Figuring out what to do after a car accident can be confusing, especially if you’ve never been in one yourself before. Sometimes it is difficult to know where to start and what to expect. After a collision, you should take several key steps to ensure the speedy processing of your accident claim, paying close attention to the statute of limitations. Hiring a Gwinnett County car accident attorney can be very helpful in the event that you are a victim of a motor vehicle crash that has caused an injury. While you’re still at the scene of the crash, follow these important steps in documenting your auto accident.
Here’s a quick reference to help summarize the steps (continue reading below):
Step 1: File a Police Report
Call the police immediately if the collision injured either you or the other driver. This is mandatory in the state of Georgia in all accidents resulting in injury or death, regardless of who appears to be the at fault driver. After law enforcement writes their report, ask the officer(s) on scene how you can obtain a copy for your own records in order to file an injury claim. The police report acts as the first piece of evidence gathered in your case. Reports typically take three to five days to process. Don’t forget this detail among all the other aspects of your accident claim.
Step 2: Exchange Information With the Other Driver
Exchange your insurance coverage and registration information with the other driver. This is important, regardless of who is the at fault driver. You will need their insurance company’s information for a later step in the insurance claims process. Exchanging information also alerts you as to whether or not the other driver has an insurance policy.
Step 3: Gather Evidence
Take pictures of two key pieces of evidence:
- The accident scene
- Property damage done to both cars
Take pictures of the accident scene from different angles. This can help recreate the incident to a certain extent, which is especially helpful if the other person is the fault driver. Do the same when capturing photos of car damage. Take pictures that clearly show the extent of the damage – quality photos are quality evidence.
Shortly after the motor vehicle accident, find time to record your account of the incident while it is still recent in your memory. This helps not only the insurance company and your personal injury attorney understand the context of the accident, but it will also help you stick to a solid explanation about the accident in the event that you are asked to give an oral accident report.
Find witnesses and ask for their contact information. Witness testimony could prove to be a crucial aspect of supporting your claim during legal action and account of the incident. Even if you fear witnesses might not feel comfortable giving out their contact information, or becoming involved in your case, it is always best to ask.
Step 4: Treat Your Injuries
Address your personal injuries by going to the doctor. Let them examine and treat you for all of the injuries you sustained as a car accident victim. Many family doctors don’t like to become involved in car accident cases. If your doctor turns you away, find another general practitioner, or urgent care clinic, that will assess and record your damage. You can use your medical records as evidence when proving that the collision caused injury. Obtain your medical records and release them to your attorney for the reimbursement of medical expenses.
If you go to the hospital, be sure to bill your health insurance. Hospitals in Georgia currently delay billing health insurance because personal injury settlements pay more than health insurance does. If you do file a personal injury claim, your hospital bills will come out of your total compensation at a much higher rate than if you were to simply use health insurance. Have foresight and utilize your health insurance – even if you don’t plan on filing an additional claim.
Do not send your medical bills to the insurance adjuster assigned to your case. This is crucial because it is one way that the other driver’s insurance company can leverage power against you after the automobile accident. As a rule of thumb, most insurance companies in Georgia don’t pay medical bills as they come. They only pay out bills after settling the case with a law firm, which can take up to a few months.
Step 5: File a Claim With Your Insurance Company
Contact your insurance company to notify them of the accident as soon as you can. It is wise to call the company directly to ensure smooth communication. Your insurance company will also give you directions on what documentation you need to provide. If you followed the previous steps, this means gathering your evidence and filling out any additional forms. Make copies of all evidence and forms you fill out for your own records.
Some insurance companies will ask for a recorded statement of the accident and/or the accident report. In many cases, an attorney will advise you to tell your insurance company that you will get back to them. This gives you time to concisely form your words in a way that does not allow the insurance company to twist what you say. However, if you recorded your account of the incident, simply read your account word for word. Don’t deviate from your account. This prevents you from accidentally adding or omitting a detail that could reflect negatively on your case.
Remain patient and wait for correspondence after completing these steps. Your insurance company and a skilled attorney will give you insight into the next steps of the claims process –until then, relax knowing you’ve completed all you can in initiating your claim. For in-depth questions to ask a qualified personal injury lawyer about your accident’s claim, visit Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer.