What you do—or don’t do—after a car accident can have a significant effect on your ability to recover as quickly and safely as possible. You don’t want to jeopardize your health or put at risk your claim for financial recovery by making a mistake. The aftermath of a car accident can be tumultuous and confusing. That’s why it’s important to follow these steps to protect yourself:
Car Accident Safety Checklist
1. Carry Important Information with You when You Are Driving.
This includes your driver’s license so that you can be identified if you are seriously hurt and to provide to the police (along with your car insurance and registration information). It also includes any critical medical information, such as drug allergies or serious medical conditions, that you would want first responders to know about if you were unconscious. You can write down this information and keep it with your license or insurance and registration information.
2. Stay at the Scene of the Crash.
Do not leave the accident scene before the first responders arrive. If you do, you may be charged with leaving the scene of an accident. While you are waiting for first responders to arrive, make sure you stay safe from any secondary accidents by moving to the side of the road, if possible, or putting your hazard lights on. Additionally, make sure you check on your passengers and people in other vehicles to see if there are any emergency medical situations that need urgent care.
3. Call the Police.
Do not assume that another driver or a witness will do so. Instead, call the authorities immediately. If anyone was injured, if your accident is in the way of other traffic, or if you do not know the number for the local or state police, call 911 to get both police officers and medical responders dispatched quickly.
4. Call a Loved One.
A loved one may be able to meet you at the scene of the accident or at the hospital. While your loved one will be worried about you, that person was not involved in the crash and may be able to help you cope at the accident scene and with the medical care you need. With this kind of support, you may be able to think more clearly, get your questions answered, and begin thinking about your next steps.
5. Take Pictures and Document the Accident Scene.
Before any cars have been moved to the side of the road or towed, try to take pictures. These pictures can provide important information about the cause of your car accident. Additionally, if there was a defect on the road or in a vehicle, try to photograph that also because it could be an important piece of evidence. Finally, write down anything that seems out of the ordinary or relevant to your case such as statements by other drivers or witnesses or specific conditions at the time of your crash.
6. Exchange Information with Other Driver(s).
It is important to exchange the following information with every other driver involved in the crash: (1) names, (2) addresses, (3) drivers’ license numbers, (4) insurance company names, and (5) insurance company policy numbers. However, it is also important that you do not talk about the cause of the crash and that you do not apologize for the accident as those statements may be later used against you.
7. Collect the Names and Contact Information of any Witnesses.
People who saw the accident happen may be important to your settlement negotiations or trial. Accordingly, it is important that you know how to locate them long after you’ve all left the scene of the crash. Make sure to get their full name(s), address(es), phone number(s), and email(s) before anyone leaves the crash scene.
8. Seek Immediate Medical Attention.
You may be in a lot of pain and know that you need to go to the hospital. Alternatively, you may not feel so bad and you may think you can wait. However, sometimes serious injuries are not readily apparent immediately after a car crash. That’s why it’s always a good idea to let a medical professional examine you to diagnose any injuries and provide you with prompt treatment that can help you manage your pain and prevent your injuries from worsening.
9. Notify Your Insurance Company as Soon as Possible.
Your insurance company likely requires you to provide prompt notification about any accidents. Thus, it is important that you call and report the day, time, and location of the crash. However, you should always be cautious about how much you say to the insurance company. Do not, for example, describe your injuries, speculate about when you’ll be able to go back to work, or discuss the cause of the crash. Anything you say may be misinterpreted and used against you.
10. Request a Copy of the Police Report.
It is important to get a copy of the police report on your crash; however, it is equally important not to panic if you don’t agree with everything you see. Instead, talk to your lawyer about the discrepancies. To request a police report in Georgia, you can contact the local State Patrol Post if the Georgia State Patrol came to the scene of the crash, or the Crash Reporting Unit for the Georgia Department of Transportation if other officers investigated your crash.
In South Carolina, you can obtain accident reports from the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.
11. Keep Records of All of Your Medical Treatments, Bills, and Expenses.
These types of documents will be important evidence in the valuation of your damages. Of course, these records will not be the total sum of your damages because they do not include future expenses, lost income, or pain and suffering. However, they are important and should be maintained and reviewed with your attorney.
12. Keep Records of all Time Missed from Work.
This will be helpful in figuring out your lost wages or income. Keep track of all days missed, partial days worked, and time missed for medical appointments. You may be able to recover for any wages, benefits, or income that you were unable to earn during this time.
13. Continue Getting the Medical Care you Need, and Keep Following Your Doctor’s Orders.
This is important to both your physical and your potential legal recoveries. If you have any doubt about the medical advice you are being given, you have the right to seek a second opinion. Otherwise, you should follow your doctor’s recommendations so that you can make as full a recovery as possible.
14. Learn about Your Legal Rights.
In order to make educated decisions about how to protect your future after a car crash, it is important to understand your rights. You can begin learning more about what to do after a car accident immediately by downloading your free copy of Understanding Georgia Automobile Accident Claims – A Claimant’s Guide right now.
15. Contact a Lawyer.
While this guide gives you many important tips and ways to find out additional information, you still deserve the personal attention of a car accident lawyer who can answer your individual questions and protect your rights after your unique car crash. You can reach an attorney any day of the week and any time of the day by calling (706) 863-6600 to set up a free consultation.
The scene of a car crash can be confusing, chaotic, and frightening. It can be difficult to think clearly about what you should do next. We encourage you to save this article on your phone or to print out a copy for your glove compartment so that you can easily follow these important steps and protect your rights after a Georgia or South Carolina car accident.