After a car accident, you should prioritize your health and potential injury case by reporting the incident to law enforcement, documenting the collision scene, and considering your legal options. Below, the team at Whitley Law Firm has compiled some recommendations that could make for a smooth claims process. If you have any questions about partnering with our client-centered legal team, call (919) 785-5000.
At the Scene of the Car Crash
You should always do the sensible thing in your situation. We simply offer suggestions that could bolster your case’s outcome and make for a smooth claims process.
Do Not Drive Away
It is illegal to drive away from the scene of an accident without exchanging information and getting medical attention for injured people. If someone calls the police to come to the scene of the crash, everyone must stay until given permission to leave by the officer.
Call Law Enforcement
Per North Carolina law, you’re required to call the police if anyone is injured in the collision or passes away. If the police didn’t come to the scene, you have 48 hours to report the incident to law enforcement. Without documentation, the other driver could lie about what happened, and it would be difficult to prove the truth.
You could get blamed for the accident, complicating matters further. North Carolina is a pure contributory negligence state, which means that if you are even one percent at fault, you cannot recover any compensation from the driver who caused the collision. The negligent driver could make up facts to try to justify a denial of your injury claim.
Request an Ambulance if There Are Injuries
If you can do so safely, you will want to check to see if anyone involved in the accident sustained injuries. A person might be unable to call for medical help for themselves if they suffered severe wounds. When you call 911 to request a police officer, be sure to request an ambulance to come and render medical attention if appropriate.
Use Your Cell Phone to Take Photographs
Your cell phone is a quick and easy way to capture images of skid marks, damage to the involved vehicles, the location of the cars, and visible injuries. You can also use your phone to conveniently collect information from the other parties’ driver’s licenses and insurance coverage cards.
Avoid Talking to Other People at the Scene Except to Exchange Information
Here in North Carolina, we pride ourselves on our good manners. Unfortunately, what you might intend as an expression of sympathy, the other party might view as an admission of fault. You might tell someone that you are sorry just to be polite, not to apologize for something that you did not cause.
It is best to avoid idle chatter with the other people at the scene to avoid misinterpretations of your words. Simply exchange insurance and contact information, and answer the police officer’s questions. Other than those things, it is advisable to stay silent.
Jot Down All Details
Ideally, you will take the time to write down every detail you can remember about what happened before, during, and after the collision. Doing this as soon as possible helps your legal team “get the facts straight” when building your case.
Also, juries tend to find notes written right after the crash more credible than ones written weeks or months later.
What to Do If Someone Leaves the Scene Illegally
Sometimes, a person will flee the scene of an accident because they do not have insurance, they are afraid of getting charged with driving under the influence, or they simply panic. Every detail you can capture could help the police catch the individual, such as:
- The car’s make and model
- The vehicle’s color
- A description of the driver
- Any identifying information, like decals
- The location of any traffic cameras
- The direction they fled
If you think that someone might leave before the police get there, you will want to snap pictures of their vehicle with your phone. This can serve as invaluable evidence when the police search for them later.
Keep in mind that even if you were hurt in a hit-and-run accident, you could still have financial recovery options. Still, try to document the incident as thoroughly as possible.
You Should Get Medical Attention After a Car Accident
If you got injured in a car accident, you should seek professional medical attention right away. This is no time to try to “walk it off” or wait to see if you will get better on your own.
Consider the following:
- The benefits of prompt medical attention. You are less likely to get an infection or experience other complications if you get an examination promptly after the collision. Also, some hidden injuries do not exhibit symptoms immediately.
- The importance of your medical records. Your medical records will connect your wounds to the collision, particularly if you went straight from the collision to the emergency room. When you wait even a day or two to get a medical evaluation, the at-fault driver will likely argue that your injuries were from some other incident and not the crash.
- Why you should complete your medical treatment. It can be tempting to skip the last few physical therapy appointments or wait to see if you can get by without having the surgery your doctor recommends. This may compel the liable party to argue that you worsened your condition, so they should not have to pay for any residual problems.
Also, the cost of your medical treatment will be a crucial component in the calculation of your monetary damages.
Report the Crash to Your Insurance Company
Even if you did not cause the collision, you should notify your car insurance company of the accident. The other party might file a claim against your insurance, and your insurer could deny coverage if you did not report the accident. Any damages the other party might recover could come out of your pocket.
If the other driver was uninsured, underinsured, or fled the collision scene, you might want to seek help from the uninsured or underinsured coverage on your policy. Not reporting the accident to your insurer could disqualify you from those benefits.
Also Notify the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Company
You should have received the other driver’s insurance information at the scene. You will want to notify their insurer of the accident, but do not go into details or give a recorded statement.
Talk to a Personal Injury Attorney About Handling Your Injury Claim
At your earliest convenience, you should talk to a personal injury lawyer about handling your injury claim. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will start refuting your claim as soon as it finds out about the crash. You do not want it to have an unfair advantage because you waited to talk to a lawyer. You want every resource available to recover every dollar you’re owed.
Keep an Eye on the Calendar
North Carolina law limits the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit seeking compensation from the negligent party. You only have three years under G.S. § 1-52 to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for your personal injuries. G.S. § 1-53 says that a wrongful death lawsuit must get filed within two years if your close relative passed away in a car accident.
It’s vital to adhere to this deadline. Noncompliance could void your right to damages.
Learn What to Do After a Car Accident With Whitley Law Firm
You can reach out to Whitley Law Firm today for a free initial consultation. There is no obligation. We treat our clients like family. We also handle these cases on a contingency-fee-basis, which means that you do not pay us any legal fees until you recover compensation. Call (919) 785-5000 to begin a free case review.