When it comes to car accidents in recent months, there is good news and bad news.
In Alberta, Canada, drivers filed 32% fewer car insurance claims following auto accidents in 2020, The Red Deer Advocate reports. Insurance companies chalk up the lack of claims to fewer people out on the roads during nation-wide lockdowns and recommendations to stay at home and avoid unnecessary outings whenever possible. As restrictions are being lifted and there are more cars out on the road, the number of car accidents is likely to go up again.
Plus, winter weather conditions can significantly increase the likelihood of car crashes. According to Lawyers.com, "17% of all motor vehicle accidents happen in winter weather conditions, and car accidents account for nearly 70% of winter fatalities."
Thankfully, the vast majority of car accidents are minor ones. However, you still need to file a claim and follow the appropriate steps following any collision or car accident. That will ensure you cover all your bases, no matter what happens after the accident. Learn how to proceed after a car accident of any severity.
Contact Your Insurance Company
According to Forbes, the average driver will get in a car accident at least once every 18 years. While car accidents are inevitable and just about all of us will be in a few throughout the course of our lives, they are rare enough that a surprising number of drivers do not know exactly how to proceed after a car accident. Too many drivers sort of "wing it" and, in doing so, they inadvertently affect their ability to file insurance claims or get compensation injuries following a crash.
Know that observing the formalities is always best. Remember, some injuries may not be obvious until days or weeks after a collision. Symptoms like whiplash, back pain, neck pain, and numbness and tingling in your limbs may not present right away. Sometimes, you may not be aware of the extent of the damage to your car until driving it around for a bit. Even a minor crash may affect your vehicle's alignment, reduce its battery life, and cause leaks. Avoid having little recourse after discovering unpleasant surprises. Always contact your insurance company.
What about cheap car insurance? Is it worth it to file a claim for minor damages if you have an inexpensive policy? Once again, it is always best to err on the side of caution. If you don't file the claim right away, you may miss your window of opportunity. Most carriers give you up to seven days to file a claim. Some carriers are a little more generous. If you do not file within this window, they will deny your claim. Plus, the other driver may sue you for damages down the line as well.
"According to Consumer Reports, a number of test crashes at just 10 mph produced damage that looked minor but priced out at $3,000 to $6,000," Nerd Wallet writes. Do not take unnecessary chances. Do not risk your claim being denied or being sued by the other driver. Remember how to proceed after a car accident, and remember that it is always best to contact your insurance, even after a fender bender or a collision with seemingly little damage.
Contact An Attorney
Currently, there are 1.34 million lawyers practicing nationwide. While you may not think it's necessary to hire an auto accident lawyer after a minor crash or even a major one, you may want to rethink that position. Why?
First, as previously stated, it is difficult to accurately assess the extent of damages and injuries immediately after an accident. You may feel emotional, shaken, or overwhelmed, or the damages and injuries simply may not be obvious at the get-go. Whatever the case may be, what may appear to be a minor accident may be much more serious than you think. Whenever you are in a crash, there are many compelling reasons to work with an accident injury lawyer. Here are just a few.
- Lawyers help protect your rights. Unfortunately, car accidents may force your hand. Injuries may leave you no other choice but to take time off work. You may not be feeling well enough to do your job, and you may need to take time off for medical appointments. Some employers are more understanding than others. While some will work with you and have a generous leave policy, others may put pressure on you and threaten your job. A lawyer knows exactly what is and what isn't legal in this situation, and they can advise you accordingly.
Should you have any other questions about your rights, a reliable lawyer can answer them.
- Legal professionals understand all aspects of the law. Are you legally obligated to file a police report or a car insurance claim? What constitutes an at-fault accident in your state? What if you live in a no-fault state? A lawyer can answer all these questions and more.
- By teaming up with a lawyer, you are much more likely to get the full compensation you are due. Finally, if you go it alone, you may not get adequate compensation for damages or injuries. At the end of the day, car insurance companies are out to make money. Of course, they operate within the law, but they also operate with the ultimate goal of paying out as little money as possible. Hire a lawyer before you file a claim. They can help if your claim is unduly delayed or denied.
Wondering how to proceed after a car accident? Start by reaching out to the appropriate people and authorities. As a general rule of thumb, it is always best to call the police, your auto insurance company, and a lawyer.
Agree On A Settlement Or Schedule A Court Date
Exactly how to proceed after a car accident may become murkier as you get further and further into the process. If you wish to have a lawyer to represent you and help you get full compensation for injuries, what happens next?
