People often ask, “What should I do after an accident?” As a personal injury attorney, I know that it’s crucial to get information at the scene of an accident. But I also know that an accident can ruin your day. With so many emotions flowing, it’s hard to focus. To make things easier, I’ve created a list of things to do after a car accident.
This list contains three parts: things you should do after an accident, things you should not do, and things to do in the days after an accident. While no list can address every scenario, this will provide valuable guidance on what to do after an accident.
NOTE: This list addresses accidents that do not cause major injuries. If the accident caused major injuries – bleeding, broken bones, etc. – get to a hospital immediately.
5 Things You Should do Immediately After an Accident
Here are five things to do immediately after an accident.
- Move your vehicle to a safe location.
If you get into an accident on a busy road, move your car as soon as you can to prevent further damage and injury. Once you’re off the road, put the car in park and turn on your hazard lights. (Use flares for added visibility.) If the car is not drivable, get out and walk to safety.
- Check for injuries.
Once the car is in a safe location, check yourself and your passengers for injuries. However, injuries often take time to develop. A person who seems fine at the scene of the accident may still be injured.
- Call 911.
Calling 911 after an accident isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the law. In Alabama, drivers must call the police whenever an accident causes death, personal injury, or more than $250 in property damage.
Calling the police helps in other ways, too. A police report can shed light on the facts, especially in a “he said, she said” situation. The report can also help insurance companies decide who caused the accident.
- Exchange information.
After an accident, get the other driver’s name, address, phone number, and insurance information. Make note of the make, model, and license plate of the other vehicle.
- Take photos & collect information about the accident.
As soon as you are safely able to do so, start collecting information about the scene of the accident. Gather as much information as you can. Take pictures of the accident scene. (Pay particular attention to property damage.) Make notes about the time of day and weather conditions. If there are witnesses, get their names and phone numbers. If the other driver disputes your version of events, this information will be crucial.
5 Things You Should NOT do After an Accident
Here are some things you should never do after an accident.
- Do not leave the scene.
Leaving the scene of an accident is illegal. Alabama law states that after an accident, drivers must “immediately stop … at the scene of such accident or as close thereto as possible.” Stay at the scene.
- Do not talk to the insurance company.
After an accident, you may want to talk to your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company. But insurance companies can use your words against you. Talking to them right after the accident when you are still upset is not a good idea. Wait until things calm down. If you do talk to an insurance company, ask a personal injury lawyer to help you figure out what to say.
- Do not discuss fault at the scene.
Even if you are at fault, say nothing. Again, insurance companies are always looking for reasons to deny claims. Telling someone that the accident was your fault will make it difficult – or even impossible – for your claim to succeed. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you handle this.
- Do not tell anyone that you are “fine.”
As stated earlier, while some injuries are obvious (bleeding, broken bones, etc.), other injuries appear days or even weeks after an accident. Saying that you are “fine” after an accident will make it easier for the insurance companies to fight your claim.
- Do not make any “deals.”
Sometimes, another driver will offer you cash at the scene if you promise not to file a claim. Don’t do it! If you discover serious injuries or property damage later, you may regret taking the “deal.”
5 Things to do in the Days Following an Accident
After you’ve left the scene of the accident, you’ll still need to do a few things. Here are a few important tasks to complete in the days after the accident.
- Visit a doctor.
Not all injuries show up immediately. Visit a doctor as soon as possible after an accident. The doctor’s report will provide proof of your injuries for your claim.
- File an insurance claim.
While you can start the claims process at the scene of the accident, it’s best to wait until you can speak calmly and clearly. Remember to avoid saying anything that can be used to deny your claim. Provide your contact information and the basic facts – nothing more. It may be best to let an attorney file the claim for you.
- Start a file for the accident.
Keep all of the accident information in one well-organized place. (Binders or accordion folders are great for this purpose.) Your file should contain the information you collected at the scene as well as information about the claim, your injuries, lost wages, car repairs, and anything else related to the accident.
- File Alabama form SR-31.
Alabama law allows some drivers to file form SR-31. This simple one-page form applies to accidents caused by uninsured drivers that cause death, injury, or more than $500 in property damage. You need to file this form only if you haven’t received payment for injuries or damages.
- Consult an attorney.
The aftermath of an accident is a trying time, especially if the accident caused injuries. Dealing with insurance companies can add to the stress. If you’ve been injured in a car accident and need help, contact Collins Law, LLC. Our firm will help you rebuild your life after an accident. Click here or call to schedule a free consultation.
This post is informational in nature and is not a substitute for legal advice. The reading or use of this content does not create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between the reader and the law firm.