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10 Things To Do After A Car Accident & 5 Things You Should Never Do

By: Scott R. Gunst, Jr., Esquire[i]

In 2016 there were 312,172 car accidents in Michigan resulting in 1,064 fatalities and 79,724 injuries.[1]  Car accidents are a daily occurrence and if you are involved in one it is important to know what to do.  How you react immediately following a car accident can greatly affect your rights.

Below is a list of the top ten things you should do immediately following a car accident and five things you should never do to.

1.     Preparation: Be prepared before you are involved in a car accident.  There is an old military saying; “Proper preparation prevents piss poor performance.” Having what you may need in your car before an accident happens may greatly help reduce your stress when an accident occurs.  It is important to have the following in your car before an accident.

·        Roadside Emergency Kit: These kits usually contain important items such as emergency road flares, flashlight, and first aid kits.

·        Paperwork: Have your registration and insurance information readily available in a folder inside your glovebox.  You will need to produce these items to the police after an accident.

·        Notepad and Pencil: Put a notepad and pencil in your glovebox so you can take down the other drivers’ insurance information or witness contact information or jot down notes of the accident.

·        Cellphone: Place your cellphone in the glove box before you start driving.  The forces experienced in even a minor car accident can send unsecured items in your car flying.  Having your cellphone in the glovebox ensures that after an accident you know exactly where your phone is and you are able to call the police and take pictures of the accident scene.

2.     Stop and Secure the Scene: NEVER leave the scene of an accident.  In Michigan leaving the scene of an accident involving sever bodily injury or death will result in felony criminal charges, and criminal penalties including jail time and fines.[2]  Your safety and the safety of your passengers is top priority. Ensure you and your passengers are safe.  Turn off the car, and turn on your hazard lights. Safely exit the vehicle and set up road flares found in your roadside emergency kit to direct traffic around the scene.  If you smell or see gas coming from any of the vehicles DO NOT set up road flares.

3.     Call 911: It is important to always call 911 immediately following an accident.  Having a police report is a valuable piece of evidence documenting the events of the accident and may be required by your insurance provider to file a claim. Be wary if the other driver does not want to notify the police, ignore their request and call the police. If they try to drive away try and capture a picture of their license plate or write the plate number down.

4.     Accident Report: It is important to tell the police exactly what happened to the best of your ability.  If you do not know certain facts or answers to the officer’s question tell the officer.  Do not speculate, guess, or misstate any facts of the accident.  Ask the police officer how you can get a copy of the police report and be sure to request a copy.

5.     Medical Treatment: It is important to seek medical treatment immediately following an accident.  Unless you are absolutely certain that you are not injured you should always seek medical attention.  Minor headaches or chest pains could be a sign you experienced brain trauma or are bleeding internally.  If left untreated these minor symptoms may lead to a life threatening condition.

6.     Write Down Everything: Typically the police will exchange driver’s insurance information which will be contained within the accident report.  You should still exchange insurance information with the other drive. If there are witnesses get their contact information and ask them what they saw.  You should also make a note of the accident report number from the police officer.  This will be necessary to obtain a copy of the Accident Report once it is prepared. It is important to write down what you remember as soon as possible while the accident is still fresh in your mind.  Be sure to note all medical professionals you have received treatment from and the dates of your treatment.  You should also document how the accident has impacted your life.

7.     Photograph Everything: As soon as you are able to you should be photographing the accident scene.  Get photographs of all the damage to the vehicles, the other vehicle’s license plate and Vehicle Identification Number.  It is important to photograph your injuries and continue to photograph your injuries as they heal.  The more photographs the better.

8.     Notify Your Insurance Company: Notify your insurance company as soon as possible.  Many insurance policies require immediate notification of all accidents and full cooperation from you.  Your insurance company will direct you on what steps to take and take the relevant details from you to start your claim.  If you have sought medical attention notify your insurance provider which doctors you have been treated by.  Ask your insurance provider for a copy of the insurance policy and write down your claim number and the contact information of the adjuster, you will need to referrer to this number when communicating with your insurance provider, seeking medical attention and arranging to have your car repaired.

9.     Repairing Your Vehicle: As the vehicle owner you have a right to choose where your car is repaired. Your insurance company will often recommend a body shop but you do not need to use them.  If your car requires auto body repair after your car accident it is important that you find a good body shop that you feel comfortable with.  Do your research and ask family and friends for recommendations. 

10.  Keep a File: It is important that you keep all your accident-related documents together.  This includes, the Accident Report; insurance information, claim number, and adjuster’s contact information; notes you have of the accident; receipts for all out of pocket expenses including a rental car; medical records and receipts; and photographs.  I recommend getting an expandable divider portfolio to organize all your information.

Five things you should never do following a car accident.

1.     Never Leave the Scene: At the risk of sounding repetitive you should NEVER leave the scene of the accident.

2.     Never Claim Responsibility: Never admit guilt or responsibility for an accident even if it is your fault.  If you are involved in a car accident wait for the police to show up and be honest and give them the facts of what happened but avoid admitting fault. The only information that should be exchanged with the other driver is your name, vehicle, make model, year, color, and VIN, your insurance company information, your agent’s name and phone number and policy number.

3.     Lose Your Cool: A car accident can be a very stressful situation, being angry and irate will only make matters worse.  Always try and maintain your calm throughout the entire process and show the other driver respect.  Listen to what the police say about the accident and follow their instructions. 

4.     Never Sign Anything Unofficial: You should only sign documents provided to you by police, your doctor or your insurance provider.  You should only give out necessary facts and not your opinion and refuse to sign anything that could be used against you at a later date. NEVER sign anything without reading it and if you do not agree with what it says DO NOT SIGN IT regardless of the source.

5.     Never Speak to the Other Party’s Insurance Company:  The other driver’s insurance company will try and get you to settle your claims as quickly and for as little as possible. The insurance adjuster will try and act like your friend and ask to record a statement about what happened in the accident, they will try and use this statement against you to settle the claim.  If you are contacted by an insurance adjuster before you have retained counsel inform the adjuster that you are looking at attorneys and you will pass your attorney their information once one has been retained.  If you have retained counsel immediately inform the adjuster that you have retained counsel and to direct all future contact to your attorney.

The most important thing you can do to protect your rights and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve after a car accident is to hire an attorney who specializes in auto accident cases.  No one wants to be involved in a car accident but if you are your attorney can protect your rights and negotiate with the insurance company to ensure that you receive the settlement you deserve.

The experienced car accident lawyers at Biggs & Gunst P.C. will fight to protect your legal rights and pursue all available forms of compensation for the injuries you sustained as quickly as possible.  To speak with an attorney in our office about your case, call 734-263-2320 to arrange a free consultation.


Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For questions or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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[i] Scott Gunst is a shareholder in the firm of Biggs & Gunst P.C. and is licensed to practice in Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.  He is awaiting admission in Michigan.

Brandon Biggs