No one ever thinks to themselves before they leave the house, "You know what? I'm going to get into a car accident today." Nobody wants that and nobody expects that. Over the course of a lifetime, some people will never suffer an automobile accident. Others, however, will endure a handful. If and when you do find yourself in an accident, it's important to know ahead of time what needs to be done in a chaotic time.
First things come first: Make sure you are safe from any further injury or danger
Accidents hardly ever happen in what you'd otherwise consider a safe place. Maybe you are on a highway with lots of fast moving traffic. Perhaps you are on a windy road in the middle of the night. Or perhaps you are stuck in the middle of a town with no way to move your now-disabled vehicle. The first and most important thing is to get yourself somewhere safe. Accidents have been known to 'chain react,' or serve as the causes of additional accidents. This can be because curious drivers are staring at the scene of the accident and not paying attention, or because they're not prepared for disabled vehicles in the roadway, or simply because of bad luck. Get yourself off of the roadway. Make sure that you have your lights on. Turn your hazard lights or four way lights on. If you feel threatened, such as by a nearby person or because you're in a dangerous part of town, stay in your car. The second suggestion below also comes in handy here.
Second: Call the police
Odds are that your accident was the result of an honest mistake, not some evil, malicious intent. I meet plenty of people who feel sympathy for the person who hit them, and that's a wonderful trait to have. Unfortunately, however, you have to look out for yourself, and that means calling the police. Why is this important? Aside from the fact that the police can help you secure the scene from further danger, in a reportable accident, the police will come and gather information so that they can create a full police report. A reportable accident in the state of Pennsylvania occurs when, as a result of an accident, a party has to be taken by ambulance OR an involved vehicle is not drivable from the scene. The police report will contain the names and insurance information of all involved parties, as well as the police's impressions of who was at fault. The police will also interview witnesses who remained.This document can be a critical starting point for any claim you may wish to pursue down the road. Without it, it may very well be that there is no independent corroboration to the accident. Speak to witnesses at the scene and politely ask if they'd be willing to stay to talk to police about what they observed so that there is even more objectivity to the investigation.
Third: Report the accident to your insurance
A prompt report to the insurance ensures that your claim is known in a timely manner and there is no way for the insurance to claim you didn't cooperate. Now would also be a good time to gather and review your relevant policy documents to determine what coverages you have. To this end, the most important document is the "declarations page," which gives a summary of your purchased coverages. Be sure to review our Do's and Don'ts of Insurance Claims to learn more.
Fourth: Don't talk to the other insurance company about your accident, and don't sign ANYTHING!
It might feel rude, but you have no obligation to speak to the other insurance company. The reason for this caution is to ensure that you don't say anything they may try to falsely use against you later. It is also to avoid signing anything that may compromise your case. Unfortunately, although it is rare, I've personally witnessed clients who have come to me with legitimate claims only to realize that they unwittingly signed away their case ― and for something like fifty dollars, as well. Don't let any insurance company pull a fast one on you and endanger your claim. Your claim is way to receive justice for what was wrongfully taken away from you.
Five: Speak with a lawyer, even if it's just for peace of mind
The fact is that accidents are scary, not just because of the accident itself, but because of the confusion, headache, and stress that comes in the months and years afterwards. Whether the accident is big or small, most people don't realize how hard it is to just put this kind of incident behind you health-wise, financially, and emotionally. One of the most important things to do is to speak with an experienced auto accident attorney who handles these kinds of cases so you can know where you stand and what your options are. Doing so as soon as possible after the accident will not only make that process easier, but will bring you peace of mind faster. Most people realize that the process is easier than they think. On the other hand, even if they discover that they don't have a claim they wish to pursue, such a consultation will give informed certainty to that decision.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an automobile accident and you wish to have a free consultation, please call at (610) 490-8877.