- To get the whole picture, take advantage of a free or low-cost consultation. At the very beginning of the process, schedule a one-on-one consultation with an injury lawyer. The lawyer will tell you if you have a case and, if so, how to proceed after a car accident. You are most likely to have a case if damages exceed the small claims limit, typically ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 depending on your state.
- An initial investigation will take place. Once an attorney establishes that you potentially have a case, they will investigate the defendant. During this investigation, they will find out if the defendant or the defendant's insurance company has adequate funds to settle in or out of court. If they do, the lawyer will generally ask you to go under contract at this point.
- Your attorney will file an official complaint. "The complaint is the first official document in the case, laying out in very broad detail what the plaintiff is alleging (what the defendant did, how the plaintiff was harmed, etc.)," Nolo.com writes. Your lawyer will file this complaint with the court and serve it to the defendant as well.
- The "discovery" phase begins. Pre-trial or "discovery" entails gathering evidence, asking questions, and talking to witnesses.
- As many as 90% of personal injury cases will be settled out of court. During the pre-trial or discovery process, it is entirely possible for all parties to agree on a settlement. If it's agreeable to you, a settlement can save time, money, and stress. A settlement lays out exactly what to expect, and leaves little room for surprises (unlike going to court).
- If the case is not settled, the trial process will begin. Just under 10% of personal injury cases will end up in court. This may be the case if there are excessive damages, fatalities, or if there are any unusual factors at play. For example, trucking accidents may be more likely to go to court as there is less precedence to reach a settlement.
Talk to a lawyer about how to proceed after a car accident. Expect events to follow the rough outline shown above.
Get Treatment For Your Injuries
Do not delay car accident injuries treatment. If you are seriously injured, call an ambulance or ask the police officer at the scene to call an ambulance for you. If your injuries do not require hospitalization, see a doctor as soon as possible. Even if you do not feel the immediate effects of a crash, it is always wise to see a doctor for a checkup. A doctor may be able to pick up signs that back pain, neck pain, or whiplash is imminent and properly document these signs for you.
Your doctor can help you identify the warning signs of a problem, and document any bruising, pain, or discomfort you may be feeling for an insurance claim or personal injury case.
If you do not know how to proceed after a car accident, know one thing: seeking medical attention is always appropriate. Talk to a doctor if you are seriously injured, if you sustain minor injuries, or want them to ascertain that you are not showing signs of medical conditions that may not be immediately obvious to you, like concussions or whiplash.
Get Compensation For Your Injuries
In order to get the most possible compensation for your injuries following a crash, know how to proceed after a car accident. Know what to do immediately and what to do in the days and months following the accident. Remember, getting full compensation is not indulgent or selfish. In fact, it is often necessary. Medical bills pile up faster than you think, and injuries may result in unexpected expenses.
In the immediate aftermath of a car crash, gather your own information. Exchange names, phone numbers, and insurance information with the other driver. If you fear they may do a hit-and-run, take down their license plate number. Get photographs of any damage to your vehicle, and photograph the scene. If there are witnesses, ask them to exchange information as well. Seek medical treatment as soon as possible, and keep copies of your medical records and medical bills.
In the days and months following a crash, talk to a personal injury lawyer about all of the compensation you are due. This may include damages, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering damages. Pain and suffering will cover your physical discomfort and unease resulting from the crash as well as any stress, anxiety, or depression you may suffer as a result of the crash.
Fix Your Car
Even minor crashes often result in some damages. Learn how to proceed after a car accident -- or, specifically, how to go about fixing your car. First, it is always best to speak to your insurance company as soon as possible. This will jump-start your claim. The claims process can take much longer than you might think. Filing a claim as soon as possible will help speed up the process.
After initially contacting your insurance company, take your vehicle to a reliable mechanic, preferably one with Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), American Automobile Association (AAA), or NAPA Autocare certifications. Before repairing your car, ask the mechanic to provide an estimate for your insurance company. If your mechanic notices any additional damages while repairing your vehicle, ask them to contact you or your insurance company.
Whether your car needs a new bumper, brake parts, or new paint, document everything, work with a trusted mechanic, and be transparent with your insurance company.
The Aftermath: Moving On After Your Accident
Unfortunately, moving on after a car accident isn't always an easy thing to do. Serious crashes, like a trucking accident or high-speed crashes, may cause chronic pain, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Talk to a doctor about managing chronic pain. Talk to a mental health professional if you struggle with lifestyle changes following the accident, or if you struggle to get back behind the wheel.
Too few drivers know precisely how to proceed after a car accident. Contact the appropriate professionals and authorities, including the police, your insurance company, and a lawyer. In nearly all cases, it is best to see a doctor, even if it's just for a checkup. Follow the guidelines above to get medical treatment, fix your car, and file or sue for damages.