7 Steps to Do After a Car Accident That Is Not Your Fault

Posted on November 19, 2023 in Car Accidents

It’s hard to think clearly after a car accident that isn’t your fault. You may have painful injuries and feel understandably frightened or overwhelmed. However, taking the proper steps after a crash can protect your legal rights and options.

Here are seven key steps you should take after an accident that is not your fault.

7 Steps to Do After a Car Accident That Is Not Your Fault

#1 – Follow Your Doctor’s Orders

Always make your health your priority after a car accident.

You likely sought medical care immediately after the accident, but your responsibility doesn’t stop there. You’ll also need to follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations and attend all follow-up appointments as scheduled to make a full physical recovery and strengthen your car accident claim.

Adhering to your doctor’s advice gives you the best chance of healing from your injuries. Remember that car accidents often cause injuries that are not immediately apparent, meaning symptoms can appear days or weeks later.

When you attend all follow-up appointments, your doctor can monitor your progress and adjust your treatment, thereby speeding up your recovery time and preventing complications.

Following your doctor’s orders also demonstrates that you are taking your health seriously, which can strengthen your injury claim. If you skip appointments or disregard medical advice, insurers or other interested parties might argue that your injuries are not as severe as you claim to try to deny liability. Consistency shows a commitment to healing and illustrates the extent of your injuries.

Moreover, your medical records can provide vital evidence in any legal proceedings related to the accident. Detailed records from each doctor’s visit create a timeline of your injuries and recovery process. You need this information in legal cases, especially when seeking compensation for medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.

#2 – Collect as Much Evidence as Possible

After a car accident, identify, gather, and preserve as much evidence as possible. You might have already collected some of this evidence from the scene immediately after the crash. If not, you can return to the scene once you recover, or ask your car accident lawyer to do so.

Start by photographing the accident scene.

Right after the crash, if it is safe, take pictures of different angles of the vehicles that collided, especially the damage to each car. Include wide shots of the entire scene to add context. Photograph road signs, traffic signals, or skid marks on the road. These images help investigators determine how the accident happened and who is at fault.

Next, record video footage if possible. A video can depict factors that still images might not capture, like the flow of traffic and weather conditions. Try to capture as much of your surroundings as possible, including nearby traffic signals, traffic patterns, and ambient conditions.

You might also want to record a video of your injuries and any visible impairments from the accident.

Then, if you haven’t already, collect contact information from any witnesses who saw the accident occur. Witnesses can provide useful statements that support your version of events.

If you didn’t see any witnesses outside when the crash happened, visit nearby stores or office buildings in case anyone was watching from indoors. Ask for their names, phone numbers, and addresses.

Finally, you’ll want a copy of the police crash report. If you didn’t get a copy from the responding officer, call your local law enforcement office or check their website.

Police reports often include the officer’s perspective on how the accident occurred and who might be at fault. Many insurance companies require police reports when you file an accident claim.

#3 – Contact a Car Accident Lawyer

One of the most critical steps after a car accident is to contact a trusted injury lawyer. Most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations to answer a potential client’s questions and explain their legal options with zero obligation.

The sooner you have a lawyer on your side, the sooner they can establish a strong foundation for your case and pursue maximum compensation.

Car accident lawyers know the laws and regulations for car accidents in your area and will use this knowledge to develop a suitable legal strategy for your case. They can also handle all of the administrative aspects of your case, such as preparing claims documents and identifying essential deadlines. That way, you never have to worry about preventable errors derailing your case.

An attorney can also accurately assess the value of your claim. They consider medical expenses, income losses, and how the accident has affected your quality of life. This comprehensive evaluation enables you to seek appropriate compensation for your losses rather than settling for less than you deserve.

Moreover, good lawyers are skillful negotiators, and insurance companies know it.

When the insurance company learns you have legal representation, they will realize you mean business. They are more likely to agree to reasonable settlements because they know your lawyer won’t accept anything less. And if they make offers that are too low, your lawyer will be ready to take them to court.

Perhaps most importantly, hiring a lawyer lets you focus on your recovery. They can handle all the legal details, reducing stress and giving you peace of mind. That way, you can concentrate on healing, knowing a professional is advocating for your best interests.

#4 – Report the Accident to the Insurance Company

Report the Accident to the Insurance Company

Another critical step involves reporting the accident to your insurance company. Report the accident even if you were not at fault.

Most auto insurance policies require policyholders to notify them after any covered event, usually within a few days or weeks of the accident. If you don’t, it could jeopardize your right to recover compensation.

When you speak to the insurance company, stick to the facts. You should provide the date and time of the accident, the location, and details about the vehicles that collided.

