Anyone can be involved in a car accident. Vehicle collisions can happen to anyone at any time. Even if you have a perfect driving record, you can still be hit by another driver. The severity of the accident can vary from minor to severe.
Unfortunately, accident rates are rising in Georgia and this includes those with injuries. Car crashes are responsible for 6,934 injuries in Augusta, Georgia and this statistic isn’t expected to decrease.
What to Do After a Car Accident
If you’re involved in a vehicle collision, there are a few steps you should take.
Report the Accident
In most instances, you’re legally required to report a vehicle accident. The primary exception is if there’s minimal damage, less than $500, and no injuries. Both involved drivers must also agree to leave the accident scene.
However, you can still file a police report, and it’s a good idea to do so. Even a quick ding to your fender can cause vehicle issues. For example, your suspension can be knocked out of alignment.
Without a police report, you can’t make an insurance claim, and filing a report immediately after the accident or a few days later is relatively quick and easy. Just contact the Richmond County Police Office and file the report. You can usually get a copy of the report within about seven business days. You should also expect to pay a small fee, usually less than $10, for the report.
Check for Injuries
Before you start assessing vehicle damage, take a minute to check for injuries, which includes yourself, your passengers, and those in the other involved vehicles.
Tempers can flare after an accident, so be wary of the other involved parties. If the other driver is upset, it’s probably best to wait until the authorities arrive. If you or anyone else has injuries, seek immediate medical attention. This may mean a ride in an ambulance to the emergency room.
Even if your injuries are minor or non-existent, it’s still a good idea to make an appointment for a checkup. Some injuries can take a while to appear unless they’re detected by diagnostic tests. Even if you’re given a clean bill of health, it’s still best to know for sure.
Stay at the Accident Scene
Even though it’s okay to drive off after a minor accident when injuries and vehicle damage are non-existent, staying on the scene is still a good idea. You don’t want to risk getting a hit-and-run charge.
The penalties can range from hefty fines to having your driver’s license suspended or even potential jail time. In other words, getting on with your day is not worth the risk. If you plan on filing a personal injury claim, leaving the scene of an accident can jeopardize your case.
Exchange Information with the Other Involved Driver/s
You should exchange contact and insurance information with the other involved driver(s) as soon as possible. However, skip this step if the other drivers appear angry or upset—there’s no reason to make a bad situation worse.
You can always get the information from the police report; it’ll just take a little longer. Remember, it takes about a week before you can get a copy of the accident report.
If there are any witnesses, go ahead and get their information. Your attorney and the insurance company will want to get their statements before beginning settlement negotiations.
Document the Accident Scene
Use the camera on your smartphone to document the accident scene. Take pictures of the damage to your vehicle and of any injuries you sustained. Don’t worry about the other involved vehicles; let their insurance companies handle this step. You don’t want to upset the other drivers by snapping pictures of their property.
If possible, get pictures of the vehicles’ positions. This can help support your claim as a non-fault driver.
If you’re planning on filing a personal injury lawsuit, you’ll need plenty of supporting evidence to help bolster your case.
To support your economic damages claim, make sure that you keep detailed copies of all of your medical records, diagnoses, treatments, and medications. This also applies to any medical bills you may be paying off. Save the receipts so you can add them to your claim, and the same applies to any property damage.
Get estimates from several auto repair shops. If your vehicle is totaled, be prepared to show its blue book value.
Don’t Talk About Your Case
You’ll probably be tempted to talk about your case, maybe even post about it on social media. However, don’t! You’re not being secretive; you’re only protecting your personal injury case.
Anything you say can be used against you by the insurance company. This also applies if your case goes to court. The last thing you want is to have your family and friends testifying against you. This is awkward and unpleasant for everyone.
Ignore the Insurance Company
Okay, you don’t want to completely ignore the insurance adjuster, but don’t start negotiations without assistance from an accident attorney. You also don’t want to accept any offer from the insurance company without first consulting with an attorney.
Your attorney will help you calculate your damages, and chances are they’re higher than the settlement offer. If you do accept an offer from the insurance provider, you can’t file another claim. This applies even if you end up with additional damages stemming from the car accident.
Let your attorney handle the negotiations. This might take some time, so be prepared to be patient. Insurance companies will try to delay your claim as long as possible, especially if you refuse their initial offer.
Your case may end up in court, but this isn’t necessarily a negative thing. Before your case goes to the judge or jury, you’ll enter into another stage of negotiations. Chances are, you’ll reach a settlement everyone can live with.
Contact An Attorney After an Auto Accident
While a car accident might impact your previously unblemished driving record, it doesn’t preclude you from recovering your financial damages. Consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney is a crucial step in this process.
They can offer expert guidance and representation to ensure that you receive fair and adequate compensation, not just for the immediate damages but also for any long-term financial implications that the accident may have caused.