A car accident can be life-changing, but most of us will go through at least one in our lifetime. If you've just had your first accident, there are some things that you should and shouldn't do.
Don't Leave the Scene
Panic can make us do crazy things. Your first instinct may be to flee the scene out of fear, but keep calm and stay put. Leaving the scene of an accident is illegal.
Stop the vehicle and protect the scene if you can do so safely. If you're in the middle of the road, pull over to somewhere safe. Make sure that everyone is okay.
Do Call the Police and Get Medical Attention
Once you are safely out of the way of traffic, call the police and get the medical attention you need. Your health is your top priority.
Even if you don't have any obvious injuries, you should see a doctor. Sometimes, injuries take some time to present themselves. If you wait too long to get medical attention, the insurance company may argue that your injury was not related to the accident.
When the police arrive at the scene, you will need to provide a full account of what happened. The police report will help support your case.
Don't Argue with the Other Driver; Don't Admit Fault
Don't argue with the other driver – even if the accident appears to be his or her fault. Placing blame and berating the other party won't make the situation any better. In fact, it may make the situation worse, especially if it escalates into a physical fight. Apart from asking if the other driver is okay, you may want to avoid any verbal communication with the other party.
While some people are inclined to argue, others are inclined to take the blame. Do not admit fault to the other driver, the police, or anyone – even if you think you're at fault.
Do Speak to Witnesses and Write Down an Account of the Accident
If you're not seriously injured, take the time ask witnesses for their contact information. Their accounts of the accident will also help support your case.
While you're at it, write down your own account of the accident. Include every little detail you can remember. What time did the accident occur? What was the weather like? What were the road conditions like?
Write down this information as soon as you can, while the incident is still fresh in your memory.
Don't Speak to the Other Party's Insurance Company Without a Lawyer
The insurance company will do everything in its power to get you to settle for as little as possible. Do not speak to the other party's insurance company without your lawyer.
You will be asked to give a recorded statement of the accident, and your statement may be used against you during the claims settlement process or in a lawsuit.
Your lawyer will talk directly to the insurance company on your behalf.
Do Call a Lawyer
Speaking of lawyers – don't forget to call one. A lawyer will advocate for your rights and help ensure you get a fair settlement from the insurance company.