What to do after a car accident? After a car accident, you should seek medical attention first, then call the police. You may also want to call a personal injury lawyer to advise you
After a car accident, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention for yourself and any passengers. Next, you should call the police to report the accident. You may also wish to call a personal injury lawyer. An accident can leave you flustered (to say the least), and a car accident lawyer can ensure you take the necessary steps after the collision.
If another party caused the accident and you or any of your passengers sustained injuries, you can seek financial compensation, legally known as damages. Damages compensate you for concrete losses, such as medical bills and lost income, as well as intangible losses, such as physical pain or emotional trauma. A lawyer can help you seek financial recovery and put your mind at ease. Reach out to a Vero Beach car accident lawyer today.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Your health is your top priority, so you should seek medical attention right away after a car accident. Yet, proper medical care is critical not just for your health but for your future legal case. Your medical records document your injuries and link them to the accident. Your records can serve as evidence that you were fine before the accident and that your injuries directly resulted from the incident.
Report the Incident to Law Enforcement
After calling an ambulance, you should call the police. Many states require you to report an accident. For example, Florida requires the involved drivers to report any collision that results in death, injury, or at least $500 in property damage. Even if you are not required to call the police, you should. Later on, you can use a police report as important evidence demonstrating which party was at fault.
Gather Evidence From the Accident Scene
If you are well enough to do so, you should collect any evidence you can from the scene. Use your cell phone to take pictures of the scene, collect the names and numbers of any eyewitnesses, and even ask nearby stores if they have security cameras that may have captured the accident. Most places delete footage after 24 to 48 hours, so you need to gather it before it is gone.
Consider Calling a Lawyer From the Scene of the Accident
You might not be sure whether you need a lawyer after a car accident, but it never hurts to call one. Personal injury lawyers handle car accidents like yours regularly, so they understand what you should do right after an accident to protect your future interests. Most lawyers will come right to the scene or even visit you in the hospital to advise you on what to do next.
What You Should Avoid After a Car Accident
Above are some things car accident claimants should do after getting hurt. Yet, there are also some things they should avoid, such as:
Giving the Insurance Company a Recorded Statement
The insurance company hopes that you’ll admit fault for the accident. That way, it can deny or lowball your claim. So, the claims adjuster may ask that you give a recorded statement while you’ll answer some loaded questions. It’s in your best interest to avoid giving the insurer more information than necessary. Even saying you’re sorry could complicate the claims process. So, you should refuse to give a recorded statement and refer the claims adjuster to your lawyer.
Discontinuing Your Treatment Plan
If you want to discontinue any aspect of your treatment plan, you should share this with your doctor. They can alter your treatment plan as needed or otherwise sign off on your progress. There’s a good reason for this. If the insurer learns that you discontinued treatment against medical advice, it could dispute your condition’s severity.
Hastily Accepting the First Settlement
Accepting compensation means ending your case. So, consider this scenario. The insurance company offers a low settlement after the crash. You accept it. Then, after going to the doctor, you learn that you need multiple surgeries. If your settlement doesn’t account for these expenses, the insurer isn’t liable.
After all, you signed a waiver of liability, meaning that you accept paying for any outstanding expenses. Accepting a low offer could mean bad things for your mental stability and future. By retaining a lawyer, you can have another set of eyes look over settlement offers and explain whether they’re fair.
Waiting Too Long to Consider Your Options
As you’ll read later on this page, you don’t have an unlimited time to seek damages after a car accident. The state imposes a filing deadline on all lawsuits. If you miss this deadline, you could lose the right to seek damages.
Aside from the statute of limitations, not all evidence lasts forever. Eyewitnesses may forget key details. Vital forensic evidence could get washed away or removed. By promptly considering your options, you give your lawyer the best possible chance of recovering damages.
Economic Damages in a Car Accident Case
Economic damages compensate you for the financial losses resulting from the collision.
You could recover damages for:
- Medical expenses, such as ambulance bills, emergency treatment, diagnostic imaging scans, surgeries, and hospitalization
- Future and ongoing medical expenses, such as anticipated surgeries or other medical procedures, long-term prescription medications, and ongoing rehabilitative therapy
- Medical equipment, such as braces, crutches, walkers, canes, wheelchairs, motorized scooters, hospital beds, patient lifts, and more
- Modifications to your home, such as widened doors and hallways, ramps, and wheelchair-accessible bathrooms
- Property damage expenses to replace or repair your vehicle
- Loss of income to replace your income, tips, or salary while you are temporarily out of work because of your injuries
- Future loss of income if your injuries prevent you from returning to your previous position or from working at all
Non-Economic Damages in a Car Accident Case
Non-economic damages compensate you for intangible losses, like pain and suffering. While it is challenging to put a price tag on a broken bone or emotional trauma, a lawyer with experience handling car accident cases can do just that.
