Few people know what to do after a car accident, especially if you suffer injuries or significant damage to your vehicle or property. Use this guide to help you navigate the immediate aftermath of an accident and protect your legal rights to the best of your ability.
1. Get Yourself and Your Passengers to Safety
After a car crash, you might feel disoriented. Cars can spin out, roll over, or otherwise travel long distances from the primary location of impact. Take a moment in the immediate aftermath of the accident to evaluate yourself, your passengers, and your surrounding environment.
Evaluate Everyone for Injuries
Check yourself for any visible injuries and note whether you are in pain. Ask passengers in your vehicle to do the same. If anyone is injured, including occupants of other vehicles or bystanders, call 911 for emergency medical help immediately. If you are in pain but are unsure about the extent of your injuries, it is always best to be evaluated by EMTs at the scene of the accident to protect your health and safety.
If you or a passenger in your vehicle is in extreme pain and cannot move because of their injuries, stay put until emergency medical services arrive.
Get out of the Way of Imminent Danger
Unfortunately, even after the initial impact of a car crash is over, the people involved may still be in danger. If you can physically do so, assess the environment where your vehicle has come to a stop. If you are in the middle of a busy road, you are still in danger of being struck by another vehicle. If your car or another nearby vehicle is leaking unknown fluids or emitting smoke, a vehicle fire is possible. You must get yourself and your passengers to safety as quickly as possible to avoid further injury or harm.
If your vehicle is in an unsafe location and is blocking traffic, you must attempt to move the vehicle to prevent another accident. If the vehicle is mobile, drive over to the shoulder of the road or a nearby safe location like a grassy area, rest stop, or parking lot. If your vehicle cannot drive and you can do so safely, walk to a safe location away from the road where you are not at risk of being struck by another vehicle or road debris.
Often, people feel hesitant to move their vehicles after an accident because they understand that vehicle positions after a crash can provide information about what led to the accident and who was at fault. While this is true, the safety of the people involved, as well as the general public, is more important immediately after a crash.
If you can do so quickly and safely, take some photographs or videos of the positions of the vehicles before you move to a safe area. Also, take photos or videos of the surrounding environment and road conditions, as this may provide important information about the cause of the accident.
2. Call the Police
The topic of whether to call law enforcement after a traffic accident is always a point of much debate, although it should not be. It is always best to call the police after a car accident. In instances where someone has suffered injuries, New York state law requires that the involved drivers call the police. Calling the police to the scene of a crash can also help protect your legal rights.
When a police officer arrives at the scene of a crash, they will first ensure all parties are safe and that anyone in need of medical attention receives it. They will then collect contact information from all drivers and passengers involved in the accident. This includes driver’s license numbers, insurance information, and employer information if a commercial vehicle is involved.
The police officer will also conduct a preliminary investigation of the accident scene to determine what caused the accident. If one or more of the drivers broke a traffic law or a driver was driving under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating substance, the officer will issue citations or make an arrest, as they deem necessary.
The officer uses the information they gather at the scene of the accident to create an official accident report. The drivers’ insurance companies often use this report to help them determine who was at fault for the accident. Anyone can request a copy of this report online, by mail, or in person.
In Brooklyn, the New York City Police Department usually responds to traffic accidents. However, if an accident occurs on an interstate or state route, the New York State Police may respond instead. If you are able, ask the officer who responds to your accident which agency and precinct they work for. With this information, you can request the report in person once it is complete, which is often the fastest way to obtain your accident report.
3. Gather Evidence and Information at the Scene
If you can physically do so, you can help protect your legal rights by gathering your own evidence at the scene of the accident. An accident scene can provide vital information for your insurance claim, and the evidence you gather could contradict what the officer records in their report about who was at fault.
You should take photos of or write down anything that seems relevant to you.
- The position of the vehicles after impact.
- The license plate numbers, makes, and models of the vehicles involved.
- The damage to your vehicle and other vehicles and property involved.
