Being involved in an accident is a physically and emotionally jarring experience. It’s natural to feel a rush of adrenaline that can cloud one’s judgment. You might not be thinking clearly, and your survival instincts could lead you to make an unwise decision, especially if you’re not prepared with the knowledge of what to do immediately following an accident.
Regardless of who’s at fault, we recommend that you follow these 12 steps.
Not only will these guidelines help to ensure that you remain on the right side of the law if you’re at fault, but they will also help you get fair treatment and compensation if the other party caused the incident.
Stay at the Scene of the Accident
Even if you think no one was injured or sustained any property damage, fleeing the scene is never the right move. If someone was seriously hurt or killed, and you leave, you could be charged as a hit-and-run driver.
In Arizona, the law requires that you stay at the accident within a safe distance that keeps you out of harm’s way and doesn’t obstruct traffic. The drivers involved must remain at the scene until fulfilling their legal obligations, which includes sharing driver license information, offering assistance to anyone injured, and waiting for the police to arrive, if they were called.
Check on Everyone Involved
Your first instinct might be to assess property damage, but before inspecting the vehicles, it’s crucial to check on the well-being of everyone involved. Being rendered unconscious or suffering a back or neck injury are common side effects of a collision. Resist the urge to move people in this state until professional help arrives. An exception to this rule would be if there was a hazard or emergency that made the current position unsafe.
Contact the Police
Not every fender bender requires a call to the police, but if anyone is injured, killed, or the property damage is significant, then the police need to be notified immediately.
If you’re not sure if the accident warrants the police getting involved, we recommend erring on the side of caution.
Exchange Contact Information
Remain calm when talking with the other driver and get the following information:
- Full name
- Phone number
- Driver’s license number
- License plate number
- Insurance information
You should also be prepared to share your contact details with the other driver.
While it’s important to remain calm and cordial during this exchange, resist apologizing and never admit fault. It’s up to the insurance companies to assess fault. Even if you think the accident was your fault, it might not have been. There could have been extenuating circumstances like a faulty street light, or the other driver may have been texting, for example.
If you admit that you were at fault, then this information could potentially be used to make you legally liable for the damages.
If anyone witnessed the accident, ask them to share their name and contact information with you. You’ll want to pass this along to the insurance company so that they can interview the witnesses. Locals in the area may also be able to provide you with information about other accidents in the location that could indicate a road hazard.
Notify Your Insurance Company
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the accident. Most companies have a 24-hour hotline that you can access. Make sure to be truthful in your account. Any misleading or false information is likely to be uncovered as insurance companies have seen all matters of fraud and deception.
If there is a police report, your insurance company will want to review it, and you should be prepared to discuss the details.
Keep a Record of Any Medical Care
If you sustained an injury and need medical care, keep careful records of all appointments, treatments, and medications. You may end up seeing a doctor, chiropractor, physical therapists or other medical professionals. In addition to noting any procedures, keep copies of any bills you received and other expenses.
You may also want to make a case for pain and suffering, so keep a log of any missed work days or activities you could not participate in. Maintain a daily journal that documents any ways that the injury has affected your daily life.
Obtain Photographic Evidence
Most people have smartphones, so it’s easier than ever to snap photos at the scene of the accident. It’s also helpful if you have pre-existing images of your vehicle so that you can demonstrate what it looked like before the incident.
Get a Valuation for your Vehicle
If your vehicle was totaled, you’ll get an estimate for the replacement cost. If you don’t feel the amount the insurance company is offering is fair, it is within your rights to negotiate the amount. You may have added extra features to the car that aren’t part of the original stock, or you may believe that the vehicle was in better condition than estimated.
Use Discretion When Talking about the Incident
The only people you should talk to about the accident are:
– Your attorney
– Your insurance company
– The police
If the other insurance company contacts you about the accident, inform them that they have to speak with your attorney or your insurance company to schedule an interview. If this does occur, notify your lawyer or insurance provider immediately.
Carefully Consider a Settlement Offer Before Accepting
If the insurance company offers a settlement, evaluate it carefully before accepting it. Confirm that you’ve received adequate medical treatment and you have a clean bill of health before agreeing to a compensation package. It’s also advisable to consult with an attorney before signing any documents related to a settlement, because most insurance companies just want you to settle and not hire an attorney.
Consider Working with an Attorney
In instances where one or more people sustained a serious injury, working with an attorney can help ensure that the injured parties get everything they’re entitled to. Often, these lawyers will work on contingency, meaning they only receive their fee if you are awarded damages or get a settlement. For someone at fault, having legal representation can provide a better defense.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, don’t hesitate to contact us. At the Folger Law Firm, we are dedicated to helping our clients seek the compensation they deserve.
We work on a contingency basis, so you won’t pay fees unless we recover for you.