No one ever wants or expects to be in a car accident, but chances are good that you will, at some point in your life, be involved in one. In fact, people file car accident claims roughly every 18 years, on average, reports Forbes. Do you know what to do after a car accident in Bucks County or what steps you should take to protect your interests when going through the claims process?
In this guide, we will share 10 essential things you will want to do after a car accident, insightful information we have gleaned from our years of service helping accident victims in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. If you are in need of case-specific information or legal counsel, contact a car accident attorney directly at 215-642-2335. (The initial consult is free and there is no obligation to use our services.)
At the Scene of the Accident
1. Get to safety and seek medical care. After the collision, you should move as quickly as possible to safety and call 911 for help. Put your emergency lights on and move to the side of the road, if possible. If driving the vehicle is not an option, wait until there is no traffic, and then exit your vehicle and get out of the road. Get immediate medical care if you need it. Wait for the EMTs to arrive and go to the emergency room by ambulance to address your pressing medical needs. If your injuries are not an emergency, you should see a doctor shortly after the accident. (We will discuss this a little later.)
2. Get other drivers’ and witnesses’ information. You will need to collect contact information for anyone else involved in the accident, as well as for any witnesses that saw what occurred. For witnesses, ask them to stick around for a minute if they are willing so they can talk to the police, and jot down their names, cell phone number, and what they saw.
When you speak to the other driver(s), make sure to write down or put on your phone’s notepad the following.
- Driver’s license number
- Vehicle registration number
- Car’s license plate number
- Vehicle’s make, model, and color
3. Jot down some notes about what happened. Write down what you recall about the collision as soon as possible so that the details are fresh in your mind. Useful notes include things you noticed the other driver doing (using a cell phone, speeding, performing an illegal lane change), as well as an explanation of your own driving behavior. Now is also an excellent opportunity to take note of any physical damage you notice to either vehicle. Do not forget to also record the date, time, and road and weather conditions at the accident’s location.
After Leaving the Scene of the Accident
4. Get medical care if you did not already. If you did not require medical attention at the scene of the crash or at the emergency room, it is still important to make an appointment with your family doctor at your first opportunity. Schedule an appointment no more than a day or two after the accident. If your family doctor is not comfortable treating accident patients, ask for a referral to another injury doctor.
Even if injuries appear to be mild, there could be underlying damage. The shock of an accident sometimes prevents victims from realizing the pain and discomfort their body is in. And sometimes symptoms get worse over time, not better. Getting a medical evaluation will protect your health, but it can also protect the viability of your accident claim should you need to prove your injuries later on.
5. Thoroughly review your auto policy. You will need to know what coverages you have, exactly what damages are covered, and what your policy limits are. Also note any deductibles you might need to meet, as well as any insurer-specific steps or protocols you need to adhere to when going through the claims process. Do not assume that because you have “full coverage” that you are “fully covered.” Read the fine print and ask an attorney or your agent to explain any parts of your auto policy that you do not understand.
6. Inform your insurer of the accident. Call the claims department of your insurance company as soon as possible and notify your insurance agent of your auto accident. Informing them of the accident immediately is best so that the claims process can commence.
You will also need to notify the other driver’s insurer of the accident if you plan to file a claim against the other driver. Your ability to do so may depend on if you chose full or limited tort on your auto policy, as well as the details of your accident. If you are unsure of which company to file a claim with, a car accident lawyer can help.
7. Get a copy of the police report. If law enforcement is called to the scene, they will analyze the situation, take down statements, and put together a crash report. You will need to obtain a copy of the report for your records, and to share with your insurer and your attorney. It can be a useful piece of evidence for your claim. If the officer does not provide you with a report at the scene of the accident, you can request a copy of the report for $22 after 15 days has elapsed from the crash date. You can download an application to obtain the report from the Pennsylvania State Police crash report page and mail it to the Crash Reports Unit in Harrisburg.
8. Keep a file of medical bills, receipts, invoices, and records. Collect and compile every piece of paper and all notes you have taken, that has anything to do with the accident, your injuries, and your expenses. Put everything into a large folder for safekeeping to have on hand when your lawyer or insurer requests it. Documents to keep include the following.
- Diagnostic test results
- Recommended treatments and prescriptions
- Travel expenses for medical appointments
- Notes from your doctors and specialists
- Proof of lost wages
- Bills and invoices for any expenses you incur
- All the info you have already collected from the scene of the accident
9. Keep a journal of how the injury affects your life. Injury journals are not only a therapeutic coping mechanism when you sustain an injury, but they can also serve as valuable evidence to bolster your case should you file a negligence claim or lawsuit. In your journal, document things such as missed time from work, your pain levels, ways your injury has prevented you from doing household chores and child care, and how you feel emotionally and physically.
10. Hire an attorney. Specifically, you want to work with a personal injury attorney that handles car accident claims in your state. This is of particular importance if your injuries are serious. It can be very challenging to deal with an insurance company, to ensure the claims process is being handled fairly, and to prove liability and damages. You can also download our eBook, Don’t Crash Again! A Car Accident Victim’s Guide to Maximizing Recovery.
An attorney can assist claimants with all aspects of filing claims or suits and can make sure that they arrive at a settlement that is both full and fair – and most injury lawyers offer free consultations, so there is no risk in getting a professional’s take on your case. If you were in an accident in Pennsylvania, Cordisco & Saile can help. Contact us today at 215-642-2335 to get started.