- Any visible injuries to you or your passengers.
- Statements by bystanders and other witnesses about the events leading up to the crash.
4. Get Medical Care
Often, when someone receives serious or obvious injuries in a car accident they are transported directly to the hospital. However, not all serious injuries are visible or present symptoms right away. In fact, some injuries, such as internal bleeding, nerve damage, brain injuries, or spinal cord injuries, can progress slowly after an accident.
After a chaotic accident, victims are full of adrenaline, which can mask the symptoms of some extremely serious conditions. In many cases, an accident victim may feel fine at first, and symptoms may not start to appear for a day or more. If you have been in a car accident, it is important to continue to monitor your health in the days and weeks after the accident. Go to the emergency room or an urgent care clinic if you begin to develop symptoms or experience pain that you did not have before the accident.
It is vital to seek medical attention at the first sign that you are injured. The sooner you document your injury and begin to get the treatment you need, the better it will be for your health and the outcome of your car accident claim. Some accident victims want to tough it out or believe an injury is minor and will heal on its own. This can be a dangerous path to take, and it not only can jeopardize your health, it can also make it very difficult to recover the compensation you deserve from the at-fault driver.
If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident, you should seek medical attention from an emergency care center as soon as possible.
Emergency Medical Centers in Brooklyn and Nearby Areas
- Emergency Department at NYU Langone Health – Cobble Hill
- New York Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital
- Emergency Department at NYU Langone Hospital – Brooklyn
- New York Community Hospital
- New York Presbyterian Hospital – NY Weill Cornell Medical Center
5. Notify Your Insurance Company
Under the terms of your car insurance policy, you are likely required to notify your insurer about an accident within a specified period. This requirement applies to all accidents you are involved in, not just accidents where you may be at fault.
When you contact your insurance company, keep in mind that you are only required to notify them that an accident occurred and to provide factual details such as where and when the collision took place. You can also share the other drivers’ contact and insurance information, but this is not a time to provide a statement or your opinion as to who is at fault or how the accident happened. Do not make any statements or admissions to your insurance company or any other insurance company without first consulting an attorney.
Even though you pay your insurance company for insurance coverage, they are not on your side. Insurance companies are in business to make money, and even your own company would rather not pay your claim. Insurance companies often use driver statements to justify reducing their payout or even denying a claim outright. It’s best to seek an attorney’s help when communicating with an insurance company after an accident, especially one that resulted in serious injuries or extensive vehicle damage.
Should You Speak to the Other Driver’s Insurance Company?
The other driver’s insurance company may be eager to speak with you after an accident occurs, especially if their insured was at fault for the accident. They may even attempt to contact you in the hours after a crash. Like your own insurer, the other driver’s insurance company will try to use what you say to deny your claim or reduce their payout of your claim. You are not required to speak with any insurance company other than your own, and it is best to avoid doing so.
6. Keep a Record of Vital Information
The aftermath of a car accident can be hectic, especially if you must seek medical care for serious injuries. People often believe they will remember the important aspects of their accident or their experience recovering from the injuries, given that a car accident is a major life event. But the passage of time can muddle a person’s memories, making it difficult to remember details that could prove important later on.
As soon after the accident as possible, you should record your memory of what happened and start to gather all of the information you can about the accident in one place. You can use your mobile phone to record notes, keep documents on your computer, or just write things down with a simple pen and notebook. What’s important is that you can refer back to your notes in the future to refresh your memory about what happened, and about your
experience recovering from the accident.
7. Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
A car accident lawyer can advocate for your rights and interests against insurance companies and at-fault parties after you are injured in a car accident. You should focus on recovering from your injuries rather than being stressed about seeking reimbursement for your accident-related damages.
An attorney can guide you through the car accident claims process and help you negotiate a settlement for your accident-related losses. If necessary, an attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf and represent you through this process, as well. Contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible after you are injured in a motor vehicle accident for an evaluation of your case.