In Virginia, about 148 people get injured in a traffic accident each day, and more than 128,000 traffic accidents take place every year. With traffic accidents being a regular part of everyday life, you need to know what to do following an accident, especially if it injures you.
If you have already been in an accident and are unsure of the next steps or need help navigating law enforcement, medical issues, and insurance companies, contact a personal injury lawyer to review your options.
Being a party to an accident can be frightening and disorienting. When an injury compounds an accident, those feelings can multiply. Regardless of the type of accident—car or a motorcycle accident—you can work toward the best possible outcome by following these steps.
1. Contact Emergency Services
Regardless of where the accident took place, your first course of action should be to call 911. If you can’t move or make a phone call because of your injury, ask a bystander or passenger to call on your behalf.
Calling 911 will alert both emergency medical services as well as law enforcement of the accident.
2. Answer Questions as Best as You can
Whether on the phone with the 911 operator or once paramedics arrive, answer questions to the best of your knowledge. Try to stay as calm as possible so that you can respond and think about the questions.
If the questions relate to your pain level and areas of pain, try to be as specific as you can about how much pain you feel and where on your body. Although emergency medical teams are trained for accident scenarios, indicating where you feel pain can assist them in giving you the care that you need at the time.
Answering questions thoroughly also helps medical professionals better document your pain and injuries, which will help any case that you might have.
3. File a Police Report
Don’t overlook this step may in the rush of dealing with an injury.
A police report serves as official documentation for when the accident happened, who was involved, and what if any laws were broken. Having that information will assist your legal representative put together your case.
A police report also may include interviews with witnesses of the accident, but the report shouldn’t be the only account of witness information, as sometimes law enforcement may not interview every witness or there will be people hesitant to speak to law enforcement officers.
While you are waiting for the police to arrive or after you have initiated your accident report, consider calling an accident attorney. It’s always a good idea to have options and be prepared for any future scenarios, even if you end up not needing the help of a lawyer.
4. Seek Initial Medical Evaluation
Whether it is directly following an accident or as soon as possible thereafter, seek medical treatment for any injuries. Even if you feel okay and are unsure if you are hurt, the best course of action is to go to the hospital to be checked out by the medical staff.
Many times, pain and discomfort from an accident don’t show up right away. That’s why it’s good to see a doctor before that point so that you know what to expect and can begin any treatment or physical therapy as soon as is recommended.
5. Consult Medical Specialists if Needed
If during your initial hospital visit, the attending physician or medical staff recommend further evaluation from an outside specialist, do so. Even though a hospital typically has a range of imaging and diagnostic equipment, some injuries are best left for a doctor with a specific field of expertise to review and diagnose.
What’s more, a specialist knows what tests to run or how to interpret specific diagnostic images. Don’t focus on how much these doctor visits or tests are going to cost. Instead, try to keep thorough records of the money that you have spent and the money that you owe for hospital and doctors’ bills.
6. Get In Touch With Your Insurance Company
Your injuries and medical care should be your first considerations. Within the first couple of days of an accident, contact your insurance company to report the accident. There is some leeway in how quickly you need to make this call, but it’s a good idea to not wait too long.
Your insurance company needs a record of the accident to pay you compensation, or even for alternate transportation like a rental car. All insurance companies and coverages are different, though, so it’s best to seek legal assistance in navigating your claim.
7. Document and Record Your Journey
Even though you may be in pain or disoriented from your accident injuries, start documenting your experience as soon as you can. Another passenger or family member can even assist with this.
Documentation isn’t all written, either. You can begin by making voice recordings on your cell phone starting with whatever you can remember about the accident. Later, you can write information down in a notebook or use a mobile device or computer to type everything up.
If you are in the hospital, have follow-up doctor’s visits, and have tests or procedures done, keep track of those visits yourself. Although you will have medical records, those records don’t typically contain comprehensive information about how or what you’re feeling at the time.
Take note of where you went for medical care, what happened at each visit or hospital stay, and how you felt before, during, and after. The more information you can record, the better it is for your attorney. That way, they can create a more comprehensive picture of the range and scope of your case.
8. Contact an Attorney or Follow up With One
If you called an attorney after your accident, check in with them once you settle in the hospital and feel well enough to do so.
If you couldn’t contact a lawyer after your accident injury, call one soon. The earlier you involve a lawyer in your journey, the better they can assist you in figuring out any of the challenges related to your situation and recovery.