We would all rather read about accidents in the papers or hear about them in the news than be in one ourselves. They’re unexpected, dramatic, traumatic. And often they result in serious damage or even injuries that you need to deal with.
Because of this, your actions immediately after a crash are incredibly important – but most people are in a horrible place to have to think straight. That’s why we’ve put together this list of tips on how you should behave following an accident.
Check Yourself First
Your health and well-being should be your top priority after you’ve been involved in a car crash. Begin by checking yourself for injuries, and don’t be shy about shouting for help if you think you’re seriously hurt.
If you can move, try to get to a safe place. For instance, if you find yourself lying in the middle of a busy highway, do your best to get out of harm’s way. However, if moving causes extreme pain – or you have trouble feeling certain parts of your body – stay put until medical professionals arrive.
Also remember that even if no injuries are visible on your body, you should always see a doctor after the accident. Why? Because some injuries aren’t obvious to the naked eye. Others may be masked by the adrenaline coursing through your body.
Getting checked out by a medical professional is the best way to make sure you haven’t got any debilitating or life-threatening internal injuries. It also helps you catch potential problems before they get worse. Finally, these kinds of medical reports are incredibly important if you do decide to pursue legal action against the responsible party.
Help Anyone Who’s Been Injured
After making sure you’re safe, look around to see if anyone else has been injured. Dial 911 and ask for emergency care if there’s anyone with serious injuries.
Word of caution: it’s imperative that you do not try to move a person if they’ve been seriously injured – especially if there are clear signs of chest, neck, or head injuries. Attempts to move them could make their injuries worse – or even kill them.
Get the Contact Info of Any Eyewitnesses
The accounts of pedestrians, other motorists, and even passengers who saw first-hand what happened before, during, and after the crash are of the utmost importance. Confirm that you got correct names and contact details.
Independent witness accounts that support your version of what happened can enhance your personal injury claim and make it more likely that you will receive the compensation you need and deserve.
Insist That Law Enforcement Gets Involved
Do you really need to call cops? Yes.
Why? Because they’ll write up an accident report detailing exactly what happened. This is one of the most important official documents that you can use in all the legal and insurance proceedings to come.
So, even if the accident is small and your injuries minor, insist that the police are involved, and don’t forget to tell them if you’ve been hurt.
Bear in mind that the police will document everything. Some of the details gathered by the police include the travel directions and speeds of all parties involved in the accident, specific damages, weather conditions, traffic signs, and so on.
Contact an Experienced Car Accident Attorney
One of the common mistakes people make is trying to settle car accident claims on their own. Enlisting the help of a personal injury attorney is particularly important after fatal accidents, but a good lawyer should be involved anytime there is the potential of a serious injury.
Why? Because you might end up with huge medical bills to contend with. Lost income due to missing work. And more.
Should you choose to go it alone during the settlements, the insurance company is most likely going to pay the bare minimum. In a similar vein, your insurer will attempt to use any statements you give to them as evidence detrimental to your claim – even if it seems totally innocuous to you. As a rule of thumb, hire an attorney and instruct all insurance adjusters to refer all further inquiries to them.
Beyond handling correspondence, a knowledgeable Florida injury lawyer will assist in gathering the proper documentation after the crash, help with the processing of damages like medical bills and lost income, and even advise you on whether it’s in your best interest to settle or fight it out in court.
One final note. In Florida, you have about four years from the date of the accident to make a personal injury claim. There are some exceptions to this Statute of Limitations, but you should assume that your time is limited and that you need to act fast.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.