What Are the First Steps I should Take After a Car Crash?
After a crash, the two most important things you need to do are to seek immediate medical attention and to retain legal counsel.
If you get into a crash on the roadway, and if you are not disabled, do the following: first, immediately get to a place of safety.
Your first priority should be to avoid getting hit by another car speeding by your crash scene. Call the police, call for an ambulance, and call for roadside assistance as quickly as possible. If it's possible, exchange information with the other driver, and only if it's safe to do so, take some pictures.
Nowadays, most people have smart phones which are quite convenient in situations like this, so if possible and only if you are in a place of safety, take pictures with your smart phone of the damage to your car, the damage to the other car, the crash scene, and the roadway.
Were there skid marks on the road? Were there no skid marks on the road? Take pictures of that. Take pictures of the other person’s driver's license, registration, license plate, and insurance card whenever possible. But engage in these kinds of investigation steps only if it’s safe.
After a car crash, people are often offered an ambulance ride. It's at this point that most people start thinking about money. "Is the ambulance going to be covered by my medical insurance?"
Understand that EMTs who drive and operate ambulances have medical training and have medical equipment aboard the ambulance. You don't know if you are suffering from internal bleeding or a broken rib cage or some other life-threatening, potentially fatal injury.
Don't be a cheapskate. Take the ambulance ride.
If you don't take the ambulance ride you may be putting yourself in harm's way and not even know it. Be sure and go to the emergency room after a car accident whether or not you think you may have a life-threatening injury. At the emergency room doctors will conclusively rule out life-threatening conditions and broken bones.
Once you are in the emergency room, it is critical that you describe your symptoms accurately and completely to the doctor. Do not leave out symptoms. Describe them all. The doctor will later prepare a record of this encounter. If you leave out symptoms when talking to the doctor, those symptoms will not appear in your medical record. And that record is the best evidence of the injuries you sustained. Evidence you will need later when you make your damage claim for bodily injuries. So be thorough.
The other reason it pays to be thorough is that your doctors need complete information to diagnose and treat your injuries. So be sure and tell them everything.
Also, be sure and follow your doctors' recommendations for treatment and follow-up care. Acquire and take all prescribed medications. Schedule and attend all suggested follow-up appointments. Doing so is good for your health and your future case.
Retain legal counsel as quickly as possible. Legal cases have deadlines, so don't delay. Be sure to select an attorney who has been referred to you by someone you know and trust. Or be sure to select an attorney with a reputation for excellence and honesty.
Do not give a recorded statement to the insurance companies. The reason they want a recorded statement is that they hope you will say something that hurts your case. Don't give it to them. Consult an attorney first.
Lastly, don't accept the lowball offer you are sure to receive and don't sign away your rights. The insurance company is hoping you will settle fast and cheap. But as Elvis Presley sang: "Only fools rush in." Don't be a fool. Seek counsel.
Meet the Author
Gordon Levinson is a former insurance defense and personal injury attorney. He has represented some of the largest insurance companies in North America. Over the course of his career, Mr. Levinson has successfully represented more than 3,000 unique clients. Now, he owns and operates the Levinson Law Group, a practice specializing in representing the victims and family members of life-changing tragedies. In 2015, he published an eBook on how to deal with the aftermath of a vehicle collision. Mr. Levinson enjoys spending time with his wife and children. He also spends much of his free time traveling and coaching youth basketball.