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Even the best drivers can wind up in car accidents — there are more than 118,000 each year in Chicago alone. Even when the immediate danger is past, a car accident can have lingering effects on your health and your financial well-being. If you or a loved one have been in a car accident, you may have lots of questions, both at the scene of the crash and after.

I’ve Just Been in a Crash, What Do I Do?

Damaged Vehicle in Street

Photo by Michael Jin on Unsplash

The first thing you need to do is make sure you and any passengers you have are OK. If no one is seriously injured, get to a safe place. If your vehicle is still drivable, move it to the side of the road, but do not leave. Never leave the scene of a crash. After you have made sure everyone is safe, call 911. Even if the accident seems minor, it is important to contact the authorities for assistance. Many insurance companies require a police report for filing claims, and it’s required by law in some states.

The Police Have Arrived, What Do I Tell Them?

Tell the police exactly what happened to the best of your ability. Be honest about what you do not remember, too. Accidents are confusing and disorienting even when you aren’t injured. There is no need to fill in the gaps in your memory with guesses. If you are not sure about something, tell the officer you are not sure. If the officer asks if you have been hurt, wait until you know for sure before saying no. It can take hours or even days for pain and injuries from accidents to kick in.

If possible, you should also make sure the statements from other people involved in the accident are accurate. That includes any other drivers and their passengers who may have been involved in an accident. If you believe someone else is misstating the facts of the accident, let the officer know.

Should I Take Pictures of the Accident?

If you can, you should take pictures of the accident scene and any visible damage to your vehicle. You should also try to take pictures of any visible injuries you suffered during the accident. Make sure you are safe while taking the pictures and that you do not interfere with traffic or first responders. If you can’t take pictures immediately, take them as soon as you can.

Who Should I Talk to Besides the Police?

Typically, the police will gather contact and insurance information for any drivers involved in an accident. If the police do not respond, make sure you get the name, address, and telephone numbers of everyone involved in the accident. This includes drivers as well as any passengers involved. You should also ask to see their insurance card to take down their information. If there are any witnesses, try to get their names and contact information, too, so you or your attorney can contact them in the future.

If the police have responded, make sure you get the police report number so you can obtain a copy later. Make a note of which police agency handled the crash. If it happened on a highway, you may need to get the report from state police instead of local authorities. You can often look up these reports online.

When Should I Contact My Insurance Company?

You should contact your insurance company as soon as possible after an accident. Many policies require you to contact your insurance company and cooperate with their investigation. A claims adjuster will tell you what information they need to process any claims. If you have paid for accident medical coverage, you will need to provide your medical bills to your insurer, as well.

Should I Go to the Doctor?

The pain and injuries from an accident can take hours or days to show up. Even if you feel fine, it is a good idea to get checked out and see if you have suffered any less obvious injuries. The documentation provided by your doctor can also help you with filing your claim and making sure the costs of your treatment are covered.

What Should I Do With All of This Information?

As you can see, you need to gather a lot of information in the aftermath of a car accident. There will be more information to collect after the crash, too, from your insurer, doctor, and police. Keep a file of all the information you receive in relation to the accident. That includes contact information, damage estimates, and a copy of the police report when you can get it.

Do I Need To Get a Lawyer?

Hiring a lawyer is the best way to make sure you get the maximum protection after an accident. Even if you may have been partly at fault, firms like the Alvarez Law Office will work to make sure you get financial compensation for the percentage of the accident that was not your fault. An attorney can also take care of negotiating with the insurance companies to make sure you get what you are owed. Your attorney will work to find out how much money you should receive for your claim, beyond just the cost to repair your vehicle.

Even if you are unsure of whether you need a lawyer, many firms offer free consultations. Some specialists like the Alvarez Law Office also have a no-win, no-fee guarantee, so that even if you don’t win your case, you won’t lose money by contacting them.

The most important thing to do after an accident is to protect yourself. That starts with getting to safety, but it also includes getting as much information as you can, being honest with police and your insurance company, and getting in touch with an attorney. Even if you don’t need their services, they can help you understand your options. If you have trouble getting what you’re owed, the Alvarez Law Office can fight to get you the compensation you deserve. If you’ve been in a car accident, give us a call today.