The majority of residents of the Garden State have been involved in at least one vehicle collision in their lives. And while the circumstances, extent of injuries, and level of responsibility may differ between them, one thing is likely constant across all - the persons involved will usually ask themselves:
"What should I do after a car accident?"
There's no single set of rules you should follow after one of these accidents. However, there are some important guidelines to note.
Following these steps will put you in a better position to deal with all of the legal consequences that a collision can bring, whether you believe you are at fault or not. On this page, our New Jersey car accident attorneys have outlined some of these points for your reference.
As soon as the accident occurs and you have some time to gather yourself, you should contact the authorities so that they may make their way to the scene. Upon their arrival, the officers will likely begin taking notes and filling out a police report.
Creating an official record of your collision will be instrumental when the time comes to file your claim. Once more, whether you believe you were at fault or not, having the authorities write up an official report can be substantially beneficial.
At this time, you should also begin your own process of gathering evidence if you are able to.
Take pictures of the damage to your car and the damage to any other vehicles involved, as well as the scene as a whole. Make sure to get multiple angles, as different lighting conditions can obscure the nature of the scene.
You may also write down the personal and insurance information of the other individuals involved. If the other vehicles had any passengers traveling in them besides the driver, try to get their information as well. These individuals may serve as witnesses down the line.
While it is true that the responding officers should complete a thorough investigation of the scene and then note it in their report, it is only human to make mistakes and potentially overlook critical aspects. If you have a record of these overlooked points, they can bolster your own claim.
At the scene, the police officers are likely to ask for your 'side' of the events as they occurred; they will be writing much of this down in their report.
When it comes time to do so, make sure you share your point of view as accurately as possible. If you are unsure about anything, state it so. Do not try to make any assumptions with regard to the events as this can be detrimental to your claim.
If you have the opportunity, contact your insurance company directly from the scene to let them know about the accident. Once more, only state that an accident occurred, but do not make any statements with regards to fault.
More than anything, you want to let them know about the accident, as well as learn about your options for medical treatment. They may have some restrictions as to which doctors you may visit, so make sure to get a clear answer.
Remember that the insurance company is at your disposal - ask as many questions as you need and remain on the phone as long as necessary to get the answers you're looking for.
Even if you think that you walked away unscathed from the collision, you should visit a doctor for an evaluation nonetheless.
Injuries from vehicle collisions can take some time to 'set in.' The days after an accident may indeed be pain-free, but what are known as latent injuries may still arise.
Visiting a doctor will also produce yet another document that you should keep for your records. Speaking of which...
Any documents you receive or collect regarding your incident can prove invaluable when it comes time to file a claim. Medical records, documents from the insurance company, a copy of the police report; all of these are vital parts of a strong car accident claim. Do not lose track of them.
Your insurance company is likely to reach out with an offer to settle your claim. How can you know if their offer is competitive? Consider the following.
Insurance companies are businesses at their core, so saving money (and remaining in business) is one of their main goals. They will try to get you to sign away your rights for compensation as soon as possible, ultimately decreasing the benefits you can receive. However, if they know you have a legal representative fighting for your interests, they are much more likely to enter into a negotiation.
For this reason, we highly recommend contacting our team of experienced car accident attorneys before you accept any offer. You can get a good sense of the strength of your case by speaking with our team via a free legal consultation. It is at no cost to you, and you will be under no obligation to engage.
Through our free case review, a lawyer will be able to explain all of the legal options at your disposal under your specific circumstances. Once you've armed yourself with the required knowledge, you'll be much more prepared to make this decision which can have such a big impact on your life and that of your loved ones.
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