Florida has the most car accidents out of any state in the US with more than two times as many car accidents as any other state.
There were on average over 1,095 car accidents a day during 2018.
The most common cause?
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to prepare yourself against the carelessness of other drivers, other than remaining vigilant.
What you can do is prepare yourself for the event of an accident by knowing what steps to take directly after such an unfortunate incident.
Here are the crucial steps to take if you have been in a car accident.
11 simple steps to take immediately after a vehicle accident:
1. Stop. Turn Off Your Vehicle. Turn on Hazards
If the accident is minor, and you can safely do so:
Pull over to a safe place, out of traffic, while remaining as close as possible to the scene of the accident. I.e., by pulling over to the side of the road.
Then, shift to park, turn your vehicle off and switch on the hazard lights.
Be aware; you should never drive away from the scene of a car accident without sharing details with all those involved, no matter how minor the incident.
Failing to stop (and exchange details after being involved in a crash) is a felony. Especially when it is has caused physical harm or damage to a person’s property.
If you were to drive away, you would immediately put yourself in a precarious legal position.
Here in Florida for example:
If you flee the scene of an accident which caused injuries to another person, it’s considered a third-degree felony which could result in up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
If someone died due to the accident…
…it becomes a first-degree felony with up to 30 years of jail time and a $10,000 fine.
2. Make Sure Everyone is Ok
Carefully check to see if you or your passengers are injured.
Take your time. Be cautious not to underestimate your condition.
It is common to be in a state of shock following an event such as a car accident which can temporarily block pain receptors.
People often say “I’m fine” directly after an accident only to realize later that they had suffered significant injury after their body and mind had time to process what happened entirely.
If either you or your passengers are seriously injured, call 911 immediately to seek medical attention.
Otherwise, once you have established that everyone in your vehicle is ok…
…see if any other parties involved in the accident require immediate medical attention.
3. Check Your Surroundings
Car accidents often create an obstacle which can lead to secondary accidents which is why it is often safest to pull your car over to the side of the road after an accident.
If the crash was so severe that it would be unsafe for you to move your vehicle (or if you are unable to do so):
Use cones, warning triangles or flares for added safety.
Hazard lights are also an effective way to draw attention to the road obstacle and warn surrounding vehicles of possible danger.
In an emergency:
If it is dark and you are without light, the light in your phone can be used as a flashlight to alert other drivers of the obstacle and keep you safe while you wait.
However, remember to conserve your phone’s battery for emergency calls.
Remain vigilant of your surroundings and other vehicles.
Check the scene for immediately dangerous hazards, for example, gasoline leakages, sharp objects, and exposed electrical wires.
4. CALL 911.
You must always call 911 to alert the police about the accident. It’s the law.
In Florida for example, you must report any accident where more than $500 in injuries were sustained, or damage was done to a person’s property.
The police will either merely take a statement by phone, or send officers out to the scene – depending on the severity of the crash.
If the police would like a briefing over the phone:
Provide accurate facts detailing the incident including the time of the accident, the location, contact information for all involved and details of any injuries sustained by any party.
(Police use this information to file a formal report of the incident.)
A formal police report will help you file a claim with your insurance company, even if the damage is constrained to your vehicle. The formal statement also holds significant weight in the case of a legal dispute.
5. Take Pictures
You will most likely have your phone with you. In that case, take as many pictures of the scene of the accident as possible. If your phone was damaged in the accident or you do not have it with you, ask any witnesses or other parties to take pictures for you.
Remember, pictures are evidence you can use when pursuing future claims.
Focus primarily on taking pictures of any physical damage to the vehicles and any visible injuries to your person or your passengers.
If there are any signs which reveal how the accident happened, such as skid marks, take pictures of those too.
Stay aware of surroundings while taking photos and do not let it interfere with the police while they are conducting their investigation.
Unable to take photos straight away? Then, take them as soon as possible after that. For example, after you have pulled your car over to the side of the road.
If your physical injuries do not reveal themselves till later, they can still be photographed and shared with your insurance company and lawyer as evidence of subsequent claims.
6. Provide an Accurate Record
Was the vehicle accident significant enough to warrant the police to visit the scene? Make sure to tell the investigating officer the exact details of what happened.
When you are unsure of specific facts, let the police officer know.
Never guess or assume details, or you may misstate facts. This could be detrimental to any future legal cases and insurance claims.
If the officer asks you whether you are hurt, and you are unsure…
…Say you are unsure, rather than no.
Pain and visible injuries from vehicle accidents often only become apparent multiple hours after the actual incident.
