​What to Do After a Car Accident: Your Essential Checklist

After a car accident, you may have a lot of things on your To-Do list. You do not want to let anything slip through the cracks while handling your medical care and injury claim. You should also make sure that you keep your employer apprised of your continuing needs. Please take a look at our car accident checklist to learn more about what you should do after a car accident and how to protect yourself best.

After a car accident, contact a car accident lawyer to help take some of the weight off your shoulders and assist you with managing an injury claim.

At the Accident Scene

Your responsibility starts at the scene of a car accident. You may need to collect vital evidence that can help establish the other party’s liability for the accident and the compensation you may deserve for any injuries you sustained.

Check for Immediate Medical Needs

Always prioritize checking for immediate medical needs after any car accident. Even a minor fender bender can result in lacerations, bruising, head injuries, or broken bones, often more severe than you think. Check for injuries before you do anything else at the accident scene.

Report the Accident to the Local Police

You should never leave the scene of an accident unless you need to seek immediate medical attention. Instead, report the accident to the local police. Wait at the scene for police to arrive and issue a police report.

Take Photos

If you can move around the scene of the accident, and it does not either put you in unnecessary danger because of the traffic or because of your injuries, you should take photos of the accident scene. Those photos will serve as evidence of what may have contributed to the car accident.

You may need photos of:

  • Damage to your vehicle
  • The other vehicle’s make and model
  • The other vehicle’s license plate
  • Damage to the other vehicle
  • Contact information for the other driver (license, insurance information, etc.)

Medical Care

Even if you do not think you sustained severe injuries in the accident, you should have a doctor look you over, especially if the accident caused substantial damage to either vehicle. Sometimes, the adrenaline from the accident or overall disorientation related to a frightening event can camouflage the symptoms of injuries, including brain injuries and even broken bones. A doctor can help review your injuries and make sure that you receive the comprehensive medical treatment you need to increase your odds of making a full recovery.

Have Your Injuries Checked

Even minor injuries could prove more serious than you think, especially if you do not receive the treatment you need. Have a doctor look over your injuries, whether you go straight to an emergency room or visit a local urgent care center.

Track Your Medical Bills

You may have to pay a co-pay immediately at the emergency room or urgent care center in some cases. You should start keeping track of any medical bills immediately. Medical costs can add up substantially after a serious accident. You do not want to lose track of those bills since you can include them as part of an injury claim later.

Follow Care Providers’ Instructions

Your care provider may have a lot of advice regarding your recovery.

You may need:

  • Specific procedures to treat your injuries
  • Physical therapy.
  • Occupational therapy to help you learn how to cope with the impact of long-term or lifelong injuries
  • To avoid certain activities until you recover from your immediate injuries and receive care for your immediate medical needs.
  • To perform certain actions or exercises daily to help increase your odds of making a full recovery

Do not ignore any of the instructions given by your medical care provider or providers. Your care team will work with you to develop a care plan that will help you recover as much as possible. Ignoring those instructions leads to longer-term disability, but it may also cause you to miss out on some of the compensation you could otherwise recover for your injuries.

Failure to follow a care provider’s instructions could cause substantial limitations and lead to the need for further medical procedures or care, which the insurance company that covers the liable driver may not cover.

Clarify Your Health Insurance Coverage

After an accident that results in injury, you may find yourself relying on your health insurance to cover many of your long-term medical costs. Your insurance provider will likely contact you soon after your emergency room visit to ask how the accident occurred and whether someone else bears liability. Your insurance provider will also want to know whether you have PIP insurance, which can provide immediate coverage for some of the initial medical costs associated with your car accident.

Talk to your insurance provider about what coverage you have, especially regarding your long-term medical care needs.

For example, you may need to ask about:

  • Co-pay amounts
  • Your annual deductible
  • Your out-of-pocket maximum for healthcare costs for the calendar year
  • Whether you have coverage for durable medical equipment
  • Your coverage for in-home care or a stay in a long-term care facility, if needed
  • What providers your insurance covers as in-network. Make sure you ask about any specialists you may need to see to maximize your recovery
  • How many sessions of physical therapy your insurance will cover, and what percentage of those sessions the insurance policy will cover
  • Whether your insurance offers assistance with occupational therapy
  • Mental health services, if you need them to help you cope with potential long-term limitations

Knowing what medical insurance coverage you have can make it easier to lay out specific medical decisions you may need to make after your accident. For example, if you know what providers are in-network, you may choose the ones who will best work with your needs more easily.

