You’ve Been Involved in a Car Accident, Now What?
No one leaves their home expecting to be involved in a car crash, but sadly, it happens daily to thousands of drivers across the US. Being thrust into this often scary and disorienting situation can lead to confusion and stress. Acquainting yourself with your legal responsibilities and actions that can simplify the insurance claim process may help reduce your uncertainty and allow you to handle the unfortunate incident confidently. However, if you have questions or are unsure how to proceed, do not hesitate to reach out to a helpful Washington State car accident attorney for guidance.
What Must You Do After Any Washington State Car Accident?
It is common for people to feel anxiety or panic after an accident, but it is crucial for you to remain calm and avoid any actions that could open you to criminal charges. When your adrenaline spikes after a frightening crash, your fight-or-flight instincts may tell you to get away from danger and leave the accident site. However, under RCW 46.52.020, anyone involved in a Washington accident resulting in death, injury, or property damage is required to remain at the scene until they have fulfilled their legal duties. These duties include:
- Rendering reasonable aid to anyone hurt in the accident, including calling 911 and requesting an ambulance if needed.
- Providing your name, address, driver’s license number, and insurance information to all individuals who were hurt or involved in the accident.
- Locating the owner of any parked vehicles involved in the accident or leaving a note with the necessary information to file an insurance claim if you are unable to find the owner after a reasonable search.
Failing to fulfill these duties could result in felony hit-and-run charges if someone was hurt or killed in the accident or misdemeanor charges for less severe accidents. You are only exempt from these requirements if you are too injured to complete your duties.
What Further Steps Should You Take to Protect Your Health and Legal Rights?
The aftermath of an auto accident can be overwhelming. Familiarizing yourself with the steps you should take before an accident occurs can help you stay focused if you ever find yourself in this challenging situation. Your initial actions should include carefully moving yourself and your vehicle out of the roadway, if possible. Getting struck again by oncoming traffic can cause even more damage. As noted above, if you are physically able, you should check with your passengers and others involved in the crash to determine if immediate medical assistance is required and get treatment for those in need. Once you’ve completed these urgent tasks, you can then take the following steps to further safeguard your well-being and help facilitate your future insurance claim.
Contact the Police
If the accident caused significant property damage or injuries, you must contact the police.
The responding officer will question everyone involved, investigate the crash scene, and make a report of their observations. This report can be valuable for your insurance claim, so be certain to ask how you can get a copy once it is completed.
Collect Information From Drivers and Witnesses
Exchange insurance information with all drivers involved in the accident. If witnesses are present, ask for their name, address, and phone number. Encourage witnesses to stay on the scene until the police arrive so they can make a statement.
Take Pictures of the Accident Scene
Accident sites are cleaned up rapidly to keep traffic moving and prevent further crashes.
Unfortunately, this means crucial evidence can be lost. By taking many photos and videos of the accident scene, you can preserve a valuable record of the crash site, which may be used to reconstruct the accident.
You should also write down your recollection of the accident as soon as possible. Memories can fade quickly as your thoughts become focused on other tasks, such as scheduling doctor appointments and getting your car fixed, so it is essential to record as much as you can remember while it is still fresh in your mind. Writing the key information down can also help you maintain consistency in retelling the facts as you speak to the police and insurance companies.
Seek Medical Attention
Getting prompt medical care is vital for your health and safety. Even if the accident seems minor, seeing a healthcare professional to rule out any significant damage to your body is still advisable. The pain of serious injuries can sometimes be masked by adrenaline, and some internal injuries may not present immediate symptoms. Seek urgent medical attention if you notice any new pain or injury symptoms in the days following the accident, as this can sometimes be a sign of severe complications.
Call Your Insurer
Many insurers require you to contact them about an accident within a short window of time.
They have the right to refuse coverage if you fail to inform them promptly. However, it is recommended that you speak with a knowledgeable car accident attorney prior to calling your insurance company to ensure you do not say anything that could harm your claim. Never agree to a settlement before discussing the terms with an attorney. Once you accept compensation for your accident, you cannot go back to request more money, even if you have further expenses for medical treatment and other costs.
Why Should You Reach Out to an Experienced Car Accident Attorney?
Handling the details of a car accident claim can be incredibly complicated. If you or a loved one have been injured in a collision, you deserve a hassle-free claims experience that leaves you free to focus on your recovery. South Sound Law Group can handle every aspect of your case, from investigating the crash to negotiating a fair settlement with the insurer. Contact our law office today at 253-465-2722 for a free consultation and learn how our compassionate personal injury lawyers can put their knowledge and skills to work for you.