Car accidents seem to be a fact of life. According to the latest statistics available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 2.24 million people were injured in auto accidents in the U.S. in 2010. With so many vehicles on the nation's roads, the odds are that even the safest drivers will be involved in an auto accident at some point in their lives, so people should know what to do after a motor vehicle accident in order to protect their interests.
At the Scene
The most important thing to remember after an auto accident is that all parties involved need to remain at the scene, unless it unsafe to do so. People should check to see if anyone is injured before assessing damage to vehicles or other property, and call for medical help if necessary. If someone reports back or neck pain, it is important not move the person until medical personnel arrive, as they may have serious injuries that could be aggravated by movement.
If no one is injured, the parties involved in the accident should still call the police to report the incident. The drivers need to exchange contact and insurance information, but they should avoid discussing the accident. Apologizing to the other driver may be a natural response to being involved in an accident, but it also may be taken as an admission of fault, so people should try to remember not to say "I am sorry." Also, people should never give a recorded statement to anyone, including their insurance companies, until they have spoken with a competent attorney.
Taking pictures of the accident scene and talking to witnesses is also important for documenting what happened. Drivers should record the contact information of any witnesses.
After an accident, drivers should inform their insurance companies about the accident in order to begin the claim process. Obtaining a copy of the police report is often helpful for drivers, so that they can show who was at fault for the accident. Drivers need to document their medical costs for injuries from auto accidents for the insurance company and the court if the matter requires a lawsuit.
Drivers should also get several estimates on the cost of repairing any damaged property. If a driver is not satisfied with the insurance adjuster's valuation of the car and how much it will cost to repair, having independent estimates will help support the driver's claim that the adjuster's estimate is incorrect.
Drivers should not discuss the accident with anyone except their insurance agents, the police and their lawyers. If a representative from another person's insurance company attempts to contact a driver with a settlement offer, the driver should be very cautious about accepting it. The driver should make sure all of the necessary medical treatment is complete so he or she knows the extent of the treatment costs.
It is wise for people to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney before accepting any settlement offers.