But, if at first, you state not to be injured but later wish to change that fact in the official report, it could be assumed that you are attempting to create a deceitful statement in your favor.
Attempt to be present as other parties provide their account of the incident to the officer. This will help you to ensure their statements are true and accurate.
In the event where you are unable to be present or asked to step away, you can still talk with the officer later to confirm details obtained from other witnesses or parties.
At the end of the on-scene investigation, police officers will provide you with a police report number which you can later use to obtain a formal copy of the full report of the incident.
7. Collect and Exchange Information
Make sure to get the name, address details, and phone numbers of any persons involved in the accident. Both drivers and passengers.
Ask them to see the insurance card for their vehicle. If possible, take a picture of the card and their license plate for your reference.
Are there witnesses who saw what happened?
In that case, kindly ask them for their contact information and permission to call them to gather details as to their experience of the accident.
(that way you can contact them in the future for statements to support any claims made)
On scene officers will gather everyone’s contact information. However, it is a good idea to get a copy of everyone’s contact and insurance details for your records too.
8. Call Your Insurer
Notify your insurance company of the accident at your earliest convenience.
Most insurance policies require – by contract – immediate reporting of any such accidents.
But, be aware:
Make sure not to admit, or provide them any reason to believe, that you were responsible for the crash – at least until after you have consulted your attorney.
Insurance companies make their profits when they don’t have to pay out for claims. If you provide them an opportunity to reduce your entitlement, they may take it.
While you are on the phone with your insurance agent:
Do you know whether your policy includes medical benefits? If not, ask. Generally, you would be paying an additional premium for such coverage. This cover is commonly referred to as Medpay.
If you have Medpay, you will be required to submit any medical bills due to the accident to the insurance company.
The good news is that Medpay benefits will pay for the medical bills up to your pre-arranged limit.
At which point, your private health insurance would become the primary insurer responsible further medical expenses – as outlined in your policy with them.
Keep in mind:
Your Medpay benefits cover anyone in your vehicle. So, if you are ok but your passenger was injured, your coverage will help pay their medical bills too.
9. Seek Medical Attention
As mentioned before, injuries caused by vehicle accidents aren’t always immediately obvious. They may take time before becoming apparent.
From our experience, motor vehicle accident victims often report starting to feel pain a day or two after the incident has occurred.
That is why you should always contact a medical professional and tell them about the accident.
Unless, you are sure, beyond a doubt, that you have not sustained any injury.
Unfortunately, it is often the case that accident victims only realize they have experienced significant and permanent injury when it is already too late to report. This can end up costing them thousands of dollars in medical and rehabilitation expenses.
Don’t let that happen to you.
Even small accidents involving minor traumas can lead to serious injury to the spinal cord and nerves.
Temporarily lost consciousness, even for a moment, can also lead to long term loss of cognitive ability and lifestyle restrictions.
10. Keep a File on the Accident
Keep a record for yourself of all accident-related information, such as photos, documents, and reports.
Specific information you should always hold onto includes:
your police report number
your insurance claim number
the contact information of all those who were involved in the accident
the contact information for witnesses
receipts from any expenses incurred as a result of the incident (including medical, transport and replacement of personal property.)
11. Contact Your Personal Injury Attorney.
There are three phone calls you should always make directly after an accident.
Your insurance agent
Your personal injuries’ attorney.
Your personal injury attorney will help you to protect your rights. They are there to make sure you are compensated correctly for any harm done to you, your family, or your property.
Insurance companies will request a statement immediately following an accident.
The way you word that statement can affect whether, or not, the insurance company will pay for your claim.
Your personal injury attorney is there to provide you invaluable legal advice and help you to complete your insurance statement for the fairest outcome.
The advice they may provide range from:
How to make sure you will be compensated by the insurance company for your vehicle, to;
How to ensure you receive the best medical treatment possible.
If you’re worried about legal fees on top of medical fees or fees to fix your vehicle, don’t be.
Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee.
They won’t charge you any fees unless they successfully help you receive compensation for your injuries and the loss of or damage to your personal property.
Accidents happen. That’s unavoidable.
Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do after a crash or accident to minimize any negative consequences.
Most importantly, if you’re involved in an accident:
Make sure everyone is safe
Collect and exchange information
Call the authorities and your personal injury attorney
If you have been in a crash and need to file a claim or have further queries about personal injury law, feel free to give our office a call to discuss the best outcome in your situation.
Jordan A. ShawCar Accidents: 11 things to do after a crash