The North Carolina Department of Transportation estimated that in a single recent year there were 267,494 traffic accidents in the State in which approximately 130,137 people were injured. With that volume of accidents occurring, it would seem that most people would know what steps to take when involved in an auto accident. If you are unsure, you are not alone. Whether it is the overwhelming trauma of suffering personal injury that impedes one’s ability to make clear decisions or simply a lack of knowledge about how the process works, many people sadly do not know what to do after being involved in an automobile accident. I receive numerous phone calls a month where a victim of an automobile accident is clueless as to what steps he or she needs to take.
Unfortunately, sometimes there are things you can do or fail to do that that will greatly impact your ability to recover from the accident. Here are five things to do to after an automobile accident to ensure you protect your rights to recover.
1. Gather as Much Information as Possible.
If you are able to do so safely, gather as much information about the accident as possible. Ask for the at-fault party’s full name and insurance information, talk to and get names and contact information from eye witnesses, and take pictures of the scene of the accident and all vehicles involved. This information can help prove the severity of your case and help bolster your chance of a fair recovery.
2. Make Sure the Police Officer Receives all the Details and then Documents the Accident Properly.
The police officer’s accident report is one of the most crucial pieces of evidence in an auto accident case. If the accident report incorrectly states the party who was at fault, it becomes almost impossible to prove the police officer was incorrect or made a mistake. Many times, if it is a close call and there are conflicting stories, an officer will record that he or she was unable to determine which party was at fault. Since North Carolina is a contributory negligence state (meaning you can be completely barred from recovery if found to be negligent even in the slightest), having the police report state that the officer was unable to determine which party was at fault can greatly diminish your chances of recovery. Therefore, it is vital that the police officer receives the correct story and records it properly.
3. Seek Medical Attention.
If you sustain any injury during an accident, you should receive a full medical evaluation from a doctor. Once you receive a medical evaluation, follow the doctor’s recommendations with follow-up care. Seeking medical attention not only gives you peace of mind that you aren’t going to be surprised with a hidden injury, but it gives you medical documentation of the severity of your injuries, which helps validate to an insurance company that your injuries are legitimate.
4. Do Not Accept a Quick Settlement.
Many times after an accident, the at-fault party’s insurance company will call and tell you that they are accepting liability and offer you quick money to settle. Victims fail to realize that often this is a one-time, low-ball number containing the entire settlement offer, and not just a check to cover the initial hospital visit. Consult with an attorney before signing anything because you can sign away your right to recover from the insurance company down the road even if your injuries are much more serious than you or the doctor originally realized.
5. Call an Attorney.
An experienced personal injury attorney handles auto accident cases on a daily basis. He or she can explain the options you have and what you should and should not do. A lawyer can advise you on a number of areas from dealing with your injuries to communicating with the insurance companies about property damage. Most importantly, an attorney can take the stress of the process off you and let you focus on recovering from the emotional and physical strain of being involved in an automobile accident.
Contact our personal injury lawyers today, if we can be of assistance.