You could recover non-economic damages if you:
- Experience chronic pain
- Endured a long or particularly painful recovery period
- Have a permanent disability, disfigurement, or scarring
- Lost a limb, another body part, or the function of a body part
- Developed mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, or insomnia
- Can no longer participate in hobbies or activities you once enjoyed
- Have trouble leaving the house
- Experience a reduced quality of life
Wrongful Death Damages in a Fatal Car Accident Case
If you lost a family member in a car accident, you could recover damages for wrongful death. While no amount of money can ever replace your loved one, seeking compensation from the at-fault party allows you to hold them accountable.
Laws vary between states, so you should talk to a lawyer to further understand your recoverable losses.
You could seek:
- Medical expenses for the treatment your loved one received before they passed away
- The pain and suffering your loved one experienced after the car accident but before they passed away
- Funeral and burial expenses, such as cremation or embalming, a casket or urn, a memorial service, flowers, and transportation
- Loss of financial support, including income, salary, tips, and benefits your loved one would have provided
- Loss of household support, such as chores, household maintenance, and childcare your loved one would have provided
- Loss of companionship, protection, guidance, and instruction experienced by the surviving family members
- Pain and suffering experienced by the surviving family members
Ways a Lawyer Can Help You After a Car Accident
You might think that you only need a lawyer when you want to file a lawsuit, but that’s not the case at all. Dealing with the aftermath of a car accident is complex and can get confusing. A lawyer can explain the legal and insurance aspects of your case, help you make informed decisions, and guide you through every step of the claims process.
When you entrust your car accident case to an attorney, they can:
Investigate the Collision
A lawyer can collect evidence showing that the other party caused the car accident through their negligence. They can take pictures of the scene, interview eyewitnesses, and gather police reports, cell phone records, security and dashcam footage, and toxicology reports.
Estimate How Much Your Damages Are Worth
If you don’t know how much your case is worth, then you don’t know what qualifies as a fair settlement. A lawyer can use your medical bills and records, vehicle repair or replacement receipts, tax documents, expert medical testimony, and interviews with your loved ones to estimate the full value of your losses.
Handle the Insurance Claims Process
Dealing with insurance companies can be draining and time-consuming. Insurance representatives are trained to sound friendly while also offering as little money as possible. If you speak with them, be sure not to apologize or admit fault. Better yet, let a lawyer speak with them on your behalf. A lawyer who has handled other car accident cases will know exactly what to say and what not to say.
A lawyer can take over all verbal and written communication with the insurance companies so you can focus on getting better. They can also gather your medical records from every provider who treated you, collect other supporting documents, and file an insurance claim on your behalf.
Negotiate an Out-of-Court Settlement
Settling out of court is often the fastest, easiest, and least stressful way to resolve a car accident case. In this situation, the insurance company offers you a financial payment and you agree to end the insurance claims process in exchange. You do not have to accept the first, or any, settlement offer. A lawyer can negotiate a settlement that provides you with fair compensation for your losses.
File a Lawsuit Against the At-Fault Party
In addition to seeking compensation from their insurance provider, you can also simultaneously sue the at-fault party directly. A lawyer can determine which legal deadlines apply to your case, file a lawsuit on your behalf before the time runs out, and represent you in court.
Can I Really Afford a Lawyer After a Car Accident?
Chances are that you can afford a lawyer after a car accident, even if your financial situation is uncertain. Most personal injury lawyers work on contingency, which means they take their payment from the verdict award or out-of-court settlement after winning your case. You do not have to pay them upfront, so you can afford a lawyer, even if you are short on cash. If your case doesn’t yield compensation, you don’t pay anything.
You can call a lawyer after a car accident without feeling obligated to work with them. Most personal injury lawyers offer free case consultations, so you can get to know them, and they can get to know you, before you decide what to do after a car accident.
Legal Deadlines in a Car Accident Case
Sometimes, the best way to recover the compensation you deserve is through a lawsuit. You can directly sue the party responsible for your car accident, but you have to do so before time runs out. Every state has a statute of limitations for personal injury and wrongful death cases, and once it expires, you forfeit your right to sue.
In some states, there are different statutes of limitations for personal injury and wrongful death. In addition, some states have separate statutes of limitations for suing a municipality versus an individual.
A car accident lawyer familiar with the laws in your state can help you determine which laws apply to your case and how much time you have to file a lawsuit against the party responsible for your car accident. Reach out to a Vero Beach personal injury lawyer.