No one ever expects to be in a wreck, but it’s important to be prepared and know what to do after a car accident. Each day in Georgia, an average of 365 people are injured and three people die in traffic accidents, according to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety in Georgia.
Regardless of the severity of the accident and of the injuries, there are several steps you’ll want to take after the collision. First, your health and safety and that of others involved in the accident are top priority. Avoiding panic and quickly tending to medical needs will help mitigate injuries and may save lives. Second, taking the proper steps after an accident can do a world of good in protecting your legal rights and your rights to compensation should you decide to file a claim or lawsuit against the other party.
#1: Tend to Safety First
The first step is to get yourself out of harm’s way. If you’re unable to move, try to remain calm and wait for help to arrive. If you are able to exit the vehicle, try to move yourself and your car to a safe location off the road and out of the way of traffic, if possible. Make a quick assessment of the traffic situation and be aware of any hazards, such as fire or oncoming vehicles, and turn on your hazard lights.
Also, check and see if everyone else involved is okay. Call 911 for medical attention for any drivers or passengers who might need it. If anyone complains of back or neck injuries, do not move them until the paramedics arrive.
Note, do not leave the scene of the accident until after the police have arrived and have taken the report. If you leave the scene before it’s OK to do so, it could be considered a hit-and-run, and you may face subsequent criminal penalties.
#2: Contact Law Enforcement
Next, you’ll want to contact law enforcement. You can just call 911 and tell the dispatcher about the accident and they’ll send officers, as well as an ambulance and fire truck if need be. When the officer(s) arrive, provide them with any basic information they request and ask that they provide you with a copy of the police report.
Note, for most car accidents in Georgia, you’re required to report the accident. The law states that if the accident involved injuries, fatalities or more than $500 in damage, you must report the accident.
If you do not need to report the accident to police (and even if you do report it), it’s highly recommended at least to fill out a Personal Report of Accident form, which you can download from the Georgia Department of Driver Services site. The form essentially documents the who, what, where, why, when and how of the accident and allows you to record your take on the specifics while the incident is still fresh in your mind. The form is for your own use, but it can be used as helpful evidence if you wind up later filing a claim.
#3: Collect Info from Other Driver
You also will need to exchange information with the other driver(s). The pertinent info you want to collect includes:
- Names, addresses and contact information
- Driver’s license numbers
- License plate numbers
- Insurance company names and contact info and policy numbers for those involved
- Other involved occupants’ names and contact info
Jot down the info on your phone in a safe place so you don’t misplace it. You can save it as a note or text or email it to yourself so that you’ll have it handy when speaking to your insurance company.
#4: Gather Other Important Evidence
Finally, if you’re able, collect any information that might be useful as evidence when filing your claim or lawsuit. Any piece of info that has any bearing on the accident may wind up being helpful -- so gather as much as possible. In addition to the police report and other driver’s info, try to get the following information:
- Photos of the accident scene, the vehicles and injuries
- Video footage of the scene
- Names and contact info for any eyewitnesses
- The exact location of the accident, i.e., the corner of Mitchell St. and Central Ave. (You may want to use an app for this if unsure. “Location” app by idevelop.com, “Glympse” and “What’s My Location” by Microsoft are a couple of examples of free apps that will provide you with the street address and GPS coordinates for exactly where you are.)
Additional Car Accident Tips
There are also a few things you’ll want to avoid after an accident, like delaying medical treatment or admitting fault. Little mistakes can thwart your rights to compensation, so it’s important to do and say the rights things after a crash. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Always get a medical evaluation after a crash, even if you don’t think you’re seriously hurt. You might have internal injuries that need medical attention. Also, medical records might be useful later for claim or lawsuit purposes.
- Keep your cool after the accident. Even if the other party was obviously careless and at fault, try to remain calm and courteous. Going off the deep end will not benefit anyone.
- Be mindful of what you say and don’t admit fault in any way to the other party or the insurer. You don’t know all the facts of the case yet, and prematurely admitting fault can apportion undue liability onto yourself. Even offhanded, innocent remarks like “I’m so sorry” can later be misconstrued as fault and used against you. Stick to basic information exchange only.
- After you file a claim, don’t sign the first offer that the adjuster provides. If your damages are substantial, you’ll want to consult an attorney first to ensure the offer is fair and sufficient.
- Finally, keep the number of a good car accident lawyer in your wallet or phone contacts so that you’ll be ready should a crash ever occur. For an established accident lawyer with a successful track record of helping victims in Atlanta recover significant settlements, call the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz. The office number is 404-474-0804, and we offer a free, no-obligation consultation. Call or use our online contact form today.