Being in a wreck is frightening, painful, and disorienting. Most people have trouble thinking clearly and protecting their own interests in the immediate aftermath of a car wreck. If you have been seriously injured, even your life may be in someone else’s hands. I work with these cases for a living, and when I got rear-ended not too long ago I was fascinated by my own reaction — my heart raced and I felt the confusion and emotions my clients feel when they have been hit. Fortunately, I knew what to do, and you can too.
- Stay calm. Take a deep breath. Everything that comes after the wreck will go better if you keep your cool. Be polite.
- Call for help. Call 911 and report the crash. If you have been injured, ask for an ambulance. The most important thing is for you to take care of your health and get treatment for your injuries — everything else can be taken care of later. Having the police document the crash will also help for insurance purposes and will help you prove liability if you end up making a claim.
- Do not apologize or admit fault. You probably have good manners and are inclined to say nice things in stressful situations to make other people feel better. Resist the urge to apologize or accept any blame for whatever happened. Absolutely help and comfort those who are injured, if you are able to, but don’t say things that can be used against you down the road. Things often look clearer with a little distance and some time to collect the facts than they do in the immediate aftermath of a crash. You may even think you contributed to the crash when in fact you did nothing wrong at all. Better to save that discussion for another time.
- Take pictures. If you have a camera (and with modern phones, who doesn’t have a camera?) and it is safe to do so, take pictures of the scene, the surrounding area, the witnesses, the other driver, any passengers, and all vehicles involved. These pictures can be crucial evidence both of how the wreck occurred, which goes to the other driver’s liability, and the severity of the crash. If you cannot take pictures yourself, ask somebody else to take pictures for you.
- Identify witnesses. On the scene is your best chance to get the names and phone numbers of the people who witnessed the incident. After everybody walks away it can be a lot harder to find people who can, and are willing to, corroborate your account of what happened. Get names, phone numbers, email addresses, and any other contact information you can from any bystanders. Even those who did not see the wreck may overhear something that will later help your case.
If you are injured in the wreck, it is also a good idea to start a journal documenting the pain and limitations you experience. Unfortunately, physically recovering from car wreck injuries can be a long ordeal, and if the responsible party refuses to compensate you willingly (as is too often the case) the legal recovery can take a long time too. A journal can be very valuable if, years after the fact, you need to remember how you felt or what effect the injuries had on your life during your recovery.
If you have more specific questions about what to do in your case, please give us a call or schedule an appointment 678-909-0770.