Out of nowhere, you can be the victim of a car accident. Even if you have taken every precaution, all it takes is one bad driver for you to be in the middle of a potentially dangerous and costly incident.
Knowing what to do when you’ve been hit in a car accident will save you time and money. Review these 11 tips for making sure you are prepared when the unexpected happens.
Stop Immediately and Check for Injuries
Accidents can be jarring, particularly if you were not the one at fault. Stop your car and make sure everyone involved is okay. If needed, attend to anyone else involved in the accident who might be injured. If they have been hurt, call 911 as soon as possible. If everyone is uninjured, move your vehicle to a safe area so that other cars can pass and you can complete the next steps safely.
Exchange Insurance and Contact Info
Exchange insurance and contact information with the at-fault driver, and any other drivers involved in the accident.
License plate number
Drivers license number
Vehicle make, model, and year
Insurance carrier and policy number
If there are witnesses in the area, talk to them and ask what they saw. Write down their names and contact info.
Document What Happened
Take pictures of the scene to ensure that there is a photographic record of the damage. Take multiple pictures of all vehicles at a variety of angles, paying particular attention to any damaged spots.
In addition, keep a pen and some paper in your car at all times so you can write down what happened. Write down as many details as you remember, including:
How it happened
The location of the accident
What you were doing
If you saw it coming
Where you were going
A diagram or description of the scene of the accident
A summary of what you believe happened.
Tip: If you don’t have a pen and paper handy, use your phone’s voice recorder to record all the details you remember.
Be Careful Talking About the Accident
Do not discuss the accident in-depth with anyone other than your lawyer, insurance company, or the police. You do not want to say the wrong things and have those words come back and bite you. While it may be in your nature to apologize even if something is not your fault, do not admit guilt or say you are sorry. Keep things plainly on the facts of what happened.
Talk to the Police
If the accident involves any damages over $1,500, the police must be called. Once at the scene, the police will make a determination on who is at fault. Make sure they hear your side of the story. Be polite, but assertive in your version of events.
When leaving the scene, get the following information from the police officer:
Police Report Number
Seek Medical Attention
If you think for any reason that you may have been injured, seek medical attention. Even if 911 has not been called and there are not paramedics on the scene, you should take any pain seriously and get evaluated. An injury that seems small may turn into something bigger after the initial shock of the accident wears off.
If you did not seek medical attention directly after the accident, there are a number of symptoms that you should be on the lookout for.
Common delayed injury symptoms:
Headaches that develop days later could be a symptom of a serious concussion or blood clot.
Back pain is often an indicator of nerve damage or a herniated disk.
Neck and shoulder pain are common symptoms of whiplash.
Abdominal pain is often a sign of internal bleeding.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms in the days after an accident, seek medical care immediately.
Contact A Lawyer
In order to be properly covered, it is best to contact an attorney. While you could go at it alone, insurance companies are out to make money, not to get you the correct amount of compensation for your damages. An experienced attorney will help you get the right amount by guiding you through the insurance claim process and helping you file a lawsuit if needed.
Report Accident to DMV
For most accidents, you are legally required to notify the DMV of the accident within 72 hours, even if you are not at fault. You must file an Oregon Traffic Accident and Insurance Report. This is required if:
Damage to any vehicle is over $1,500 and any vehicle is towed from the scene as a result of damages from this accident
Injury or death resulted from this accident
Damages to any one person's property other than a vehicle involved in this accident is over $1,500
Some drivers try to convince others to not file a report as part of an off the books settlement. This should not be done. Besides the fact that it is illegal, there are a lot of aspects of the accident that you do not yet know. Injuries pop up days later and damage could have been done to your car that you do not immediately notice.
Report Accident to Insurance Company
Motorists who cause accidents are often slow to call their insurance company, or sometimes don’t even call at all. Call the at-fault driver’s insurance if you have not received a call from them within a couple days of the accident. Even though you were not at fault, still call your own insurance company. This will help if the at-fault driver’s insurance denies responsibility.
Speak with an attorney before any interviews regarding the accident with the at-fault driver’s insurance.
Receiving your Claims
After a car accident, you will want to repair your car and pay for medical services as soon as possible. Unfortunately, often receiving approval of claims can take time. It is best to receive written notification that the at-fault driver's insurance has accepted responsibility for the accident before proceeding with any auto-repairs or medical treatment.
Make sure to keep detailed records of everything. All receipts, invoices, and correspondences should be printed out and saved. In addition, any medical treatments you received should be documented. As should any pain you are experiencing, days you missed due to injury, and ways that the injury has impacted your daily life.
Something else to note: An insurance company can’t force you to take your vehicle to a specific auto-repair shop.
Accidents with At-Fault Drivers with No Insurance
If the other driver involved does not have insurance you will need to file an Oregon Traffic Accident and Insurance Report, even if the damage is less than $1,500. In Oregon, non-commercial auto insurance policies are required to have no-fault Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage for medical expenses up to $15,000.
With your PIP coverage, if you’re injured due to an auto accident (even if you were at fault or if the other driver is uninsured) your care (up to $15,000) will be covered. If the accident results in serious injury, it may be necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit against the uninsured motorist to seek damages to pay for the rest.
Have You Been a Victim of an Accident and Need Legal Assistance?
If you’ve been injured or not been able to recover your claims as the result of an automobile collision call me today at (503) 498-6985.
Your consultation is always free and confidential.