What to Do After You’ve Been in a Car Accident
Being in a car crash can be an overwhelming experience — and unfortunately, even a low-impact collision can result in serious injuries. In the event you were hurt in an auto accident due to the negligence of another, you may be entitled to file a personal injury claim. If you’re wondering what to do after a car accident, it’s essential to be aware that there are several critical steps to take that can help ensure you obtain the compensation you deserve.
1. Call the Police Immediately After a Car Accident
The first thing you should do after a car accident is call the police. Under Washington State law, it is mandatory to contact the police if someone is injured or there is more than $700 in property damage as a result of a car crash. Even if you don’t think there has been an injury or much damage, it’s still a good idea to notify the police to have them complete an accident report. A police report is vital documentation for your insurance claim and in a personal injury case.
2. Take Photos or Video of the Accident Scene
If possible, take photos or video of the accident scene and your injuries with your smartphone. Take photos of the damage, any road conditions that could have contributed to the accident, any skid marks, and anything else that could potentially help your case. You should also be sure to document license plate numbers of the vehicles involved in the accident and take note of weather conditions.
3. Obtain the Contact Information for Witnesses
If there were any eyewitnesses who observed the accident as it happened, ask for their names and contact information. Sometimes, an at-fault driver might try to change their story to avoid liability. Eyewitnesses may be helpful in the case to support your version of the events.
4. Don’t Admit Fault to Anyone
Avoid making statements regarding fault to anyone about the accident. Saying things such as, “I didn’t see you,” or apologizing can be misconstrued by the other driver — and their insurance company — as an admission of fault. These types of statements can be used against you in your case and prevent you from recovering the monetary compensation you deserve for your injuries. Significantly, Washington is a “pure comparative fault” jurisdiction, which means you may be able to recover compensation from the other driver, as long as they were at least 1% at fault for the accident.
5. Seek Medical Treatment Immediately
Even if you don’t think you were injured, it’s crucial to seek medical treatment immediately after a car accident. Not only is this important for your health, but also for your claim. Medical documentation is the foundation of every personal injury lawsuit and can establish the extent of your injuries. Failure to obtain medical attention is detrimental to your case. By not seeking medical help right away, the other side will likely argue that you are not as injured as you claim to be — or that your injuries were caused by a different event.
6. Contact Your Insurance Company as Soon as Possible After the Car Accident
Even if the other driver was at fault for the accident, you must contact your insurance company promptly after a car accident. In your insurance policy, there is contractual language that obligates you to notify your carrier about an accident — and cooperate with their investigation.
7. Don’t Accept a Settlement
The at-fault driver’s insurance company may try to contact you before you have had the opportunity to retain an attorney. Shortly after an accident, they may try to offer you a settlement. However, this is usually a lowball offer that should not be accepted. It’s a good idea to have the representation of a personal injury attorney who can negotiate a higher settlement offer on your behalf and ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.
8. Don’t Post About the Accident or Your Injuries on Social Media
Don’t post on social media about anything related to your accident or the resulting injuries. You might even consider pausing use of your accounts while your claim is pending. The other side will try to find anything to use against you to oppose your claim. For instance, if you have sustained a leg injury and you’re tagged in a photo showing you skiing or dancing, the defendant will argue that you’re not as injured as you claim to be. Photos of you on vacation, with your friends and family, or during a night out can be taken out of context by the defense.
9. Consult with a Personal Injury Attorney After a Car Accident
Having an experienced personal injury attorney by your side can help to take the burden off your shoulders by advising you of what to do after a car accident. They can safeguard your legal rights, guide you through the process of filing a lawsuit, and work to ensure you are adequately compensated for how your injury affected your life and livelihood. But it’s critical not to wait too long to speak with an attorney — there is a specific three-year statute of limitations in Washington car accidents and once the time has run out, you will be barred from bringing a claim.
Contact a Skillful Washington Personal Injury Attorney
Knowing what to do after a car accident can be stressful, but a knowledgeable attorney can help you navigate the process. With locations in Burien and Bellevue, Herron Law Office, PLLC is dedicated to providing high-quality representation to car accident victims throughout the state of Washington. We welcome you to contact us for a consultation by calling (425) 600-2580.