Make All Follow-up Appointments

If your doctor wants you to follow up or receive further care for your injuries, make sure you attend those appointments. Sometimes, accident victims assume that they have made a full recovery and do not need to attend further appointments. However, your doctor may have a better idea of your further medical needs in many cases. Furthermore, your doctor can help provide evidence for the insurance company in the case of your car accident claim.

Your Legal Rights

After a serious accident, you may have the legal right to file an injury claim against the driver that caused your accident. However, you may need to follow several steps to protect your right to compensation.

Contact an Attorney

Contact an attorney as a first step in discovering your legal rights after a serious accident. An attorney can help deal with the insurance companies for you, whether you need to seek compensation through your insurance policy or pursue compensation from the other driver. If you sustained an injury in a car accident, contact an attorney before you talk with the insurance company since the attorney may better understand your rights and the policy terms.

An attorney can help guide you through the claim process, from calculating the compensation you reasonably deserve for injuries sustained in the accident to fighting the insurance company, when necessary, for the full compensation you may deserve. An attorney can also look at all relevant insurance policies to provide you with more information about the terms of the policy and what compensation you may expect.

Use Your PIP Coverage

Personal injury protection coverage exists to assist with compensation for the initial medical bills that often emerge after a serious accident. If you sustained an injury in the accident, you might have the right to use your PIP coverage. Contact your insurance provider to discuss the terms and limits of your policy since they may determine how much compensation you deserve.

Notify Your Insurance Provider

You may need to notify your insurance provider about the accident in some cases. Sometimes, you may want to handle this process on your own: if your insurance provider needs a heads up about any accident, for example. In other cases, you may have your attorney notify your insurance company for you.

You may need to let your attorney deal with the insurance company if:

  • You got into an accident with a driver who did not carry insurance, and you need to use your uninsured motorist coverage
  • Your accident involved a driver who carried only minimum auto insurance, which will not cover your financial losses related to the accident, and you need to use your uninsured motorist coverage
  • You have questions about how your accident will impact your future insurance costs and want to make sure that the questions get addressed properly

Your insurance provider will not typically raise your rates for an accident caused by another driver. However, you may need an attorney to go over the terms of your policy and the company’s tactics to make sure of your future insurance needs.

Your Employer

A car accident can significantly impact your ability to handle your work. Sometimes, you may end up out of work after the initial accident.

Notify Your Employer About the Accident

As soon after the accident as possible, you should notify your employer that you suffered injuries and will likely need time off to deal with them. You may spend more time than anticipated out of work after the accident, so you cannot provide your employer with a solid idea of what to expect immediately. However, you can give your employer a general idea of your injuries, especially if you suspect you will need considerable time off.

Discuss Your Ongoing Limitations and Your Plan for Returning

As your recovery progresses, keep your employer in the loop as much as possible.

Your employer may need to know:

  • When you can reasonably expect to return to work after the accident.
  • Any modifications you will need to help you return to work after the accident, including modifications in scheduling.
  • What challenges may prevent you from returning to work.
  • Whether you will have ongoing follow-up appointments that you may have to deal with.

Talk to your employer to create a comprehensive plan to help you return to work when you can deal with those challenges. Make sure you follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding your return and the activities you can reasonably handle.

Your Vehicle

A serious accident can cause severe damage to your vehicle. Do not take the vehicle to a repair shop until the liable driver’s insurance company authorizes you to do so. If you start repairs before the insurance company can look at the vehicle, the insurance company may not cover those repairs.

Moreover, don’t take your vehicle for repairs until your lawyer has a chance to inspect it. The damage to your car may provide your lawyer with valuable evidence to use in your claim. Repairing it before your lawyer can document the damage can make your claim much harder to prove.

Get an Estimate From a Certified Shop

Choose a certified repair shop from the list provided by the insurance company. That shop will estimate what it will cost to repair your vehicle. The insurance company can then choose whether to repair the vehicle or total it, in which case, you would receive compensation for the vehicle’s value.

Choose How You Want to Take Care of Repairs

Andrew Finkelstein Jacoby & Meyers LLP

Car Accident Lawyer, Andrew Finkelstein

In some cases, you may not want to use the shop chosen by the insurance company for your vehicle repairs. You may choose, instead, to use your mechanic. You have the right to choose who you want to handle your vehicle repairs. However, keep in mind that it may prove more difficult to get the insurance company to pay for additional repairs their shop didn’t find.

After an accident, you have plenty of things to take care of. Contact a car accident lawyer to help take some of the weight off your shoulders and assist you with managing an injury claim.