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If you have ever been in an automobile accident, you know that disjointed feeling of, “what do I do next?” Here’s a helpful checklist for you to review:

If you are injured:

  • Call 9-1-1 and ask for the police and paramedics to respond.
  • Seek immediate medical attention, even if it means an ambulance ride to the hospital.
  • Automobile accidents are stressful. Stress can mask the symptoms of an injury. If you are not sure whether you are injured, or if symptoms of any injury arise after the accident, go to the emergency room or get checked out by your family doctor.
  • Do not worry about your vehicle. Your health is more important than your property.

If you are not injured and it is safe to do so:

  • Call 9-1-1 and ask for the police (and paramedics if anyone is injured) to respond.
  • Get the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all drivers, passengers, and witnesses. People sometimes leave the scene of an accident, so get this information as soon as possible.
  • Get all the drivers’ insurance company names and policy numbers, license numbers, and the make, model, year, and tag of the vehicle they were driving.
  • Take pictures of the vehicles and surrounding area, including any traffic lights, traffic signs, skid marks, debris, etc.
  • If your car must be towed, remove all personal items and valuables from the vehicle (don’t forget your garage door opener).
  • Do not make statements about or respond to statements about fault. When the police arrive, give a factual account of what happened. Do not say the accident was your fault – even if it was.
  • Ask the investigating agency for a copy of the accident report (some officers now have printers in their vehicles) and for the case number. Also get the officer’s name and badge number.

After you get home:

  • Make notes of everything you recall about the accident. You may think the details will stay in your mind forever, but over time you will forget.
  • If you begin feeling poorly after the accident, seek immediate medical attention, even if it means going to the emergency room. At the very least, get checked out by your family physician. It is better to be safe than sorry concerning your health.
  • You can certainly tell your family and friends you were in a car accident, but do not “over share” by circulating photos and vivid details on social media or via email.
  • Dealing with insurance companies can be complicated. Consider speaking with an attorney before contacting an insurance company or speaking with an insurance adjuster about the collision.

Most accidents just involve property damage and very minor injuries. In such cases, you can typically come to an agreement with the insurance company for repairs to your car, lost wages, and your medical bills. If, however, you or a loved one are more seriously injured as the result of an automobile accident, an attorney can help you understand and protect your rights. Most attorneys offer free consultations, so you have nothing to lose by making an appointment.