A car accident is a traumatizing and overwhelming experience, especially when you or your loved one is injured. While you should prioritize seeking medical attention, you should take other crucial steps after an accident to maximize compensation and avoid legal implications. If you are involved in a car accident in Washington State, here are nine steps to take to ensure your safety and protect your legal rights.
It can be tempting to leave the scene, especially when you feel the accident is your fault and an individual has been injured or property is damaged. However, this could lead to legal implications and fines. If you are involved in an accident, stay at the scene and exchange information such as contact and insurance details. With that being said, do not converse with the other party beyond sharing contact information. Avoid apologizing, admitting fault, or saying anything that could deny or reduce your compensation value.
Be sure to determine whether you and the other parties are injured. Call 911 if you notice any signs of injuries so they can send an ambulance to the accident scene. You could help make the wounded individuals comfortable. However, avoid offering assistance beyond your training or moving the injured person, as this could result in further injuries.
Whether the accident was fatal or a minor fender-bender, it is best to contact the police to report the incident. Although Washington state does not require one to file a report for accidents with minor injuries and property damage of less than $ 1,000, ensure you contact law enforcement within four days. This is because the full impact of an auto accident is not known until it’s too late.
The responding officers often write a detailed report that includes statements of the parties involved and eyewitness accounts, among other critical details. Be sure to ask the police for a copy of the report. The details in the report can help you and your Washington State auto accident attorney build a solid personal injury claim in the future.
You must collect evidence regarding the accident. This helps you build a solid claim and protect yourself against future lawsuits. Take pictures of the vehicles involved, location and street, road signs, traffic signals, skid marks, weather and road conditions, and other details at the accident scene that could support your claim.
If you identify any accident witnesses, ensure you obtain their names, contact information, and addresses. Eyewitness testimony is helpful when the other parties change their version of the crash.
No matter whose fault the car accident was, ensure you notify your auto insurance company as soon as possible. Most insurance providers require prompt notification, so failing to do so could reduce the compensation value. Contacting your insurance company also allows them to investigate the accident to determine the compensation you deserve.
However, be careful of what you say to your insurer and the other driver’s insurance providers. Ensure you only provide the insurance company with facts about the accident. Do not admit fault, say you feel fine or answer queries about whose fault the accident was. You could even politely decline to record a statement until you consult your lawyer.
Even if you are not in any pain after a car accident, it is best to undergo a thorough medical evaluation right away. Most severe injuries, including spinal cord injury, internal bleeding, and traumatic brain damage, take days, weeks, and even months before their symptoms become apparent. By seeking medical assistance immediately after you are involved in an accident, you could identify the issues before they worsen and get treatment.
Failing to seek medical attention within the first few days after an accident could hurt your claim. This is because your insurers could argue that your injuries are not severe or they are unrelated to the crash. By consulting a healthcare provider immediately, you will likely obtain medical records you could include in your evidence to build a solid case.
Insurance companies will want to close the case soon and pay you as little as possible. This means they will immediately offer a settlement that is way below what you deserve. Do not accept it. Instead, have your lawyer by your side as you negotiate a favorable settlement. You should also record all phone calls and in-person meetings with insurance adjusters and keep track of all correspondence to improve the odds of getting a fair and equitable settlement.
Track all expenses, including medical bills, rental vehicle fees, and auto repairs. Your insurer or the other party’s insurance company should compensate you for all accident-related costs. Keeping a detailed record of these expenses will strengthen your case and increase the chances of getting a fair reimbursement.
Whether the accident was your fault or not, or you have sustained an injury, it is always best to enlist the support of an experienced auto accident attorney. This lets you focus on physical recovery as the lawyer handles other aspects of your claim. A car accident lawyer can:
- Liaise with accident reconstructionists and professional investigators who can visit the incident scene to gather evidence, take pictures, and record details that can help determine liability
- Interview witnesses
- Review critical evidence found in medical records, police reports, and accident reconstructions to help you build a solid case.
- Negotiate with insurance providers on your behalf to secure equitable and fair compensation.
- Represent you in a court of law if you are faced with a legal suit or negotiations with your insurance company does not yield a fair settlement.
Be sure to take your time when choosing an auto accident attorney to ensure you are fairly represented. This boosts the odds of getting a favorable compensation that helps you move forward with your recovery.
Although a car accident is a stressful and traumatic experience, knowing what to do after the incident can help protect your rights and get fair compensation. Avoid leaving the accident scene, contact the police, gather evidence, seek medical treatment, and hire an auto attorney to protect your interests.