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What Do I Do After a Wreck?

Every drive brings the risk of a wreck.  What then? First of all, stop, stay where you are, and assess the situation.  Check your own vehicle occupants for injuries and whether there is a risk of further harm, such as a fire, so that you can render aid and take precautions.  In most cases, it is best to leave the vehicles in place. Always call law enforcement (also required by law).  Calling 911 gets medical care and law enforcement on the way fastest.  Leaving is only appropriate in extreme situations, such transporting a badly injured person from a remote scene when waiting for an ambulance is not an option. Also, stay calm. Assaulting another driver (even verbally) gets you in trouble, and stops the exchange of important information.  If others need help, help them.  Worry about holding people responsible later.

Once everyone is safe, document what happened.  You must exchange contact and insurance information with other drivers.  Taking pictures of the scene, road conditions, vehicles and visible injuries, plus getting witness contact information, can prevent or clear up disputes later.  If police do not come right away, doing this yourself might be the only way to prove what happened later.

Even a minor wreck causes an adrenalin rush, so people often suffer serious injuries without realizing it.  In can take hours or even days to feel the effects.  If you know you are hurt, say so.  Never say you are not hurt until you know for sure. Even if you were checked by EMT’s or at the ER, that usually just addresses open wounds and broken bones.  Follow up if anyone involved feels worse--especially dizziness, nausea, memory issues, confusion, and changes in vision that can be signs of very serious problems, including traumatic brain injury.  If an air bag deployed, hearing loss may also occur.

Soon after the wreck, it must be reported to the insurance companies.  You need to report to your own insurance company, and it is best to contact the other driver’s company right away in case the other driver does not. Even if you were not at fault, your own insurer should be informed to get the benefits on your policy, like medical payments coverage, or having your car fixed right away while the other driver’s company investigates.  If the other driver was not insured, uninsured motorist benefits might be your only way to get compensated for injuries.  Even if the other driver was insured, if there is not enough liability coverage, underinsured motorist coverage may be needed.

Once insurance claims are open, following up with the insurance claim representative keeps the process moving.  When promises are made or assurances given, document that yourself, and ask for it in writing. With more serious the injuries, things can get more complicated. Getting legal advice and assistance can be very helpful.  Reputable attorneys do not typically charge for an initial consultation, when hired they charge a contingency fee so there will be no risk to you.


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