You’re on your way to work on the Beltway. A car in another lane swerves toward you. You try to avoid it, but . . . crash . . .
Over 120,000 automobile accidents occur each year in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Most involve only property damage… damage to the vehicle, but just over 50% involve personal injury to the driver and/or passengers in the car. And unfortunately, approximately 750-800 accidents result in a fatality each year.
If you or a family member is in a car accident, it is important that you protect yourself and your interests. Here’s a quick checklist of things you should do immediately after a crash.
- Stop! Never leave the scene of an accident even if it seems minor and you don’t think anyone was hurt. Unless your vehicle is interfering with traffic, remain where you ended up after the accident. Turn on your hazard lights. If you are in an unsafe situation or are interfering with traffic and your car will drive, carefully pull your vehicle off the road to a safe place away from moving traffic. This reduces the risk of additional crashes and injuries.
- Call 911: Request that the police come to the scene to document the accident and, if there are injuries, to prepare a crash report. The police report may be helpful when you file your insurance claim. If there are injuries, request that the dispatcher send an ambulance as well as the police as it’s important to get injuries caused by the collision evaluated and treated as soon as possible.If there are no injuries, or it is a bad-weather-day with lots of accidents, the police may not come to the scene and may instruct you to exchange information with the other driver.
- Give your account to the police: Tell the truth. Don’t offer your own opinions, speculate, guess, or embellish. Just stick to the facts you know.
- Document the accident and keep a file: If you are able, write down everything you can remember about how the accident occurred while it is fresh in your mind. Establish a timeline of the events. Take pictures or video of the scene, the location of and damage to the vehicles involved, and of any visible injuries. Exchange complete contact and insurance information with the other driver(s) involved. Get the names and contact information of any witnesses.Keep this information, as well as future accident-related materials, including reports, forms, rental car receipts, repair estimates or invoices, medical reports, doctor appointments, prescribed medications, and any other bills or expenses you incur as a result of the accident.
- Contact your insurance company: Most insurance policies require that accidents be reported immediately and that you provide full cooperation, whether you are at fault or not. The other driver’s insurance company will reach out to speak with you. You are not obliged to speak with them, but if you choose to do so, keep in mind that they are not on your side. In fact, it’s probably best to at least speak with a lawyer who is experienced in handling car accident cases before speaking with the other driver’s insurance company just to make sure you know your rights and what to expect.
- Get medical attention: Unless you are absolutely sure that you were not injured in the auto accident, seek medical attention immediately at the emergency room or by seeing your personal physician. Even a minor impact can cause serious injury. Sometimes, the shock caused by a collision makes it difficult to immediately and accurately assess the extent of one’s injuries. Indeed, the symptoms from certain kinds of injuries, like concussions or traumatic brain injuries, are not readily apparent and do not manifest for several days or even weeks. If you lost consciousness, are dazed, dizzy, or vomiting, you may have suffered a concussion or other traumatic brain injury (TBI) and should be transported to the emergency room by the EMTs.
- Understand and protect your rights: Under Virginia law you may be entitled to monetary damages if you have been injured in an auto accident caused by the recklessness or negligence of another person. If so, it’s imperative that you consult with a personal injury attorney. He will advise you of your rights and evaluate the circumstances of your case to make sure that your rights and interests are protected and that you achieve the best possible outcome. Working and negotiating with an insurance company can be complicated, and an experienced and knowledgeable attorney can help ensure that the process goes more smoothly and that you get the compensation that you deserve for your injuries.
About the Bergeron Law Firm
The Bergeron Law Firm is a personal injury practice serving the Northern Virginia area. Our mission is to provide all our clients with the highest quality of legal representation and unsurpassed dedication and customer service.
Steve Bergeron understands that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on his ability to understand each client’s needs and objectives. Bergeron Law will be there for you with the information, advice, and advocacy you need to help you get back to your life.