Being involved in a car accident can be a frightening and unsettling experience. This is especially true if you are injured during the crash. An accident causes a sudden change in state, and your mind begins to race in all different directions. When this happens, it is important to stop, take a deep breath, and regain your composure.
Once you have had a chance to collect your thoughts, there are several things you should do right away to ensure that everyone is safe and that your legal rights are protected. Here are the first five things you should do immediately after a car accident:
Secure the Accident Scene
The top priority after any type of vehicle accident is to secure the scene and make sure everyone is okay. If possible, pull the vehicles off to the side of the road and out of the way of oncoming traffic. In addition, keep your hazard lights on and place cones or flashers around the vehicles that were involved in the crash. Finally, call 911 right away if anyone appears to be hurt (including yourself). Some injuries are not always readily apparent, and this is especially true with vehicle accidents, because people tend to experience an adrenaline rush that might mask the pain of an injury. This is why it is always a good idea to get an ambulance to the scene, so anyone who needs medical help can get immediate attention.
Contact the Police
When you call 911, they may summon the police for you. Either way, make sure you call the police to the scene, especially if anyone was hurt. A police report is important to provide official documentation of what happened. The police will investigate the incident, interview witnesses, and file a report. This report will be one of the major documents used by the insurance company later to help determine what caused the accident. When speaking to the police, be honest and up front and tell them all of the facts that you know. If there are things you are uncertain about, let the officer know that as well. Do NOT admit fault for the accident or even speculate that it may be your fault. Just give them the facts and leave it to the experts to determine the cause.
In addition to the police report, it is important to have your own documentation and records of what happened. Take multiple photographs of the accident scene from as many angles as possible. In addition, as soon as it is convenient, write down (in as much detail as you can) the facts of the case as you know them. It is best to do this as soon as possible, so everything is fresh in your mind. If you do not have anything to write with, you can use the voice recorder in your smartphone to record your thoughts, then write everything down later. Finally, if you have a dashboard camera, be sure to capture footage of the accident.
Exchange Information with the Other Party (or Parties)
When you speak with the other individuals who were involved in the accident, be calm and courteous, provide them with the required information, and obtain their information as well. As mentioned in an earlier point, do not make any apologies or admissions of guilt. Just be polite and stick to the facts of what happened.
Obtain Contact Information from Witnesses
If there are any individuals who may have witnessed what happened, be sure to ask them what they saw and write down what they tell you. Then obtain their names, phone numbers, and other contact information so you can follow up with them at a later date. Eyewitness testimony can be a critical factor in a personal injury claim, and it is important to get a statement from witnesses while they are at the scene (if possible). Memories can fade over time, and people’s stories may start to change. The more information you can collect (from those who saw the event) while they are still at the scene, the better off you will be if you decide to pursue a legal claim.
Contact an Experienced Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer
If you were involved in a car accident in Virginia and you sustained an injury, it is important that you understand your legal rights and options. Before accepting any settlement offer from an insurance company, get in touch with a skilled personal injury attorney. At Schilling & Esposito, we have extensive experience representing clients injured in auto accidents and all other types of personal injuries in Virginia. We have in-depth knowledge of this area of the law, and we work closely with our clients to ensure that they receive full and fair compensation, and that those responsible (for their injuries) are held accountable. For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, contact our office today at 804-261-1001, or send us a message through our online contact form.