6 Steps to Take After You’ve Been In A Car Accident

Every 4 Seconds There’s a Car Accident in Pennsylvania. Here's What You Need To Know About What To Do If It Happens To You​

You are peacefully driving along when you notice a blur in your peripheral vision.  In the split second it takes your mind to register that you are about to be hit by another driver, a violent collision occurs.

You are dazed, in shock, and trying to figure out what just happened.  Then it hits you – you were just involved in a serious car crash.

Unfortunately, this nightmare scenario is all too common in Pennsylvania.  The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reports that 128,188 reportable car accidents occurred in the state of Pennsylvania in 2017 alone.  That works out to 351 reportable car accidents every day or 15 car crashes in Pennsylvania every hour.

Because you have a 1 in 41 chance of being involved in a car accident, you need to be prepared for what to do when a car crash happens.

If you follow these 6 steps after your car accident, you will significantly improve your chances of a positive recovery:

Step 1.
Assess the Scene and Injuries

The most important thing to do immediately after a car accident is to determine whether your vehicle is in a safe condition.

Three things to look for after an accident:

  • If there is fire or significant smoke, your priority must be to get yourself and all passengers out of the vehicle to a safe place.
  • If your vehicle appears stable, you should immediately evaluate the extent of your injuries and the injuries of your passengers.
  • If there is any chance that you or a passenger was seriously injured – you should limit movement and call 911 for paramedic support and evaluation to prevent your injuries from getting worse. For example, spinal injuries, which frequently arise from car accident, can be made much worse with unnecessary or excessive movement.

Step 2. Get Medical Care Immediately

Because you often have no idea how injured you are from a car accident, we urge all our clients to make the emergency room the next stop after a car crash. Whether you get to the emergency department by ambulance or private vehicle – it is critical to get checked out as soon as possible to make sure no serious internal injuries are missed.

The following car accident injuries, while not immediately apparent, can be fatal if not treated in time:

  • Collapsed lung (also called a pneumothorax) - is when air leaks into the space between your lung and chest wall, which and makes your lung collapse and hinders breathing. If left untreated, a collapsed lung can be lethal.
  • Fractured ribs – the blunt force of your chest hitting your steering wheel can cause your ribs to fracture. Because of adrenaline you may not realize that you fractured your ribs. If left untreated, a fractured rib can cause severe injury to your internal organs. An x-ray in the ER can quickly identify a fractured rib.
  • Internal bleeding – your body depends on your blood supply. Internal bleeding can be a silent killer after a car accident. You will suffer a stroke without proper blood supply to your brain. You will suffer life-threatening shock if your heart or other organs do not get the blood they need. The emergency room will send you for diagnostic imaging (CT scan or MRI) to make sure you are not suffering from internal bleeding after your car accident.
  • Cervical or Spinal Trauma – your spinal column can be shifted out of place due to the force of a serious car accident. You need an x-ray or MRI after your car accident to make sure the cervical bones that normally protect your spinal cord have not been pushed into a dangerous position that could cause paralysis or death.

Step 3.
Call The Police

After you have determined the immediate extent of your injuries and those of your passengers, you should contact the police and ask them to come and investigate the accident.

Crash Report

  • The police will create a crash report which is a critical piece of evidence to support your personal injury claim from the car accident.
  • The police officer will take detailed notes of the crash scene, how the car crash happened and determine who was at fault. While the police report itself usually is not admissible in Court, it is an important document that insurance companies rely on in determining whether and how much to pay on your claim.
  • Additionally, the responding police officer can testify at trial to support your case.​

If there is no crash report, it may cause the opposing insurance company or a jury to think that the crash must not have been that bad.  This is a problem because it can lead to the false belief that you are not as injured as you really are.

Step 4.
Gather Information

Exchange Details

While you wait for the police to arrive, you should exchange information with the driver that hit you.

Make sure you get the other driver’s name, insurance information (including the insurance company and policy number), the make and model of their vehicle and their license plate number.

If you can, take a picture of the other driver’s license.

Step 5.
Take Photos at the Scene

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

You know the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words”.  When it comes to your personal injury claim, a picture can literally be worth tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

While police reports and witness testimony are important evidence to support your claim, for insurance companies and juries – seeing is believing. 

Pictures of the crash scene can more precisely show who was at fault and what they did wrong.  Pictures of the vehicles can show the severity of damage and how the impact occurred.  Pictures are also the best way to show your injuries at the scene.  Lacerations, visibly broken bones, and bruises from the impact of the collision come to life through pictures.

Photographs from the scene of the accident will help ensure you get full compensation for your injuries.

Step 6. Notify Your Insurance Company

Report Accidents That Involve Injuries or Property Damage

It is important to call your insurance company and report any accident that involved injuries or property damage.

A common myth is that you do not need to contact your insurance company if you were not at fault.

In fact, you want to notify your insurance company of the crash right away because there are several coverages on your insurance policy, that you paid for, that may provide you benefits like – medical insurance for your initial treatment, extraordinary medical benefits, Work Loss Coverage, Accidental Death Benefits, and funeral benefits. 

In order to use any of these forms of “first party” insurance, you have to notify your insurance company.

By following these 6 steps after a car accident you will improve your chances of making a positive recovery and obtaining a fair settlement.  If you have any questions, please contact one of the car accident lawyers at Meyers Evans Lupetin & Unatin, LLC.

All articles in this blog are the collaborative effort of attorneys Jerry Meyers, Brendan Lupetin, and Gregory Unatin.

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