A car accident is an unexpected, shocking and painful experience. It is important to your future health and finances that you know what actions to take after being involved in a car or other vehicle collision.
The issues surrounding compensation can be far simpler if you are prepared. Every case is different. Here is a brief outline of the steps to take to protect your health and your rights after being involved in an auto accident.
Injured in a Car Accident?
- Turn off your vehicle. It is very important to turn off your vehicle’s engine to reduce the risk of fire from spilled fuel. Prevent the car from rolling by setting the parking brake. Turn on the hazard lights. If anyone is seriously injured, stay in the car with seat belts on. Do not move seriously injured victims, particularly if it appears the back or neck was injured.
- Assess the injuries. After a car crash, you should assess your own condition and that of your passengers and others involved in the crash. If anyone shows signs of lacerations, bleeding, head trauma, broken bones or is unconscious, call 911 for emergency services immediately. If no one appears to be injured and the minor collision took place on a busy thruway or highway, it could be dangerous to remain in lanes of traffic. This could lead to a secondary and more serious collision. If you were involved in a minor fender bender, it is advised that the vehicles involved be moved to the side of the road and out of harm’s way.
- Take photos. Document everything at the scene with your phone or a camera you have kept in your glove compartment. The position of the vehicles, skid marks on the roadway and other data can be extremely important later. Be prepared to document the accident yourself – it could make a difference.
- Get names. Any witness to the accident should be contacted and their names, addresses and phone numbers written down. These witnesses may play a critical role in a personal injury claim. Witnesses can be difficult to track down after the fact, and you can protect yourself by ensuring you collect contact information on the scene.
- Don’t admit fault. It is a human nature to feel guilty after a collision and to apologize. It is important that you do not say that it was your fault. The true cause of the crash is not clear until all the facts are in. Remain calm and don’t panic. Be courteous, particularly when speaking with law enforcement officers.
- Get a full medical assessment. You may at first believe that you were not injured. You may just want to go home. This is natural, but can be dangerous. Certain types of injuries are not immediately evident, and some are fatal. Closed-head injuries may appear to be a “slight bump,” but in fact may be serious or fatal if not treated immediately. The body has a reaction to dangerous situations, and adrenalin is released into the system. Adrenalin can suppress pain. After a few hours have passed, you may find yourself unable to walk, sit or be comfortable anywhere. Soft-tissue injuries can be difficult to treat and may require many weeks or months to heal, depending on the severity. Go to a doctor and get fully evaluated before you return home.
- Call a car accident lawyer. It is extremely important that you have legal representation after a car accident. It is not a simple task to secure a fair settlement. Generally, insurance companies will attempt to pay you the lowest amount that they can get away with. Without legal knowledge, it can be difficult to know if you are being offered a fair settlement. In fact, you should assume you won’t be. Get legal help and save yourself from being a victim a second time.
What to Do Next
If anyone in your vehicle is injured, being prepared can save a life. It is well worthwhile to have basic first aid training that is free from the Red Cross. Take the time to learn the basics so you are not panicked and are ready to act should anyone need assistance.
We all hope that emergency services will arrive within minutes, but there are circumstances in which it may take longer. Over that period of time, your actions could save a life. Get basic first aid training at a local organization, and keep a first aid kit in your vehicle so you are prepared should a collision occur.
What Are My Rights?
If you were injured by another driver who was speeding, driving drunk, driving recklessly, distracted or otherwise negligent, you may have a right to seek compensation for your damages.
The costs involved in a serious car accident can be astronomical. The damages that may be pursued in a personal injury claim include vehicle replacement or repair, replacement transportation costs, lost wages, medical bills, hospital bills, rehabilitation, and pain and suffering, among others.
A skilled car accident lawyer can review the situation and determine the potential value of your claim based on exactly what happened and the long-term ramifications.
Injured With No Health Insurance?
If you do not have health insurance, you could end up facing high medical bills for the injuries you suffered in a car accident. You may need emergency care, surgery and other treatments. You may need long-term rehabilitation to be able to work or just to perform the basic tasks of daily living.
With no health insurance, the financial problems associated with medical bills can add significant stress. The right personal injury lawyer can direct you to medical facilities for treatment while your case is pending. Your medical bills may be paid as part of a settlement or through an award in a civil trial.
In either case, the assistance of an attorney to guide you and ensure you get correct treatment is important to your health – both physically and financially.
Injuries You Can Get in a Car Crash
The injuries in a car crash can range from soft-tissue injuries to injuries that are so severe that the victim dies at the scene or within a few hours or days. No matter what degree of injury, it is important that you have access to the best possible medical care.
The most common injuries in car accidents include open wounds, lacerations (deep cuts), sprains, strains, fractures (broken bones), spinal cord injuries (including those causing paralysis), traumatic brain injuries, burns, whiplash, back injuries and contusions (bruises).
The impact on the individual can be extremely severe, particularly in brain injury cases. The prognosis may be uncertain, and the injured person may never again function as he or she did before the accident. Others may recover some or all of normal function.
No matter what type of injury has been sustained, the costs involved in treatment will likely be significant.
What About Compensation For Your Injuries?
Depending on the level of the injuries sustained, you may be able to recover compensation for your lost wages, medical bills, rehabilitation costs, transportation costs, and compensation for pain and suffering or loss of quality of life, among other damages.
A qualified personal injury lawyer in New York City can review your case and give you a better idea of the types of compensation you may be entitled to.