So you had a car accident, now what? I was rear-ended a couple months ago about a block from my office while I was running a lunch errand. Figures, right? Most accidents occur very close to home or work. Road trips are unlikely to result in a wreck. I should go on road trips more often!
After the shock of being hit wore off, it was the most frustrating thing ever.
First Make Sure Nobody Is Injured
The woman who hit me was in a small older car, which looked totaled. She was a frazzled mess, crying hysterically. I tried to talk to her, but she was so upset about her car. My car didn’t look so bad, but we were blocking traffic and I couldn’t tell if she was hurt, so I called 911. We needed a police report for insurance anyway.
Here come the officers and an ambulance and the fire department. Car parts are strewn across the street. It was dramatic! Everyone is so nice. They make sure no one is hurt and split up to talk to both of us.
My statement was short. I was waiting to turn left off Main Street and she came out of nowhere and plowed into the back of me. The officer who spoke with me looked experienced. This wasn’t his first rodeo, trust me. He chatted with me, got my driver’s license and proof of insurance. He said he knew GMC was a good brand because he’s seen a lot of accidents with Acadias and they “hold up well.” He said if I’d been in a different car, I’d really be hurt from the look of things. He asked me at least fifteen times if I needed medical attention.
Go To The Doctor If You Are Hurt
From being a lawyer, I know it is important to go to the doctor if you are hurt. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to not obtain medical treatment if you are really hurt. Insurance companies use that to make it sound like you “decided” to be hurt later just to make a quick buck. We all know that’s not true, but the reality is gaps in treatment can hurt your personal injury claim if you end up having one.
My husband encouraged me to go the Emergency Room, “Just to be sure.” But I know my body. I was wearing a seat belt and I just didn’t think I needed to waste the rest of my day. My plan (which I thought was a good one!) was to sleep on it and when the shock wore off, go to my primary care doctor if I was in pain the next day. I didn’t feel hurt, nothing was throbbing and no sharp pains.
Everyone will tell you it is better to be safe than sorry; and it is! I have a lot to live for and I don’t want permanent damage the rest of my life, but I figured I could wait and see. I didn’t decide not go to the doctor out of stubbornness. I really felt fine. My big SUV was safe against the older model, low to the ground, two door Saturn that hit me. The next day, I was still fine and I continue to be fine. No personal injury claim this time. Check out our post about the personal injury claim part of an accident here for more information.
Don’t Act Crazy!
After, you’ve determined everyone is okay, then you should maintain your composure at the scene. The officers might be called to testify one day and you want them to have positive memories of you – or no memories at all. That means you didn’t act crazy!
Stay Out Of Traffic & Get Info
If possible, you should move the vehicles, so you are not blocking traffic. Take as many pictures as possible from all different perspectives before you move the cars! Sometimes this isn’t feasible; you don’t want to cause another accident or other injuries because you’re trying to take pictures. Use good sense.
Take a picture of the other driver’s license and proofs of insurance too. The police will gather this information, but it won’t be available for a few days. The officers will allow you to take a picture of everything, if you’re calm and collected. My officers did. I took pictures of the scene, both cars, and her driver’s license.
She didn’t have proof of insurance, which made me paranoid that she didn’t have insurance! The officer said he was going to give her some time to calm down and try to get it for him. I thought that was nice. Some officers are so gruff and unbending but he made the right call. If she had insurance, he would include it in his report and I could get the information from there. I wasn’t hopeful, but my opinion really didn’t matter in that moment. He sent me on my way to deal with my car.
Do Not Admit Fault
Stay calm when giving your statement to police. Don’t make any admissions of guilt or that you did anything wrong (even if you rear-ended someone!!) You can say you are sorry that an accident happened and be caring and concerned without admitting guilt.
Say as little as possible in your interactions with the other involved parties and with the police, particularly if you are at fault. You cannot leave the scene (that’s a crime and causes an even bigger headache!), but you don’t have to chat up the officers either. In my case, the other driver immediately admitted to me that she had been eating and dropped her phone between the seats. The officers were passing us just seconds after it happened and turned around. They were there before I could even give the 911 dispatcher our location information, which was great. We needed some help because both of us were shaken up!
The driver admitted she just didn’t see that I was stopped to turn left until it was too late. Even if she hadn’t admitted guilt, the evidence was clear and you’re almost always the at-fault party if you rear-end someone. But the evidence is not always clear, so don’t hurt yourself by making admissions of fact or cause without getting some legal advice.
Did You Get A Ticket?
If you receive a ticket, that’s okay. Just because the police officer issues a citation, that does not mean you were at fault or won’t recover for your damages. The officers don’t know what happened because they didn’t show up until after the fact. The police will draw a sketch of the scene and make determinations regarding ticketing and fault, but that is not 100% binding on the insurance company. Even if it is your fault, depending on your insurance, you may still have coverage.
You’re going to be rattled, of course. No one wants to be in an accident. But there are many, many factors that you won’t know at the time you’re giving statements, so you might say something that is not actually true – something you can’t take back. What if the other party is on medications or was hallucinating? You wouldn’t know that at the time. Even if you think it’s your fault, don’t say anything.
I’ll have more to say about property claims next week in Part II of this series: Car Accident, Now What?.
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