What to Do After a Minor Car Accident: 9 Steps to Follow

What to Do After a Minor Car Accident

A minor car accident is like minor surgery. Surgery, or a car wreck, is never “minor” if it happens to you. They are usually a low-speed accident in a parking lot or residential street. It’s important to know what to do after a minor car accident, to protect yourself from potential legal damages.

Many victims feel fine at that moment. That doesn’t mean they are fine.Adrenaline masks pain. This natural morphine usually wears off in a few hours. If victims wait that long to see doctors, their injuries are much more difficult, and much more expensive, to treat.

Additionally, even after a minor car accident, you have legal rights. Following the steps listed below helps protect those legal rights, including your right to obtain compensation in court. All medical treatment costs money and all car accidents cause emotional distress. Victims, whether they’re drivers or passengers, shouldn’t have to reach into their own pockets to cover these losses.

Check for Injuries

After a minor car accident, many victims refuse medical treatment at the scene. Some don’t want to cause a fuss and some don’t want to pay a big bill. 

Emergency responders usually stabilize victims with visible injuries and transport them to hospitals. Don’t miss out on these medical evaluations.

Some minor car crash injuries are immediately apparent, and some appear slowly over time. Whiplash, a common head-neck injury, is a good example. X-rays and most other diagnostic tests don’t detect this soft tissue injury. Be aware of changes in how you act or feel, and seek treatment for these changes.

Document the Scene

Most minor car accident victims are conscious and able to move around, at least a little. Take advantage of this situation and document the scene with pictures. Don’t rely on an emergency responder to perform this duty for you. These individuals have other priorities, like securing the scene and tending to injured victims, that are much more important to them than taking pictures.

As you take pictures, or preferably before you take them, get the names and contact information of any witnesses. Crash damage and the scene of a minor car accident won’t change. But most witnesses don’t loiter at accident scenes very long. As a side note, take pictures of any surveillance cameras that may have recorded some or all of the minor car accident.

Don’t worry about whether the evidence helps or hurts your claim for compensation. Let your attorney worry about that later.

Move Your Vehicle

Once you document the scene, it’s okay to change the scene. If your vehicle is operational, move it off the street, to a parking area or at least a shoulder. You don’t want your disabled vehicle to cause a worse crash later. 

Incidentally, if your car was operational and you live in a no-fault insurance state, like New York, Pennsylvania, or Florida, your insurance company must cover your economic losses, such as property damage and medical bills, no matter who was at fault for the wreck.

Report the Accident to Authorities

We mentioned emergency responders and their duties at a minor accident scene above. First responders don’t magically appear at accident scenes, especially minor car accident scenes. Someone must summon them. That someone should probably be you, so you get to tell your side of the story first.

We mentioned no-fault insurance above. Insurance companies usually don’t cover these losses unless an official report is on file.

Reporting a minor accident is a two-step process in many cities. Use a 3-1-1 or 4-1-1 number to report the accident, and call 9-1-1 to summon the police. A police officer cannot treat your injuries, but officers are trained to identify visible injuries and summon an ambulance if needed.

Some victims don’t report accidents because they don’t want to cause trouble for themselves or the other driver offers an on-the-spot cash settlement to keep the matter quiet. ALways stand up for your rights. Attorneys routinely deal with minor accident cases that mushroom into something else. Furthermore, no matter how much cash the other driver offers, you don’t know if that offer is fair.

Don’t Apologize

People often apologize to express sympathy. If my wife has a bad day at work, I usually say “I’m sorry,” even though I (most likely) had nothing to do with her job-related woes. 

In court, an insurance company lawyer can twist an apology into an admission of liability. Instead of saying “I’m sorry,” say “I’m sorry this happened to you,” or better yet, don’t say anything.

It should go without saying that you should never admit fault or blame, even to an emergency responder or other investigator. Fault is a legal concept that a court of law must determine, based on all the evidence, as well as any applicable legal theories.

Get the Other Party’s Contact and Insurance Information

Most states require most drivers and passengers to exchange personal information after a minor car accident, such as:

  • Name,
  • Address,
  • Contact phone number, and
  • Insurance information, including the company’s name and policy number.

Also obtain contact information from passengers, even if they’re not injured, if your lawyer needs their statements later.

Remain at the Scene

Leaving the scene of an accident, even if no one was injured and you were not at fault, is a criminal offense. Also, as mentioned, many car crash injuries aren’t apparent at the scene. So, misdemeanor LSA (leaving the scene of an accident) charges could easily become felony charges.

Notify Your Insurer

Most policyholders must immediately report accidents to their insurance carriers. However, teh must not immediately give detailed reports to their insurers. 

Insurance adjusters seem affable over the phone, like Jake from State Farm. In reality, however, Jake from State Farm usually gets a bonus if he traps a policyholder into making a damaging admission. 

So, keep this initial conversation short and sweet. A simple “there was an accident at X location at Y time” is usually sufficient. Let your attorney provide a detailed report later.

Call a Lawyer

Your insurance company is not “on your side” in these situations. Police officers are, at best, neutral. A car accident lawyer, however, is in your corner.

Minor personal injuries often become severe injuries, and minor property damage often leads to a very expensive repair bill. The tortfeasor (negligent driver) should pay these costs, not your insurance company. For that to happen, a lawyer must evaluate your case and stand up for you in court.

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