A car accident can be anything from a tiny bump in the parking lot to a 12-car pile up against a jack-knifed articulated lorry. In real, human terms, they can range in severity from a minor annoyance to a fatality even up to something as horrible as losing your family. Accidents happen, of course, and anyone can make a mistake, no matter how careful the driver. There are more people on the roads every year, however, and not all of them are as careful as they should be. Unfortunately, I wasn’t fully rested after a binge weekend of partying and thankfully I walked away alive with my car crushed like a can but I was whole. Regardless of whatever the damage sustained in a car accident, it’s hard to keep a clear head at the time, and it’s easy to forget what you should do in the event of a car crash. If you’re involved in a car accident as I was, the first thing you need to remember it to stay SAGE – Stop, Assess, Get help, Exchange details
STOP the car.
ASSESS the immediate damage – particularly any injuries to yourself or others, and environmental dangers like fuel spillages or debris. Safety is your priority right now.
GET help; especially if anyone’s hurt or the accident has created a hazard for other people – or if anyone involved has behaved illegally, for example by driving dangerously or failing to stop when involved in an accident.
EXCHANGE details with everyone involved, including passengers and witnesses. If you can, take pictures of the vehicles involved, the immediate environment, and any immediately obvious injuries. Write down everything you can about what happened, including driving conditions.
Unfortunately for myself, I was completely unaware of these and things could’ve turned out much worse for me than they did. Thankfully, they did not. Here’s a variety of things I learned soon after the initial incident, you need to get in touch with your insurance broker, even if you don’t currently think you need to make a claim; this can help protect you if someone tries to make a claim against you.
It’s important at the scene of the accident that you do not say anything that could be taken as an admission of guilt. Even minor car accidents are extremely traumatic and the circumstances surrounding them can be very complex, so you’re in no fit state to either be able to fully assess your potential injuries, or to make any kind of appraisal of causality. You need to seek professional medical advice before you can be sure that you’ve sustained no injury from the accident, and you need to have professional legal advice before making any statement about the circumstances of the crash. Insurance claims have been overturned on nothing but the evidence that someone said ‘sorry’ or ‘I’m fine’ at the scene.
Getting an experienced, reputable car accident lawyer means you have professional help to get the monetary recompense that you need to get through this difficult time. Without due compensation you could be struggling alone with hospital bills, loss of earnings, emotional distress, all the terrible repercussions of a road traffic accident – not to mention the loss of your vehicle. Calculating the cost in real terms of being involved in a car accident can be difficult and requires a specialist, expert advice. Choosing a firm of lawyers who specialize in car accidents means that you benefit from years of experience in making successful claims. Some law firms have direct links to medical and recuperative services like whiplash or post-traumatic stress specialists. All you need to take away the stress and burden of the aftermath of a car accident. They can even arrange a hire car for you.
The best way to protect yourself in the event of a car accident and ensure that your claims for injury or damages are successful is to keep a cool head, start looking through reputable car accident lawyers and:
Do not say anything that could be taken as an admission of responsibility for the accident.
Ask for details of all parties involved, including passengers and witnesses. It’s unlikely that any other driver involved will refuse to give details, but there are some reasons why they might refuse, such as being uninsured or having significant driving penalties already on their record. The penalty for refusing to give insurance details varies by State, and the severity of the penalty imposed depends on the reason they wouldn’t give details, but you’re within your rights to involve the police over this. At the very least, take down the details you can – the car’s registration, and a description of the car and its occupants.
Write down the sequence of events and circumstances as fully as you are able. A car accident can feel like it happened in a flash, or sometimes people feel that they were moving in slow motion. If you can write down everything as it happened with times and descriptions, that can be extremely useful in making a claim. It can also help to keep an ongoing journal afterward detailing the effects of the accident – did any injuries become apparent, was your mental health affected, what medical bills did you incur, did you miss any work? Details of any healthcare professionals you encountered during this time can also be important. Make a note of any phone calls or contact you receive from the other parties involved or their representatives, and direct them to straight to your lawyers.
Photograph everything. Nearly everyone carries a smartphone around these days – that means carrying an instant digital camera, audio, and video recording devices, and memo pad all in one. It records the time any phone calls, for example to emergency services, were made. You can use it to instantly send evidence to your lawyer. Mobile phone technology can make or break a claim.
Car accidents can be life-changing, debilitating, even catastrophic. Nobody wants to be injured in a car accident and have to make an insurance claim, but accidents do happen. State legislation surrounding vehicle insurance is evidence enough for that. You don’t want to be in this position, but you need to know that you’ll get the help you need to see you through this difficult time. Getting legal representation to help you through damage or injury claim is not about looking for someone to blame, it’s not personal, it’s just the best way to ensure that you and your loved ones are supported and protected in the event of a car accident. Just remember to be safe and be responsible!