all questions related to their policy to give individuals a deeper understanding of their policy. They can detail what documents insurance recipients need to provide, such as “proof of claim” forms. 

All insurance companies involved, including the victims’ and the at-fault drivers’, will want to perform an inspection of vehicles involved to build an estimate for damages. If it’s still possible to operate the vehicle, drivers can take it into a designated repair shop or claims center, or they may be able to submit information remotely via their phone and footage of the damage.

Determine Fault

After submitting all necessary documentation to insurers, these companies will begin determining who was at fault for the accident. They’ll then decide what type of compensation to award claimants.

Insurance companies make this determination based on the details of the accident, along with state law. In some cases, one driver may be entirely at fault, while others may involve shared fault. Some states may also require people to have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance on their policies to cover any injuries and medical expenses, along with other damages such as lost wages, regardless of who was at fault.

Speak with an Attorney

While most accident claims don’t require the involvement of an accident attorney, accident cases may get complex and involve large amounts of compensation that increase the stakes of the claims process.

Speaking with insurance adjusters in cases involving serious injuries or extensive amounts of property damage can get risky, especially if accident victims are unfamiliar with the claims process.

Making the wrong statement and taking other missteps can severely hinder the ability to successfully file an accident claim. This is why it’s often in people’s best interest to consult with an attorney prior to issuing a statement to insurance companies.

Most attorneys offer a free consultation that entails discussing a case and determining the nature of it, along with options available to victims. Even if an attorney decides not to provide representation, they can still provide some guidance for the next steps to take.

However, if an attorney decides to take on the case, they can properly prepare statements, help prepare and gather all necessary documentation, and negotiate the final settlement.

Take the Case to Trial

In extreme cases when neither side can agree to a settlement after the claims process, a car accident case may go to court with a lawsuit. 

The process involved in these lawsuits also involves many complexities, requiring individuals to provide plenty of evidence to support their arguments. This includes physical evidence such as injuries and property damage, witness statements, police reports, and more. Particularly complex accidents may also require the use of accident reconstruction experts who can help determine precisely how an accident took place.

These cases, depending on all of the elements involved, can take over a year to settle. They also require plenty of expertise to help navigate the legal process, which is why having an attorney to provide representation is critical.

At the end of the case, the jury and judge will decide whether to award compensation to victims, along with the specific settlement amount.

Knowing What to Do After a Car Accident Helps Victims 

By taking all of these steps, accident victims involved in car or trucking accidents can increase their chances of filing a successful accident claim with insurers. Seeking treatment will also help individuals begin the recovery process, which can be long and involve extensive treatments and rehabilitation.

In more serious cases, working with an attorney may also be beneficial in seeking fair compensation for all damages involved. Accidents may involve medical expenses, lost income due to time is taken off from work to recover, temporary or permanent disability, pain and suffering, and many other damages. In these cases, it’s important to determine the total amount of compensation available to cover these damages, which an experienced attorney may help calculate.

Ultimately, by approaching the claims process the right way, people involved in accidents will have a better chance of succeeding with claims and making a full recovery.

Categories: Auto Accidents