In A Car Accident, Now What Do I Do?
At some point, almost all of us will be involved in a car crash. The likelihood is great, despite our best attempts at avoiding crashes and driving safely. There are simply too many vehicles on the roads, too many inattentive drivers, too many distractions, for crashes not to be inevitable.
In fact, analytics predict you will file a claim for a collision once every 17.9 years. Considering some crashes are not reported as claims, that means you are likely to be involved in at least one crash per decade.
More frightening is that the odds of dying in a car crash killing you in your lifetime are roughly 1 in 600.
The odds vary from state to state. For example, in Montana, the likelihood of dying in a car crash is 1 in 4,433, and the probability of being involved in a car crash is 1 in 2,302. In 2013, they had 229 people die in motor vehicle crashes. Meanwhile, Massachusetts is much safer, with odds of dying in a car crash being 1 in 20,530 and being involved in a fatal car crash having odds of 1 in 11,421.
In any event, if you crunch the numbers, you will at some point be involved in a motor vehicle crash. The risk of injury or death is ever-present. So rather than ignore these facts, what can you do to prepare yourself for the “what if” instance when it does happen to you?
Once the crash occurs, what can you do to document everything?
Use your smartphone to take pictures of the other vehicles involved, the damage to your vehicle, both inside and out, and any visible injuries you have. Airbag burns can bruise significantly, so don’t forget to take photos of those. For your vehicle, make sure to take several angles to show the way the bumper sticks out or is bent. Side views are great for that.
Report the Crash to the Police
Report the crash to the police. If the vehicles are driveable, especially on expressways, you are expected to move the vehicles out of traffic. Often you will have to travel to the police station to complete a report.
It’s a hassle but you should do it. It is your only chance to document what happened and who was involved. Don’t do it and guess what happens when you file a claim with the other driver’s carrier? They ignore you or deny it ever happened because there is no police report!
It is also your duty in Illinois to send in the Illinois Motorist Report to the Illinois Department of Transportation within 10 days. Your license can be suspended for failing to do this.
Report a Claim to Your Carrier
Even if you are 100% sure you are not at all at fault, report it to your carrier. No exceptions. You may never need to make a claim, but if you don’t report it, and months go by, then it turns out you do need to make a claim, your carrier can deny the claim based upon your lack of cooperation.
Often, when dealing with substandard insurance companies on the other side, you will find, unfortunately, that the only option for getting your car repaired is to go through your carrier. That’s what it is there for!
Don’t forget that if you have Medical Payments Coverage under your auto policy, you can use this to pay for your medical bills.
Report This to the Other Driver’s Carrier
File a claim with the other driver’s insurer but do not give a recorded statement. Explain your injuries in general and how the crash occurred, but anything more than the basics should wait until you’ve spoken to a lawyer. Insurance companies will use things you say against you!
If you want your vehicle repaired or replaced, you can allow them to evaluate your car, but do not make statements about how you feel or the mechanism of the crash.
Get Medical Treatment
If you are hurt, get medical treatment as soon as possible. Any gap in treatment will be used against you!
If you are injured seriously, do not refuse the ambulance ride to the hospital. Follow up with your doctor and with an orthopaedic doctor. Make sure you ask your doctor and the orthopaedic for a referral for physical therapy. Do not just take pain pills and sit around. This does nothing to document your pain.
Further, make sure to take off work only if the doctor advises you to do so. Have him or her give you an “off work slip.” Do not just take days off of work on your own.
Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer
One thing you cannot and should not handle is your own personal injury case. Just as many of us shouldn’t be trusted fixing our electrical wiring in our homes, it takes a professional with years of experience to achieve fair compensation for you. The insurance company is not your friend. Do not fall into that trap.
- Take photos of the scene, the vehicles, and your injuries.
- File a police report and send it in.
- File a claim with your insurance company.
- File a claim with the other driver’s insurance company but do not give a statement!
- Get medical treatment immediately.
- Contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.