You hear the grinding metal and brakes squealing. You already know this is not good. Getting in an auto accident never is. You just got hit from behind and your mind floods with a thousand thoughts—who will pick up the kids from school? How will I get to work tomorrow? Should I fill out a police report?
This blog will take you through the process step-by-step, so you are prepared if the worst-case scenario plays out and involves you.
The most important thing you must do in any motor vehicle crash is to make a police report. This is not just good to do, it is mandatory. In Illinois, you must report every crash that involves damage to property of $1,500 or more, personal injury, or death. Make the police report right away, with 10 days from the date of the crash being the legal deadline.
Making your timely police report has several benefits. In addition to being the law, a timely report helps preserve your version of events while they are still fresh. Also, insurance companies commonly use the “defense” that nothing happened because nothing was reported. Making your report protects you from this tactic.
Other than a few folks left who refuse to carry a phone, for better or worse, the other 99.9% of us pretty much consider the smartphone an extension of ourselves. Face it; your phone goes everywhere you do, and a car crash is a perfect opportunity to use it for a good purpose.
Photograph the vehicles as they are right after the crash. Take photos of the damage to both vehicles. If you are concerned the other driver won’t reveal information to you or appears to be trying to flee the scene, take a quick picture of the license plates. If the airbags have deployed, photograph them inflated. Finally, if you have any cuts, bruises, or swelling, take a picture.
Call 911. There are some instances when police will not come to the scene. If the cars are drivable and no one is seriously injured, they may require you to drive to the station. Still, always call first.
If the police do come, make a matter-of-fact report of what happened, how you feel, and what you know. Don’t speculate, volunteer information, or get angry. Never say you feel fine, even if at that moment you do. Many injuries do not seem apparent immediately.
If the police do not come to the scene, obtain the name and policy number of the insurance carrier for the other driver. Be careful not to discuss anything else with them. Then, if you are not seriously hurt, go to the police station to complete a report immediately.
Any discussion with the other driver at the scene is always a bad idea. First of all, you will probably not be thinking clearly, especially if you are injured. If you were predominantly at fault, you may say something that could be construed as an admission. If the other driver was at fault, you may say something that inadvertently admits to some fault of your own in your attempt to make polite conversation. You may also fail to mention your injuries completely. There are dozens of things that can go wrong from talking with the other driver(s). Just don’t.
Report this incident to your carrier, even if you are positive it is not your fault. Reporting protects you just in case someone else tries to blame you.
You also will want to honor your policy which invariably requires you to report any crash promptly and to cooperate with your insurer. If you wait until two years later when you get sued to report the crash to your carrier, your coverage will be voided.
I get asked often how long one has to get medical treatment following a crash. There is no hard and fast “rule” on this point, but you should obtain treatment as soon as possible.
A contemporaneous report to a medical professional that shows what happened and how you were feeling makes the best evidence of an injury.
If you have any of the following injuries or symptoms, you should accept a ride to the emergency room from an ambulance:
Do not try to “tough it out” or wait in “hopes it gets better.” Not only is that bad for your health; it’s bad for any personal injury claim you may have. Any gap in getting medical treatment will be exploited by the other driver’s insurance carrier.
Never provide a statement to anyone about what happened except your own medical professionals and the police. You may speak to your own insurer, but do not provide a recorded statement. Never speak to the other driver’s insurer at all. Let the lawyer do that.
As soon as you can, contact an auto accident lawyer. Having a lawyer early on can help reduce the chance that you make an inadvertent error that could damage your case. It is always a good move to call a lawyer before doing anything.
If you've been in an auto accident, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737.
Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles car accidents on a contingency fee basis. This means you don’t pay anything upfront, and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.