A car accident – and the decisions you make immediately after it – can have life-altering repercussions for you and your family. It is enormously important to not only ensure that you are safe, but also to ensure that your legal rights are protected.
At Powers & Santola, our team of attorneys has decades of experience counseling accident victims and helping them seek maximum compensation for their injuries and other losses.
Here are a few tips on what to do, and what not to do after an accident:
Do Make Sure You Are Safe
If you’ve never been in a car accident before, you may be shocked at how quickly an accident can happen. However, it is imperative that you ensure that you and your passengers are safe, and prevent against additional collisions with other cars on the road. If possible, move as far out of the flow of traffic as practicable. Do not attempt to move passengers or other victims who have hurt their head or neck. Instead, wait for medical professionals to arrive, and enlist the assistance of onlookers to control the flow of traffic.
Do Call the Police
Regardless of the severity of the accident, it is absolutely essential that you call the police as soon as you can (or ask someone else to do it for you). Many victims of car accidents believe that there’s no reason to get the police involved if the injuries to the occupants, or damages to the cars involved, are minor. However, by not calling the police, you are seriously jeopardizing your rights to obtain a just recovery.
You have a right to insist that the police file a report detailing the circumstances of the accident. This report will be essential in reconstructing the accident, in filing claims with your insurance company, or, if necessary, in filing or defending against a lawsuit. If you do not have a police report, the resolution of the possible lawsuit will rest largely on your word versus that of the other driver. Do not let this happen. Call the police, and insist that they file a report of the incident. Even if you are issued a citation at the scene of the accident, you may still be entitled to a full recovery for your injuries and damages to your car.
Do Call an Attorney
You should call your attorney as soon as you are safe after a car accident and you know that the police are on the way. At Powers & Santola, we have devoted our careers to advising victims just like you. The sooner an attorney like one of our skilled professionals is involved, the better chance you will have to preserve your legal rights and to set yourself up for the most just recovery obtainable in the future.
Do See a Doctor
Even the most minor of accidents can result in life-altering injuries. Chronic back pain can start as a small ache. A concussion can manifest itself as a minor headache. As with calling the police, the more documented evidence you have about the nature of your injuries, the better for your ultimate legal recovery, and, of course, for your own health. Do not hesitate to see a doctor or go to the emergency room if you have even the slightest belief that you may have been injured in the car accident. Follow up with your doctor as needed if your symptoms are not resolved.
Do NOT Say You’re Sorry
Apologizing is a normal human reaction. You may be upset or notice that the other driver is equally upset. In situations like these, many people will apologize as a means to try to get the other person to feel better. Unfortunately, in many jurisdictions, apologizing can be interpreted as an admission of guilt. Saying “I’m sorry,” even if the facts of the accident strongly support that you are not at fault, could potentially be used against you in a later trial as a means of suggesting that you knew you were at fault for the accident. Resist this urge.
Do NOT Make Unnecessary Conclusions About the Accident
Many accident victims will tell their story, either to the police or others involved in an accident, in a manner that reinforces a conclusion, instead of in a way that describes the facts. For example, an accident victim might say “I ran the red light, and hit the other car,” or “I saw the other driver run a red light, and hit my car.”
A much better way to phrase what may have occurred is: “I saw I had a green light, and was driving through the intersection, when I noticed the other driver’s car in the intersection. I tried to avoid him, but I hit him.” The difference between these two statements is that, in the second statement, you are not making any sort of conclusion regarding whether you or the other driver violated any law or were at fault. You are simply stating what you observed. Whether you or anyone else has actually violated a traffic law (or may be at fault) is a legal conclusion that will be made by a judge or jury, with the assistance of the police, an accident reconstructionist, an insurance adjuster, and your attorney. It serves no purpose — even if you firmly believe that you or the other driver violated the law or is at fault — for you to come to a legal conclusion without knowing all of the facts, circumstances, the relevant laws, and, most crucially, without talking to your attorney.
We have seen countless incidents of a driver confidently believing that he or she was at fault for an accident, only to later discover that the other driver involved in the collision was drunk, speeding, or otherwise significantly more at fault than our client. Let an attorney at Powers & Santola analyze the facts and laws, and reach a conclusion.
At Powers & Santola, we pride ourselves on our compassionate, timely, and experienced team of professionals to achieve the results you deserve. Do not hesitate to call us at any time to learn how we can help you after a car accident.