Being involved in an auto accident is one of the most unsettling experiences drivers go through. As soon as the other vehicle makes impact with yours, you experience an extreme state change. Your heart rate increases, and your mind begins to race in all kinds of different directions. At this point, it is important to take a deep breath, calm down, and collect your thoughts. Next, go over your mental (or better yet paper) checklist of what to do after a car accident.
After a motor vehicle accident occurs, there are five things you should do right away:
- Remain at the Scene
Never leave the scene of an accident, even a minor fender-bender. If you leave the scene, you could face severe criminal charges, particularly if there are injuries or fatalities. If your car is drivable and you are not seriously injured, keep your hazard lights on and move it over to the shoulder or side of the road. If you have flares, set them up around the vehicles involved to further protect the scene.
- Call 911
Before you assess the damage to the vehicles, check to make sure everyone is okay. If anyone appears to have even minor injuries (including yourself), call 911 right away so those who are hurt can get immediate medical attention. Internal bleeding and other internal injuries are not always readily apparent, but they can be life-threatening. Your call to 911 will also summon the police. The police should be notified even if there are no serious injuries, so there will be an official accident report on record.
- Document the Incident
Assuming again that you are not seriously injured, you should obtain as much documentation as possible to verify what happened. Write down important facts such as the time of day, the directions and speeds each vehicle was moving, what caused the vehicles to crash into each other, etc. Take multiple photos of the scene from as many angles as possible, and if you have a dash cam or similar device (highly recommended), make sure you retain the footage going back to at least a couple minutes before the accident occurred. You will also want to speak with witnesses, document what they saw, and get their contact information if possible.
- Exchange Information
Calmly and courteously exchange information with the other driver. Do NOT make any apologies or other statements about what happened to the other driver. Provide the other driver with the required information and ask the same from them, then move on to the next step.
- Contact your Insurer
If you are able, it is best to report the incident to your insurance company while you are still at the scene. Your insurer should be able to tell you what to do next. From here, file the necessary police reports, continue to seek medical care as needed, and document everything that occurs throughout the process.
What NOT to do After a Car Accident
The five things to do immediately after an auto accident are all vitally important, but just as important is what NOT to do. Here are three things you should NOT do after a car accident in Alabama:
- Do Not Admit Fault
Whenever discussing the accident with the other driver, the police, the insurance adjuster for the other driver, or anyone else involved, NEVER admit liability of any kind. Remember, Alabama uses the “contributory negligence” standard for personal injury cases. This means that if you are found to even be slightly at fault for the accident, you will not be eligible to collect damages.
- Do Not Give a Recorded Statement to the Other Party’s Insurer
The insurance company for the other driver may contact you looking for a statement about the accident. Do not let them pressure you into giving any type of recorded statement, signing a medical release, or signing a general release. Politely inform them that you are considering hiring an attorney, and when that happens, your attorney will be in touch with them.
- Do Not Accept a Low Settlement Offer
Insurance companies are notorious for giving accident victims lowball settlement offers in an attempt to wrap the case up quickly and make it go away. Do NOT accept any type of settlement offer without first having it reviewed by an experienced Alabama personal injury attorney.
Injured in a Car Accident?
If you or someone close to you has been injured in an auto accident in Alabama, you may have the right to compensation for your injuries. Make sure to follow the guidelines in this article, then get in touch with our office right away. At Jones and Associates, our Alabama car accident attorneys have extensive experience with even the most complex personal injury cases, and we have a strong track record of success going up against the large insurers and their expensive attorneys. For your free, no-obligation case evaluation, contact us today at (334) 699-5599.