It is, perhaps, a masterpiece of understatement to say that a car accident can be a challenging and painful event in one’s life. Depending on the severity, you may suffer from a large range of emotional, physical, and financial issues, from repairs to your vehicle to costly medical expenses you may need to cover for your own personal injuries. There are also less obvious costs such as time lost from work and the loss of your car while it is being repaired. And even after the car is fixed and the body mends, the psychological and emotional suffering of those involved may continue for years to come.
With so much at stake in the wake of a traumatic, shock-inducing event, it’s understandable that many people sleepwalk through car accidents without a full awareness or grasp on the details. But when it comes to making sure that you are compensated for your injuries and losses, these details, and your actions in the event of a car accident, are vitally important if you end up in court.
While it’s nothing you want to think about in an already stressful situation, and treatment and safety at the scene are paramount, your long-term recovery may depend upon keeping track of the fine print even while first-responders are working at the scene.
No one is ever fully prepared for a car accident. However, remaining calm in the event of one is important for a host of reasons. Most immediately, it allows you to respond to your situation appropriately, rather than compounding the situation with irrational actions that may even lead to further injury. However equally importantly, it gives you self-control enough that you can assess the situation and keep track of details, most especially the following:
Time and Place. What was the date and time of the accident? Where did it take place? The exact time of the accident is what sets the timer for how long you have to file a claim. If you wait too long to report your injuries, it will affect your treatment, as well as your ability to defend your claim in court. But you may also be able to use this information to gain CCTV footage of the event, which could become invaluable.
Events of the Accident. Record, as best as you can, everything you did leading up to the accident. Include every detail, no matter how innocuous. What was the weather like? Was the lighting or visibility a factor? Did you see the other drivers doing anything particularly noteworthy or illegal? How was the accident caused? What did everyone do immediately afterward? These are all useful details.
Witnesses and Reports. If there were any bystanders who witnessed the event, be sure to get their contact details if you can. If they’re unwilling to attend a possible court case to testify in person, try to get a written or spoken testimony from them instead. Such witnesses can provide much-needed validity to your case. Be sure to exchange details with other drivers involved in the accident too. Likewise, get official reports from any uniformed professionals who arrive on the scene, especially police and first-responders. These are especially useful, as such reports are also going to be timestamped.
Document Injuries and Damages. Where possible, take photos of the vehicle before it’s moved. Likewise, take photos of any personal injuries before you’re taken to the hospital. These can be used to give the court an idea of what sort of damages were inflicted, and thus the amount you can reasonably claim for their impact and treatment. The further statements of medical professionals or mechanics who are involved in treatment or repairs will also come into play if there is any kind of dispute.
After the Fact
After the accident, be sure to collect any and all evidence you were able to acquire on the scene, and keep it safe and accessible. When you are negotiating with insurance companies, you will need all of this information to be in order for your claim to be successful. You will also need to ensure that you keep up with your doctor’s appointments and follow their recommendations and treatments. Neglecting your treatment or delaying the process can make an otherwise legitimate claim look suspect.
In cases involving disputes with insurance companies over fault or settlements, or in cases of particularly serious injuries, seek the counsel of a practiced personal injury attorney who is familiar with the laws in your state and experienced with insurance claim disputes. They will help you understand your rights, and if necessary, fight on your behalf in court to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.