11 Things to Do if You're in a Serious Car Accident

Authored by Wendy Witt, Esq.

If you're in a serious accident, you likely won't be thinking clearly. Nobody can. Personal injury attorneys tell us that you may be in shock and not even realize it. Our hope is that this article has caught your eye and you remember just a few things. Some folks print this article and put it in their glove compartment just in case.

Of course, this list assumes you can take action. If you are too injured to act, focus on your own wellbeing and safety only.

  1. Get to safety.

    Nothing is more important than your safety. Get off the roadway and get to somewhere safe even if you have to leave your car and belongings behind.
  2. Call 911.
    1. The emergency operator will send an ambulance and/or paramedics to examine and treat all those involved in the accident. Remember that you and others can be injured without realizing it.
    2. They police will also be sent to the scene, which is a good thing. Police will collect evidence, document what happened, and interview witnesses. Police observation and documentation provides evidence and third party credibility for any legal action you may need to take.
    3. The emergency operator will also dispatch the fire department, which will take care of any leaking gasoline, fires, or other dangerous conditions.
    4. Emergency personnel will direct other traffic away from the accident scene to avoid further injuries.
  3. Call a qualified personal injury attorney.
    1. Calling a PI lawyer may sound premature, but injury firms send investigators to the scene of a serious accident as soon as you make the call. This means that you immediately have someone on your side, preserving evidence.
    2. In addition, the injury firm will tell you what to do in your individual situation. Many people involved in accidents don't know what to do next; the firm will help you.
    3. We suggest that, along with your insurance company's and doctor's phone numbers, you put the number of your personal injury attorney in your cell phone ahead of time.

      You can find and select a personal injury lawyer through our free and private website, www.attorneys.org. In the alternative, you can find a PI lawyer through a friend or the local bar association.
  4. Use your cell phone to take photographs of the scene, including: roadway conditions, roadway signs and traffic signals, damage to cars, weather conditions, injuries, anything blocking the road, skid marks, and the like.

    Before the days of cell phone cameras, the advice was to keep a disposable camera in your glove box. Go ahead and do this if you don't have a cell phone with a camera.
  5. Jot down the names of witnesses to the accident as well as their addresses and phone numbers.
  6. Write down, take a photo of, or scan driver's licenses, insurance cards, car registrations, license plate numbers, and the make, model, and year of all cars involved in the accident.
  7. Sketch out the scene. Indicate what happened, where include notes about signage, debris on the roadway, weather, and anything else you observe.
  8. Collect any physical evidence that could have lead to the car wreck.
  9. Call your own insurance company and report the accident. DO NOT provide any other statement. DO NOT LET THEM TAPE YOU.
    1. Insurance companies are NOT your friends, even your own insurance company. They will tape your statements and use your words against you.
    2. Remember the goal of all insurance companies is to make money. They want to pay out the smallest amount that will make you go away. If the other driver is underinsured or uninsured, it is your own insurance company that compensates you for your losses sustained in the accident.
    3. Your personal injury attorney will handle communications and paperwork with the police and insurance companies, the other attorney, and the legal system, so you don't have to.
  10. Even if you don't need medical treatment at the accident scene, go get checked out by your doctorafterwards. Often pain takes several days to reach its maximum as the body responds to trauma. Medical documentation is essential to any personal injury case.
  11. If you didn't call a personal injury attorney from the accident scene, go ahead and make the call afterwards. Don't worry about not having a case, if you don't have a case, the PI law office will tell you that. You're not wasting their time.

    When you call, you'll receive a free case evaluation and find out:
    1. Do I have a case?
    2. How much is my case worth?
    3. Do I need a lawyer?
    4. How much does a personal injury lawyer cost?
    Accident bills add up: You likely need to get your car fixed, you may miss work and lose wages and benefits, and you'll have medical bills, as well as pain and suffering.

Bottom Line: If you are ever in a car accident, we hope this article will provide valuable guidance. If you can't do everything on the list, no worries.Most importantly and if you can, get to safety and call 911 for help. Then, and only then, document evidence and call a qualified personal injury attorney (www.attorneys.org).

More articles about personal injury

  • Personal Injury Law

    Understand personal injury claims - legal remedies where injured persons can pursue compensation for injuries suffered.

  • Personal Injury Glossary

    Lawyers can be intimidating - understand the legal terminology for any personal injury claim.

  • How much is my Personal Injury Case Worth?

    Why only a qualified attorney can help estimate damages from injuries that may have cost you monetarily, mentally and/or physically.

  • Time Limits in a Personal Injury Case

    Though it varies by state, personal injury cases must be brought within a certain time frame or forever be barred. Here’s how to determine whether you still have an injury claim to pursue.

  • Personal Injury Attorney Fees

    Injury lawyers often work on contingency fees, meaning you don’t pay unless they win your case. And most cases can be resolved before they ever go to trial.

  • Why You Cannot Trust Your Insurance Company

    The favorite words of insurance carriers are DENY, DEFEND and DELAY. Here’s why you have to be careful.

Get informed

Be prepared to work with an attorney with our free bankruptcy guides.

Browse comprehensive profiles from top licensed attorneys and law firms.