You can also provide the other driver’s name and insurance details. Be factual, concise, and truthful. Do not fib or offer opinions or guesses about what happened.

Avoid admitting fault, apologizing, or making statements that the insurance adjuster could interpret as admissions of guilt. For example, avoid saying things like “I didn’t see the other car” or “I think I was driving too fast.”

Even if these statements are factual, they could harm your case. The insurer will likely use these statements to deny or minimize your claim.

Also, do not downplay your injuries or the damage to your vehicle. Sometimes, the full extent of injuries or vehicle damage isn’t immediately apparent. Saying something as innocent as “I’m fine” or “My car didn’t sustain too much damage” could hurt your claim if you discover more serious issues later.

Lastly, don’t agree to provide a recorded statement or sign any documents without first consulting your lawyer. Insurance companies often use recorded statements to hold claimants to a version of events that reduces the insurers’ liability. A lawyer can guide you on what to say and help you understand any documents before you sign them.

#5 – Save All Documentation Related to the Accident

Save all documentation related to the accident for your accident claim.

Relevant documentation makes up the bulk of the evidence in many accident claims and could significantly affect the outcome of your claim. A lawyer can gather the necessary documentation and can organize your paperwork for you.

Save all medical records and bills related to doctor’s visits, diagnoses, or treatments for your crash injuries. This includes records from your initial visit to a doctor, hospital, or emergency room, as well as follow-up appointments and therapy sessions. These documents show the extent of your injuries and the treatments you require and demonstrate the compensation you need for your medical expenses.

If you miss work due to the accident, obtain documentation detailing your lost income. This documentation should detail the days you missed and the amount of money you lost as a result. This might include pay stubs, bank statements, or a letter from your employer. If you’re self-employed, you could use business records or invoices showing reduced income due to the accident.

You’ll also want to save documentation showing the extent of the damage to your vehicle and how much it will cost to repair or replace. This usually means getting repair estimates from mechanics with detailed accounts of the damage and the costs of fixing it. These estimates can vary, so get multiple quotes.

If you repair your car, keep all receipts as proof of your expenses. If your vehicle is a total loss, keep the estimates to negotiate a fair market value with the insurance company.

Finally, document all other expenses you incur due to the accident. This includes receipts for travel to and from medical appointments, parking fees at medical facilities, or public transportation costs if you cannot drive.

If you needed to rent a car while yours was undergoing repairs, keep those receipts as well. A thorough record of these expenses is essential because they add up over time.

#6 – Watch What You Say to Others or Post Online

You can and should speak completely honestly with your lawyer, but assume anything you share with anyone else could hurt your case.

Limit the details you share when talking to friends, family, or acquaintances. You may want to discuss the accident, but details you share in conversation could reach unintended audiences, including insurance adjusters or legal representatives. Keep your comments brief and factual, focusing on your well-being rather than the specifics of the accident.

Be extremely cautious with social media, too. Do not post about the accident, your injuries, or legal proceedings on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Insurance companies and lawyers often monitor these platforms for information they can use to dispute your claim. For example, a simple photo or comment suggesting you are healthy could undermine your claim for compensation.

Most importantly, be careful if you receive calls or messages from insurance representatives or attorneys representing the other party, and never agree to give recorded statements.

In these circumstances, refer them to your lawyer or insurance company. That way, you don’t have to worry about accidentally making statements undermining your claim.

#7 – Don’t Accept Your First Settlement Offer

Sometimes, insurance companies surprise claimants after an accident by making seemingly generous settlement offers with relatively little fuss. Unfortunately, they usually do this because they hope these injury victims are desperate enough to accept without looking too closely at the offer, which is likely far less than what they deserve.

Insurance companies aim to settle claims quickly and economically. Their first offer often does not fully cover a claimant’s medical expenses, vehicle repairs, lost income, or other related costs. Accepting an offer too soon might leave you with expenses you’ll have to pay out of pocket.

You should always fully assess your injuries and damages before settling. Some injuries from car accidents don’t show symptoms immediately. If you accept an offer before understanding the full extent of your injuries, you might miss out on compensation necessary for future medical treatments.

Remember to consult your lawyer before accepting any offer. A lawyer can advise you on the potential value of your claim and evaluate whether an offer is fair. They consider factors like long-term medical needs, ongoing pain and suffering, and whether the accident affects your ability to work in the future.

In many cases, negotiating for a better settlement is necessary, which is where a lawyer can make all the difference.

Bob Boatman Car Accident Lawyer

Robert W. Boatman, Car Accident Lawyer

Your personal injury attorney can negotiate with the insurance company while you focus on your recovery. They have the experience to argue against lowball settlement offers and can often secure more compensation than you could on your own.