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What you need to know if you're involved in an accident

Posted August 31, 2018 7:32 a.m. EDT
Updated August 31, 2018 9:41 a.m. EDT

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that six million U.S. drivers are in a car accident each year. (eric1513/Bigstock)

This article was written for our sponsor, Whitley Law Firm.

Some accidents you can anticipate — like a child running too close to the sharp edge of a table. It's only a matter of time before he cuts the corner too close and suffers a bump or two.

Other accidents, however, come without warning. Whether it's a slip at work that causes you to tumble down a flight of stairs or a vehicle collision in rush hour traffic — some accidents are just unexpected.

This is especially true for auto accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that six million U.S. drivers are in a car accident each year. You could be one of those six million, and as the age-old adage goes, "you should plan for the best, but prepare for the worst."

Below are four things you should know if you’ve been involved in an automobile accident:

1. Pull over to a safe location & assess the situation

If your collision is minor, and you are physically and safely able to do so, pull over to a safe place.

First check everyone involved, including yourself, for injuries. Once it's been determined that everyone involved is okay, call 911, and then exchange information with the other driver. This is the most optimal situation.

However, some accidents are more serious — especially when a substantial injury is involved.

2. If seriously injured, seek medical help immediately

If you feel you or anybody else involved in the accident has been seriously injured, immediately call 911 if you are able. EMTs and first responders on the scene will medically assess any injuries and treat you on the spot.

If you have serious visible injuries and you cannot get out of your vehicle, an ambulance will be called, and your next destination will be an emergency room.

Be mindful of how you feel a few hours and even a few days after your accident too, as some injuries are not immediately apparent.

"Sometimes injuries don't manifest themselves at the accident scene — maybe due to the rush of adrenaline from the shock of [a] collision. Sometimes symptoms don't become apparent until a little later after the wreck," said Bob Whitley, an injury attorney and the founder of Whitley Law Firm in Raleigh. "People may not appear to be seriously injured at the scene, but sometimes you can have a soft tissue injury, like a cervical strain or sprain — whiplash is a common one — that shows up in the next day or so. That's something to be aware of as you go on after the accident."

3. Document your case & collect as much information as possible

If you are so seriously injured that you are rushed off in an ambulance, it's obvious that you will not be able to talk to witnesses or take pictures of the crash with your phone.

However, if you're well enough to talk with people who may have seen the wreck happen, you should do so. Witnesses are key when hashing out the details of the crash with insurers and the police.

Taking pictures of the crash can also help document what happened at the scene, including photos of:

  • Damage to your car
  • The location of the vehicles after the wreck
  • The other driver’s information
  • Visible injuries, if any

Make sure that you do not admit fault for the accident or give out more personal information than is necessary when talking with police officers or insurance adjusters. The legalities of a car crash can be complicated, and while you should be honest, you should give only the bare facts as to not potentially incriminate yourself or hurt your case down the road.

4. Choose a course of action

This brings us to the "what do I do if…?" phase.

You may be wondering what you should do if your car has been damaged, how to talk with your insurer or what legal action you should take if you have been seriously injured. All of this can be overwhelming, but here are a few tips:

  • Contact your insurance company and read your policy as soon as you can.
    Figure out what your insurance covers and how much your premium may go up. To help you understand the ins and outs, seek the advisement of a legal advocate if you need to.
    Keep tabs on your communication exchanges with the insurer, as you’ll want records of when you discussed your policy.
  • As aforementioned, collect as much information on the accident as possible.
    If you've been injured, maintain copies of your medical records to establish the extent of your injuries. Also, keep all receipts and billing statements for every cost that is included in your potential claim.

If you've been seriously injured or your car has been severely damaged, you'll want to decide whether or not to file an injury claim or a property damage claim.

It's important that people who have been seriously injured in North Carolina realize that there are legal advocates who can help them get the compensation they deserve.

"We understand that being involved in a car accident can be a traumatic experience, possibly leading to serious injuries, mounting medical bills, extensive damage to your vehicle, and even the inability to work or enjoy time with your family," Whitley said. "If you have been seriously injured in a car accident caused by another person or driver, our Raleigh car accident lawyers can help protect your rights."

This article was written for our sponsor, Whitley Law Firm.