What are You Supposed to do When You Get in an Auto Accident?
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
There is a very good chance that all of us will be involved in some level of car accident in our lifetimes. In fact, the statistics say that we will be involved in 2-3 over the course of our life, averaging out at one every 18 years or so. And with over 75,000 injuries on Michigan’s roads in 2018, our state’s highways and roads can be dangerous places.
If you are involved in an accident, even if only a minor fender bender, what steps should you take afterward?
Check for Injuries
The first priority after an accident is to check if anyone needs medical assistance. Put your hazard lights on to warn other traffic of the accident then check yourself and your passengers first before moving on to check on the occupants of other vehicles. If there are injuries, then call 911 and ask for an ambulance and police to attend.
Stay calm in the aftermath of an accident. People’s emotions often run high in these situations and accusations of blame are all too easily thrown around. Losing your temper can make the situation worse and could even lead to police charges if violence ensues.
Move the Vehicles
If possible, move any involved vehicles to the side of the road or into a parking lot or side road. You may not be able to do this with a more serious accident as police will want to see the vehicles in situ to prepare their accident and police report. If you cannot move the vehicles, ensure everyone puts their hazard lights on. If any debris is blocking other lanes, safely remove it.
It is important to collect all contact and insurance information from the other drivers. When you file a claim with your insurance company, they will want as much information as possible to process the claim smoothly. For each vehicle involved, collect the drivers’ names, phone numbers, details of their car insurance company and license plates. If there were any pedestrians who witnessed the accident, then collect their contact information too.
If you are able to, gather as much photographic evidence as possible. Many people have a dash cam these days and that video evidence may be a big help with your auto insurance claim. Take as many photographs as you can. Record the position of the cars after the accident, damage to any vehicles, any property damage caused, and also any other factors you feel may have contributed to the accident such as road and weather conditions, obstructions or hazards in the road, and things like inadequate signage.
Calling the police is not only advisable in most cases, it is also a legal requirement under Michigan state law if there are any injuries or deaths or where there is property damage in excess of $1,000. If the accident is fairly minor, you can report it to your nearest police station but if damage or injuries are substantial, then they should attend the scene of the accident in order to assess the various factors and make a full accident report. When making an insurance claim, your insurance agent will want to see a copy of the police report as this may identify if any driver was more at fault.
Notify Your Insurance Company
Get in touch with your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident. In Michigan, state laws require that all drivers carry no fault (Personal Insurance Protection) insurance. The normal assumption – by both the law and your insurance company – is that all accidents will have blame apportioned on a 50-50 split. However, in some cases, such as when another driver has broken any parts of the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code or was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, then you may be able to file an additional claim.
While in most cases your no fault insurance will cover all your medical and repair costs, in some cases you will still potentially be left out of pocket or there is evidence that another driver was more at fault. If this is the case, then you will want to engage an attorney to file a claim on your behalf. There are usually two types of damages you can claim for:
- Non-economic damages. If you can prove that you have experienced pain and suffering or that injuries have led to a reduction in your quality of life, then you may have grounds for a claim.
- Excess costs. Any expenses not covered by your no fault insurance.
Record all Medical Treatment
For the purposes of any insurance claim or for any claim against another driver, it is crucial to have an accurate record of all injuries and medical treatment. It is also highly advisable to see a doctor even if you only suffered minor injuries or no apparent injuries.
Some auto accident injuries, such as whiplash or concussion, may not actually appear until some time after the accident. Creating a clear chain of evidence from the start can help your claim – or court case – proceed far smoothly if you have documented all treatment you received. It is also worth taking photographs of any injuries at the time of the accident and post-treatment.
Get More Than One Quote
When it comes to repairs to your vehicle, get more than one quote from repair shops. While you may think that shopping around will only save money for your insurance company, it will also stand you in good stead too as if you submit what your insurers see as an expensive quote, they will likely ask for more quotes anyway, slowing the settlement process.
Speak to a Lawyer
In many cases, especially with minor collisions, you may never need the intervention of an attorney, in many other cases, their help can be invaluable. If there is any dispute with your insurance company’s settlement offer or if you do want to pursue a claim against a third party, then their experience and knowledge will be invaluable.
Following these steps after a car accident can help remove a lot of stress and worry later. While it may often be the case that your initial focus is on any injuries you have sustained, you can ask someone else to do some of the tasks for you. Carrying out each of these steps will also ensure that the insurance claim process is a lot smoother and quicker.
Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. specialize in all types of personal injury cases. We offer a free initial consultation that allows us to evaluate your circumstances and give you the best advice on how to proceed. To schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys, call our law office at 866-MICH-LAW.
Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.