Help! I’ve Been In A Car Crash! What Now? – The First 24 Hours
Summary: We cover the most pressing questions people have immediately following a collision, including the information-gathering process, police and incident reports, what to do about the other person's insurance, at-the-scene documentation, and if and when you need to call the police.
Help! I’ve Been In A Car Crash! What Now? – The First 24 Hours
In this essay, we are going to cover the most pressing questions people have immediately following a collision, including the information-gathering process, police and incident reports, what to do about the other person's insurance, at-the-scene documentation, if and when you need to call the police, what to file within the first couple days, and whether you should make any statements to other parties involved in the collision. More importantly, we are going to discuss how you can get all these things taken care of early so you do not run into trouble later.
Who do I call after my collision?
First, call 911. If you cannot call, get a bystander to call. A police officer needs to come to the scene and make a police report so you can be sure everything is properly documented. Make sure pictures are taken of the damage to vehicles, as well as their position and orientation to each other.
If you are able, take pictures of the licenses and insurance information of the other people involved in the collision. This will be the easiest way to make sure you have all the information necessary to reach the other parties involved in the collision if need be.
Also, snap photos of all of the visible damage done to both your vehicle and the vehicle that hit you. If multiple cars are involved, take photos of all damage to all vehicles and any damage to personal property as well (such as if cars were pushed into fences, signposts, etc.). Lastly, if possible, make sure to get photos of the positions of all of the involved vehicles just after the collision.
If you are injured, go to the doctor. If need be, ask for an ambulance to take you to the emergency room. You can also call a loved one to let them know what happened, and have them take you to get medical care. If you are injured at all, it is best to seek professional medical assistance as soon as possible.
Should I talk about the collision at the scene?
We recommend that you only speak to police officers about what happened in the collision or how you feel. Do not discuss “fault” with the person who hit you or the witnesses. If you speak to witnesses, get their contact information and ask what they saw. If you speak to other drivers involved in the collision, get their contact and insurance information. If the person that hit you is hostile to you, which happens sometimes, we recommend taking a video of that person on your mobile phone.
When is it appropriate to leave the scene versus staying until the police get there?
Ideally, you should always stay and wait for the police to arrive. You may need to get your car off the road and to an area where you can safely wait for the police without blocking traffic. In some circumstances, the police will not respond to a collision. A 911 dispatcher will let you know whether police are coming.
If the police do not come to the collision, you will need to gather documentation on your own. Take photos of license plates, insurance cards, and driver’s licenses, if possible. Also get the names and contact information of any witnesses.
Then, you can go to the police station and file a report yourself. Under Washington Law, you must file a police report within four days of the incident. However, some insurance policies require you to file a police report within 48 hours if no police came to the scene, so be on the safe side and file your report within 48 hours.
Should I call an insurance agent or an attorney?
Call your insurance agent first to open a claim. This will help expedite the repair of the car and help you get a rental car sooner. They can also tell you if you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) so you can schedule a doctor's appointment. Then call an attorney so they can help advise you on your claim and your next steps.
If my car was towed, what do I do?
If your car was towed, get it out of the tow yard as soon as possible. Tow yards charge daily storage fees, so you want to keep those costs as low as possible. Call the other driver’s insurance company and let them know your car is there; they will typically get it out of the tow yard themselves so they do not rack up daily storage fees. If the other insurance company will not assist you, contact your own insurance or contact your attorney immediately. This is also something we can assist with.
Can I get a rental car?
Typically you can if you had rental car coverage as part of your insurance policy at the time of the collision. The at-fault party will also allow for a rental car until your vehicle is fixed or your car is determined a total loss (totaled).
Can I get a rental car if it is not covered in my insurance?
Yes, you can. If neither of the insurance companies will pay for a rental car, you can pay for it yourself upfront, and we can get it reimbursed later if you had the rental car for a reasonable amount of time. Be diligent in getting your car fixed or getting into a new car as soon as possible because it is difficult to get reimbursed for the rental car if you had it for an unnecessarily long period of time.
Should I talk to the adjuster that's calling me?
You have a duty to speak with the adjuster from your own insurance company. You have no duty to speak with the at-fault driver’s insurance company and we recommend you do not communicate with the at-fault driver's insurance company unless it is about vehicle damage only. Do not answer questions about how the collision happened (liability), your injuries, or how you're doing. The at-fault driver's insurance company will pressure you to give them information, so that information can be later used to avoid compensating you. The only information you should discuss is vehicle damage.
Do I give a statement to the at-fault driver's insurance company?
Absolutely not! If they ask for a statement, call an attorney. They are looking for things to use against you and want a recording from you they can use in Court. They know you may simply forget to give them information about all your injuries, allowing them to later claim “your neck did not hurt when we first spoke, yet here you are claiming significant neck pain and bills from your doctor.” They know how to ask very leading questions that can be interpreted in their favor at a later time. Even when talking to your own insurance, it is best to have the advice of an attorney. You do not want to inadvertently say something that could be held against you. Remember—insurance companies are not your friend. They will use tricks and deceit in order to avoid reasonable compensation for your injuries.
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