What You Should, and Should Not, Do After an Auto Accident
The moments and days after a car accident may be chaotic, but what you do in that time can seriously impact your claim for compensation down the line. Taking the right steps can help strengthen your claim for the full and fair compensation you need for your injuries. Taking the wrong steps, however, can hurt your claim and may even bar you from receiving any compensation at all.
At Ketterman Rowland & Westlund, we advise our clients of their rights and explain the actions they can take to protect their claim for compensation after a car accident. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a crash, please contact our knowledgeable San Antonio car accident lawyers today for a free consultation.
What You Should Do After a Crash
The time immediately following a car crash is of critical importance. The steps you take at this time will ensure your safety and help you start preparing your claim. Below are the most important steps to take after a car, truck, or motorcycle accident.
- Remain at the scene: Under Texas’ Transportation Code, anyone involved in an accident is expected to remain at the scene. Even if you are injured, you should not immediately leave the scene without exchanging information with the other driver and reporting the accident.
- Report the accident: If you are injured or there is significant property damage, you must report the accident to the police. After they arrive on the scene, they will write and file an accident report. If the crash is not investigated by law enforcement at the scene, you must report the accident to the Texas Department of Transportation (DOT). Any crash that resulted in injury, death, or property damage exceeding $1,000 must be reported to the Texas DOT within 10 days of the wreck.
- Call for medical attention: If you have any injuries, you need to call for medical help. If you call 911, they will likely send police and an ambulance. Even if you don’t think you are severely injured, it’s important to seek medical attention soon after an accident. Many injuries, such as whiplash and concussions, don’t present symptoms right away. A doctor will know what to look for and begin treatment, if necessary. Failing to seek medical attention is failing to document your injuries, which could hurt a claim in the future.
- Exchange information: You’ll need to exchange information with any other drivers involved in the accident. Write down their driver’s license number, registration and insurance information, and their contact information. Also make sure you get the contact information of any witnesses to the accident. These statements are often crucial when proving a car accident claim.
- Collect evidence at the scene: It is important to collect evidence while you’re still at the scene of the car crash. Debris and vehicle parts, such as bumpers, left on the road can indicate how the accident occurred. Pictures are also crucial evidence in car crash claims. They can more vividly show how the accident happened. Take several pictures of the entire scene from different angles. Then zoom in on specific details. Take pictures of any damage sustained to each vehicle. Take pictures of pertinent information, such as a stop sign or traffic light. If there are skid marks or broken glass on the ground, also take pictures of these. Lastly, take pictures of your injuries to show the severity of them immediately following the crash.
- Save all paperwork and receipts: To make a personal injury claim, you need to know how much compensation you need to be made whole again after an accident. So it can help to save all of your receipts. You may get bills from a doctor’s office, or a receipt for the gas you used to get there. Keep all of this, as it will help a car accident attorney evaluate your claim. You’ll also receive a lot of paperwork. This will come from insurance companies, the other side’s attorney, and medical reports, to name just a few. Save all paperwork, as it is also an important part of your claim.
- Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible: The best way to protect your claim is to speak to a lawyer as soon as you can after an accident. A car accident attorney will advise on the next steps to take and will get started on your claim immediately. Another reason to speak to an attorney right away is because under Texas’ statute of limitations, you have only two years from the date of the crash to file your claim. If that time period expires, you are barred from receiving any compensation. An attorney needs as much time as possible to start collecting evidence, proving fault, and getting the necessary paperwork in order.
What You Should Not Do After a Crash
There are certain mistakes many drivers make after a crash. They later find out that these actions have hurt their claim. Below are some tips on what not to do after a crash, so you can avoid making those same mistakes.
- Do not apologize or discuss the crash with the other driver: You’ll need to speak to the other driver to exchange information. You should limit this conversation to only that, and only get the information you need. Do not speak to the driver about the accident or how it happened. Do not blame them, but also do not accept blame. Even saying you’re sorry the accident happened will be misconstrued later on as an acceptance of guilt. That can greatly reduce your claim, or give the insurance company reason to deny it altogether.
- Do not give a written or recorded statement to the insurance company: It’s important to be very careful when speaking to the insurance company. You’ll likely have to call your insurance company to tell them of the crash. Only give them the details of the crash and do not elaborate. If you don’t know the answer to a question, tell them you don’t know. Do not guess. Never allow the insurance company to record your statement, and don’t give it to them in writing. The insurance company can try to use this against you later to reduce or deny your claim. Never speak to the other driver’s insurance company without first speaking to an attorney. If they contact you before you’ve spoken to a lawyer, you have the right to tell them you don’t want to speak to them at that time.
- Do not give the insurance company permission to access your medical records: The insurance company may ask you to sign a medical release. This is a tactic typically used by the other driver’s insurer. They want to access your records so they can find a pre-existing condition related to your injury. For example, if you hurt your back in the accident, they will look for prior instances of a back injury. They will use this information to reduce or deny your claim. The insurance company has no right to look at your medical records, and you shouldn’t provide access to them.
- Do not get your car repaired before evidence of the damage is documented: If your vehicle sustained significant damage in a crash, you’ll likely want to get it repaired right away so you can use it again. However, it’s important you wait until all damage is documented. You can take it to a repair shop and ask only for an estimate. Explain that you don’t want any work done at that time. In the meantime, rent a car. These costs can be added to a claim.
- Do not discuss your case with anyone but your attorney: While friends and family will naturally want to know you’re OK, do not discuss specifics of your case. It’s not uncommon for insurance companies to speak to friends and family, and if your loved ones mention anything to them, it could hurt your case. The insurance company or other party may also try to contact you, and you should not speak to them, either. The only person you should speak to about your case is your car accident attorney.
- Do not post on social media: Do not post anything on social media, preferably until your case is over. Also ask friends and family not to tag you in anything, or share pictures of you. Insurance companies scour the social media profiles of accident victims looking for things to use against them. For example, if someone posts a picture of you lifting your 2-year-old niece in the air, the insurance company will say you can’t be that hurt because you were able to play with a child. If you can’t stay off social media entirely, at least don’t publish any new posts until your case is settled.
Need More Advice? Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer Now
If you’ve been hurt in a car accident, you likely have a lot of questions. At Ketterman Rowland & Westlund, our car accident lawyers can answer them. We are passionate about helping accident victims demand the compensation they are entitled to, and we are ready to help you. Contact us online for your free consultation so we can discuss the specific details of your case.