Being involved in a car accident can be a traumatic experience, especially if you are seriously injured. A collision with another vehicle or object puts you in a startled state, with countless thoughts simultaneously running through your head. When this occurs, it is important to remain as calm as possible and take some immediate steps to ensure the safety of everyone at the scene, and to ensure that your legal rights are protected.
Here are five things you should do right after being involved in a car accident:
- Do NOT Leave the Scene
Never leave the scene of an accident, even if it is just a fender-bender. In Virginia, fleeing the scene of an accident can result in fines, jail time, and loss of driving privileges. If there is an injury or fatality and/or if damage from the accident exceeds $1,000, you could be charged with a felony. Remain at the scene and put your hazard lights on. If your car can be driven, move it off to the side or shoulder and out of oncoming traffic.
- Call for Medical Help
The first priority after a car accident is to make sure that anyone who may have been hurt (including yourself) receives prompt medical attention. It is important to note that not all injuries are noticeable right away. You may feel okay right after the collision, but the impact of being jolted abruptly can cause injuries to the head, neck, spine, and other parts of the body. There is also the possibility of internal injuries, which can be life-threatening if they are not treated quickly. As soon as you can after the crash, call 911 and ask for medical help. The 911 operator can also send the police to the scene.
- Document the Incident
When the police arrive, tell them what you know about the incident. Do not speculate, guess, or assume anything, just stick to the facts. If they ask if you are hurt and you are not entirely certain, tell them you are “not sure”. Most importantly, do NOT admit any fault for the accident. Plan to follow up as soon as convenient to review the police report and ensure that it is accurate.
In addition to speaking with the police, retain your own personal records of the auto accident. Write down what happened in as much detail as possible while it is fresh in your mind. Also, take several photos of the accident scene (from as many angles as possible) to provide visual documentation. And if you have a dashboard video camera, be sure to capture footage of the event going back to several minutes before the collision.
- Exchange Information
Do your best to stay calm and courteous when dealing with the other driver(s) involved in the accident. Exchange all the necessary information, such as their name, address, phone number, the name of their insurance company, and their policy number. Also take note of the make and model of the vehicle and the vehicle license plate number. As mentioned in the previous point, do NOT admit fault to the other party and do not apologize for anything. Just obtain the required information and move on.
- Obtain Contact Information from Witnesses
While you are still at the scene of the accident, speak to any witnesses that may have seen what happened. Ask them what they saw and note their responses in detail. Memories fade over time, so it is important to document what these witnesses say while everyone is still at the scene if possible. Also, don’t forget to obtain the contact information from witnesses that will help corroborate the facts of the case.
Speak with an Experienced Virginia Personal Injury Attorney
If you are seriously injured in an auto accident and it is the fault of another party, you may be entitled to compensation. When this is the case, you might be contacted by the insurer for the at-fault party within a few days after the accident. The insurance adjuster may also ask to record your conversation and/or ask for a recorded statement. They may even imply that this is necessary to move the process forward.
It is important to know that you are NOT under any obligation to provide statements to the other party’s insurer, and it is not in your best interests to do so. This is especially true in Virginia because of their “contributory” negligence standard. Under contributory negligence, if an accident victim is found to be even 1% at-fault, they may be barred from recovering compensation. Before you speak to any insurance adjuster, contact a seasoned car accident lawyer, so you fully understand your rights and options.
At Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C., we have several years of experience representing clients who have been seriously injured in an auto accident. Our lawyers have in-depth knowledge of this area of the law, and we work closely with clients to provide the skilled and personalized representation they need and deserve.
Call our office today at 703-361-1555 to schedule your initial consultation. You may also send us a secure and confidential message through our web contact form.