So, you have been in a car accident. It all happened fast, and your heart is still racing. What happens next? The steps you take following a car accident can help or hurt your chances of getting adequate compensation for your injuries. Here is a list of things to do, and not do, after an accident:
- Do call 911 if you or anyone else is injured and request an ambulance. The most important thing following an accident is everyone’s health and safety. Cars can be replaced, but what happens to a person’s health can be permanent.
- Do get the other driver’s contact information. The law requires that drivers exchange contact information including insurance policies. At the very least, take a photograph of the other driver’s license plate. It is not uncommon for some drivers to flee the scene of the accident. If that happens, your attorney can help you track down the other driver if you have their license plate number.
- Do take lots of photographs. If it is safe to do so, take as many pictures as you can of the accident scene and the people involved. Identify any damage to the vehicles involved and take photographs of that as well. These photographs will provide valuable evidence in the future, should you need to file a lawsuit.
- Do call the police, but be aware that they might not be that helpful. Calling the police used to be a no-brainer after an accident. The police would come, they would make sure that the parties exchanged contact information, they would take witness statements, they would try to determine who was at fault for the accident, and they would issue a police report. That report can be very helpful in resolving an insurance claim without the need for a lawsuit. Although this may still be the practice in many counties in Maryland, in Baltimore City, the police will no longer investigate the cause of most car accidents. Unless Baltimore City police consider an accident to be very serious, or the parties leave in an ambulance, the officers will likely only show up and ask that you exchange information. They will not issue a report or help you figure out what happened. If you have any fear of your safety or you think the police in your jurisdiction will be helpful, then don’t hesitate to call the police.
- Do contact an attorney if you were injured. After the emergency is over, and everyone is safe, and information has been exchanged, reach out to a personal injury attorney if you were hurt. A good personal injury attorney will open injury claims on your behalf, and help you collect any evidence that you might have missed. By reaching out to an attorney right away, the details are fresh in your mind and those of any witnesses. An attorney can help you investigate, collect evidence, talk to witnesses, tell you what you need to do, and help make your case.
- Don’t argue with the other driver at the scene. After an accident, tensions are usually high and there can be a lot of confusion about what happened. Sometimes it is not always clear how the accident happened or whose fault it was. Do not make any statements to the other driver or try to get into an argument about what happened. Instead, make sure everyone is okay, and simply ask for the other driver’s contact and insurance information. Often following an accident, drivers get into an argument and make statements at the scene that can then be used against them in court. Remember, you are not going to convince the other driver that the accident was their fault if they don’t already agree. So, simply check if everyone is okay, then exchange information and take lots of photographs. The more pictures, the better.
- Don’t give a recorded statement to any insurance company, even your own. You need to speak with an attorney first! A mistake that accident victims often make, is that they give a recorded statement over the phone to an insurance company right after the accident. It is okay to call your own insurance company and open a claim yourself (although I recommend that you contact an attorney and allow them to do it for you), but you want to avoid giving a recorded statement. A recorded statement is saved forever. If there is ever a lawsuit in the future, what you said on that recorded statement will likely be used against you in court. Sometimes people do not necessarily feel injured on the day of the accident. But anyone who has ever had a back injury will know that it is not uncommon for your back to start hurting several days later, and for that pain to last for weeks. But, if you gave a recorded statement right after the accident when your back did not hurt, the insurance company might not believe you later when you say you are hurt. It is always better to have an attorney advise you about when to give a recorded statement.
- Don’t wait too long to contact an attorney. The longer you wait to call an attorney about your accident, the harder it will be for that attorney to gather evidence, get statements from witnesses, and build your case. By calling an attorney promptly after your accident, your attorney can open your claim, find all available insurance policies that might be available to compensate you, talk to witnesses, gather photographs and order videotapes, get police reports, and help make sure that you get the proper medical attention you need to get you healthy sooner.
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For more than 50 years, Holzman & Associates, LLC has obtained substantial verdicts and settlements for injury victims throughout Maryland. Ask around about us! Please call 410-539-4222 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation at our Baltimore office. We also meet with clients in their homes or hospital rooms when necessary.