What you should do if you’ve been in a car wreck
Being involved in a car wreck can be a traumatic experience, and it can be difficult to know what to do. It is hard to think clearly when you are shaken up and injured by this unexpected event. Here are some key things you should do after a collision:
- Stop the car, and if there are no apparent serious personal injuries or death, move the vehicle if it can be done safely without further damaging it. When in doubt, wait for instructions from the police.
- Call 911 immediately, and the police will be dispatched. If there are injuries, an ambulance will also be summoned. Be prepared to tell the 911 operator your location (the name of the road you are on and the nearest intersection or landmark). Once the police arrive, report the facts of the collision to them and follow their instructions. The police are trained to handle any situation that may arise after the collision, and they know exactly what to do. They will investigate the crash, interview the drivers and witnesses, and make a determination as to the cause.
- Collect as much information as you can before the police arrive, including the other driver’s name and insurance carrier, and the name and phone number of any witnesses. It is good to have pen and paper in your car to make notes about the collision and anything the other driver said, noting any odd behavior, including signs of intoxication. Also write down the tag number in case the other driver attempts to flee the scene. If you can, take photos of the damage to the vehicles involved and of the crash site, including any skid marks.
- Seek immediate medical attention. If you are seriously injured, you will probably be taken directly to a hospital emergency room. If you are not seriously injured, however, don’t assume that you are not injured. Serious and costly injuries are not always immediately apparent, and they may begin as a mild ache. Get checked out at a hospital or with your doctor within 48 hours and use your medpay or health insurance coverage to pay for it. Make sure to report all symptoms and follow the doctor’s instructions as to care and follow-up. Some people choose to just “tough it out” hoping that they will get better without seeing a doctor. This is not a good idea; the failure to get prompt medical attention may have serious consequences to your health and to your case. Medical documentation is necessary to prove that the problems were diagnosed and treated promptly and that they are related to the collision.
- Notify your own insurance company of the collision even though it was not your fault. Most policies require that you timely report the collision, and the failure to do so may result in denial of coverage that you may need later, such as uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverage. Also, you will want to use your medpay coverage to help with the cost of your medical bills. Georgia law prohibits your insurance company from raising your premium for a collision that was not your fault.
- Contact an attorney as soon as practical, especially if your injuries are severe or if a death has occurred. Automobile wrecks involve complicated legal issues related to automobile insurance contracts, liability laws, lien rights of hospitals and physicians, and subrogation/reimbursement rights of ERISA healthcare plans, Medicare, etc. While you are dealing with your injuries, the at-fault driver had notified his insurance carrier, who immediately began an investigation in order to build a defense to your claim. Insurance adjusters are skilled negotiators who handle claims for a living, and they are backed by insurance defense attorneys. An insurance adjuster will attempt to contact you to seek information to use against you. You therefore start at a legal disadvantage. Within a short time evidence can disappear and witnesses’ memories can fade. It is to your advantage to have an attorney representing you from the beginning. Once you have an attorney, the insurance adjuster cannot communicate with you but will have to deal with your attorney instead.