What Do I Do Right After I’ve Been in an Auto Accident?
Right after you have been in a Virginia car accident is not the right time to begin thinking – what should I do? Let’s think this through ahead of time because in Virginia, there is on average, a crash every 4.1 minutes.
And with six million licensed drivers in Virginia in 2018, and more every year, it’s not so far-fetched that you could be involved in a motor vehicle crash at some point.
Whether you are reading this at the scene right after an accident or you are doing research ahead of time, we are going to discuss five things you should do immediately after the crash:
First – Get out of the way of oncoming traffic
Pull over if you can and if you can’t get your body away from the car, call 9-1-1. You will have to tell them where you are so look for signage or road markers. Be as specific as you can and tell them which direction you are facing.
Note if you are feeling injured, dizzy, are bleeding, or have any pain in your head. Tell the operator if you are injured or think you might be.
You will likely be in shock after the accident, so err on the side of caution and, if the paramedics respond, take up their offer to go to the nearest medical facility.
If your injuries turn out to be serious, a failure to seek immediate medical care could count against you in a court of law. So, if there is any doubt, have it checked out!
Second – Police Should Respond
If your accident is representing a hazard on the road or if anyone is injured, police should respond quickly. You must answer any questions but please do NOT answer questions posed by the other driver or his/her insurance representative.
Police may investigate the accident and determine who is at fault depending on the evidence at hand – the road conditions, skid marks, and interviews. One of you may receive a traffic citation for causing the crash.
If police do not respond because this appears to be a minor accident, you will still need to exchange information with the other driver. Gather their insurance card and their full name and license, their driver’s license number, the tag of their car, and the car registration, the make and model of the car and the VIN number.
If the driver doesn’t own the car, find out who does. Were there any witnesses? Gather their names and phone number as well as an email address.
Third – Collect Evidence
Take pictures with your smart phone! That is the best evidence you have of what happened. Not only the car but the road and the debris as it’s scattered.
Please do NOT talk about who is to blame! Any admission, even an apology to the other driver, could be used against you and any discussion can escalate into the blame game. Best to keep it cool and gather information. That’s it!
Fourth – Call your Insurance Company
This is why we have insurance and you are required under your policy to let your insurance carrier know about the accident.
On the off chance that the other driver later reports major injuries as a result of the accident, you will want to have your insurance company onboard. If the other side plans on suing you, you need to have reported the accident.
On the other hand, if the injuries and damage are minor, you may be able to work it out with the other side, but understand, if there are any medical bills, ambulance bills, property damage, that is when you will need to call a personal injury attorney to negotiate your claim.
Negotiating yourself is possible, but you may be more inclined to take the first offer rather than rely on the experience of an attorney who has seen this all before and understands the tactics the other side may use to diminish the value of your claim or even deny it altogether.
Being in involved in a traffic accident is going to cost you one way or another. You have the opportunity of representing yourself in small claims court to recover up to $5,000. If you need to file a lawsuit, Virginia has a two-year statute of limitations within which time you must act.
It is recommended you seek the help of an experienced Virginia traffic accident attorney to help investigate the factors that led up to your crash, fight the Virginia contributory negligence law that prevents recovery even if you are just one percent at fault, and navigate this difficult time to protect your rights and property.