After a car accident, a number of factors can threaten your legal rights. It’s vital to protect those rights, especially if another driver caused your accident, and file timely. Otherwise, you could miss out on the compensation you’re legally entitled to receive.
Here are the main things you can do to protect your rights following a car accident.
Document the Scene
A lot can happen in the moments after a car accident. First of all, if you have injuries that are serious and need immediate medical attention, call 911 for an ambulance right away. Otherwise, if you are well enough to stay at the scene, you should try to do the following:
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Call the Police
In most areas and situations, you are legally required to call the police after a car accident. In Georgia, you must report an accident if there are any injuries or property damage equalling $500 or more (OCGA §40-6-273).
When you report the accident, officers will create an accident report detailing what happened. This is very important, as it creates the first evidence of the crash. You will need this report when filing your personal injury claim for damages.
Do Not Admit Fault
When you’re giving your statement to the police, be as honest as you can but do not admit fault. You may think the accident was your fault when it actually was not. Fault can only be determined by a court, and if you admit to fault you’re essentially giving up any chance you have of collecting a fair settlement award.
Don’t Trust the At-Fault Driver
You should also know that the at-fault driver may try to persuade you to not call the police. They might want to handle the accident between the two of you. But this is a red flag.
Drivers who want to avoid police involvement are often guilt in some way. They might not have enough insurance, have a suspended driver’s license, or have something else on their record that police would find out about.
You must protect your own rights after a car accident by calling the police, even if the other driver wants to avoid it.
Take Pictures at the Scene
Use your phone camera or a regular camera to take pictures of:
- The accident scene, such as the locations of all vehicles, any nearby landmarks, and every detail of the accident
- Your injuries (and any passenger injuries)
- All vehicle damage to your car
Make sure the date the pictures were taken can be easily referenced. If for some reason you don’t have a phone with a camera, you might ask any witnesses if they’ll take pictures for you.
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Talk to Witnesses
A lot of the time, other people on the road see a car accident happen. If there were any witnesses, talk to them and get their contact information. The more witnesses you have for your claim, the stronger it can be. Your car accident lawyer will want to reach out to them later for statements while working on your case.
Get Your Injuries Checked Out
If you did not need emergency medical attention at the scene, be sure to see a doctor as soon as you can afterward. Be completely honest with your doctor about any and all pain or discomfort you feel. Some car accident injuries can take time to fully manifest, and early treatment can help reduce pain or keep things from getting worse.
Also, your medical bills, records, and doctor notes are fantastic evidence in your injury claim. You will need clear evidence of these to demonstrate your physical damages.
Complete Your Medical Treatment
You should follow all orders from your doctor pertaining to treatment. You don’t want to risk losing your settlement because you didn’t follow your treatment plan. Insurance adjusters are very good at looking for ways to deny your claim—and if they get a sense that you are exaggerating your injuries, it can be detrimental to your entire case.
Take Notes About the Accident
It’s also a great idea to keep a notebook of everything you can remember about the accident. Make notes on:
- How your injuries feel—including how your pain improves or progresses with time
- Any conversations you have with the other driver or their insurance company
- Dates and times of all significant occurrences regarding the accident
- Names and contact information of all the people you’ve spoken to
- Anything else you think could have significance in your claim
Have Your Car Damage Inspected
After getting medical attention, it’s also a good idea to start getting estimates for repairs to your car. See at least 2-3 mechanics for estimates as you build your case. This will give you a good idea of how much your property damage is worth.
The other driver’s insurance company will probably want you to go to a third-party company to officially get your damage inspected for your claim. However, talking to other inspectors beforehand will help your argument when negotiating the value of your damages.
Document Your Damages
Besides keeping careful notes about the accident, you should also keep a file or folder with all relevant documents pertaining to your damages. You should keep the following in one place:
- Your claim number
- The name of the insurance adjuster on your claim
- Medical bills
- Receipts for vehicle repairs, car rentals, etc
- Full names, phone numbers, and addresses for all relevant contacts
Talk to a Car Accident Attorney
An experienced car accident lawyer should also be one of your first calls after an accident. They can make sure you are on the right track towards the best possible settlement. A good lawyer will help protect your rights by preventing the insurance company from taking advantage of you.
Insurance companies care most about reducing what they pay out on accident claims. They may look for ways to block your payments or reduce the value of your claim. But a car accident lawyer is on your side, and they will be your professional advocate from start to finish.
Be Polite, Patient, and Professional
Although it’s no substitute for having an attorney on your side, being polite and professional can go a long way during a car accident case. Also, be prepared to be patient. Unless you end up filing a lawsuit, the insurance adjuster ultimately decides the outcome of your case—initially, at least.
It generally helps your rights to stay calm, polite, and professional any time you speak to the insurance company or check up on your claim after filing it. However, if you feel you are being taken advantage of or the insurance company is purposely dragging out your claim, you should talk to your car accident lawyer. Insurers frequently cross the line, and a lawyer will know when you need to take further action.
An Attorney Can Help You Build a Strong Car Accident Claim
There are many ways you can protect your rights after being in a car accident. There is also no substitute for professional, experienced legal advice. At John Foy & Associates, we can make sure your claim stays on track and that you pursuing the fullest compensation possible.
We have been helping car accident victims win what they deserve for over 20 years—and we can help you, too. It’s risk-free to work with us because we don’t take a fee unless we win you money. To get started with your own FREE, no-obligation consultation, call our personal injury attorneys today at (404) 400-4000 or contact us online now.