Accidents happen without warning. One minute you are cruising down the interstate without a care in the world. The next, you are waking up after being knocked unconscious by a deployed airbag.
The actions you take next can make your situation better or worse. For that reason, you should always follow these steps if you have been injured as a result of an auto collision that was not your fault.
Initial Post-Crash Steps
It is critical that you check yourself and any passengers for injuries. If anyone is trapped, wait until emergency responders arrive at the scene rather than trying to wiggle out. Moving your own body or the body of someone who has been hurt can make injuries much worse. On the other hand, if your injuries allow for mobility, get out of the vehicle and move yourself and any passengers to a safe location.
When possible, attempt to move your vehicle to a safer place such as the shoulder of the road. However, in some circumstances, this may not be possible. Use your best judgment. Try to get a few pictures of your vehicle and the one that collided with yours before either of you move your cars. Those images may be helpful if you need to file a lawsuit. They can also be valuable when reporting the accident to the police and your insurance carrier.
In the event that you and the at-fault driver are able to talk with one another right away, get as much information as possible. Get the driver’s name, address, phone number, car insurance carrier, car insurance policy number and vehicle license plate. Expect to give similar information about yourself during this exchange. If witnesses stop to talk about the accident, or were passengers in the at-fault driver’s vehicle, get the adults’ names and information as well.
If emergency medical responders and police have not already been alerted to the scene of the accident by a good Samaritan, you can contact them by dialing 9-1-1. When they arrive to investigate, they will take a statement and file a police report. Again, this report could play a vital role if you decide to work with an accident attorney. Therefore, always call the police even if your injuries seem to be minor or the car accident happened in a parking lot.
Be sure to contact your auto insurance carrier. Let them know the details of the accident and pass along the other driver’s information, as well as information to contact any witnesses. Finally, seek immediate medical attention for your injuries or return home.
The Days Following the Accident
Depending upon your injuries, you may be able to wait 24 hours before seeing a medical provider for evaluation. However, never assume that you are fine.
Some trauma can take time to unravel or present itself. For instance, you may notice bruising on the day after your accident that you did not see the first day. In fact, it is common for car accident victims to learn they have broken ribs several days later.
Make an appointment with your primary care physician for a complete check-up soon after the accident. Your health insurance may cover some or all of this cost if you have met your annual deductible. Even so, your health insurance company may expect repayment from the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier during the settlement.
You may have to undergo tests, physical therapy sessions and follow-up appointments. Document each one, noting dates and times, as well as expenses. Get copies of medical records in the process, if you can. At the same time, keep track of all your out-of-pocket expenses that relate to the car accident. From rental car fees to medical bills, everything counts.
Talking to Insurance Adjusters
After your insurance provider files a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company, you can expect a call from an insurance adjuster.
Insurance adjusters examine accidents and perform research. They use this information to construct a settlement offer. Remember, they do not work for you. Instead, they work for their employer, the insurance company. Therefore, you may want to avoid speaking with an insurance adjuster without first getting legal advice.
Why should you seek out an attorney first? Everything you say about the accident will be taken into consideration when the adjuster puts together a settlement. Getting feedback from car accident lawyers who know Arizona personal injury laws and processes can help you avoid receiving an inadequate settlement amount.
Common Insurance Provider Scenarios
Whether you choose to work with a personal injury law professional or not, you will probably see one of the following scenarios play out based on your car accident claim.
- The at-fault driver’s insurance or your insurer (or both) will write you a check or multiple checks. The check will cover medical expenses, the cost to fix or replace your vehicle, and other documented, allowable expenses. Expect to fight for the money you are owed. Most insurers will try to pay as little as possible.
- The at-fault party’s insurer will say you were actually at fault. This is not out of the question. If the at-fault driver’s insurer denies the claim, you may be wise to contact a lawyer who specializes in this kind of case.
- The insurance carriers fight each other to determine which pays what. Once again, you could find yourself in an unenviable situation if you are caught between insurance carriers. Having a lawyer on your side can help you reach a fair settlement faster.
Car Accident Injury Law Firms
Car accident injuries and collision-related expenses are costly, causing victims negative financial and emotional outcomes. Attorneys who specialize in working with car accident victims and work on a contingency fee basis can help you recover damages faster, and often at higher amounts than you might be offered otherwise.