Those minutes after a car accident are a shock. You might feel disoriented, perhaps panicked. You might be angry at the other driver, or upset at yourself.
Whatever you are feeling, you need to keep your cool and deal with the situation. After the police have been called — if there were injuries — or you’ve exchanged information and are heading to a collision reporting centre, there are a few more things you need to think about:
Call Your Doctor
Even if you were seen by a paramedic at the scene and were cleared, you were in shock after the accident. When the body goes into shock, you can experience confusion, anxiousness, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, even nausea or vomiting. In other words, you’re not necessarily thinking clearly.
While you might have not been in immediate and urgent need of medical attention, you might find that the situation changes quickly and the sooner you go and see your family physician, the sooner he or she can note the symptoms you are experiencing.
Ideally, you would do this within 24 hours of the accident. I think it’s common sense: Your number one priority is always your health, and from a legal perspective, the timeline of potential injuries is very important when it comes to dealing with the insurance company. The best person to document that accurately is your doctor.
Call A Lawyer
You feel fine and your car is being repaired, you’ve got a rental vehicle and it’s back to business as usual. Do you still need to call a lawyer? Yes. Why? One simple reason: soft tissue injuries, to say nothing of more serious conditions, don’t always develop in the hours and days that follow an accident. Sometimes it takes a week or two to really get a handle on what’s happening to your body.
What’s a soft tissue injury? It is an injury that isn’t immediately visible and involves, not surprisingly, the soft tissues of the body: muscles, tendons, ligaments. You can’t get an x-ray for these and ultimately, your injury is diagnosed largely on reporting of symptoms and range of motion tests.
The seriousness of any injuries might still be an unknown, but the details of the incident are fresh in your mind. If you get a lawyer involved from beginning, they can establish an accurate timeline, a detailed description of the accident and get the information you might need in the future.
They know what to gather, what to ask and the sooner they get to ask you, the more likely the information will be accurate and reliable.
As the weeks go by, the details of the accident will become less sharp and any reporting may be less accurate — not through any intentional omission on your part, but just because of the nature of memory and how it works: “Memory blanks, flashbacks and an eventual distortion of the traumatic event are all normal reactions to experiencing a disaster.”
Keep Your Receipts
After your accident, make sure you get an old shoe box and keep every single receipt for anything and everything that is connected to the incident.
- Did you replace a coffee mug that was shattered in the accident? Keep the receipt.
- Did you take a taxi to your doctor’s appointment? Keep the receipt.
- Did you have to pay for tests, hospital parking or physiotherapy? Keep the receipt.
Without receipts, you won’t be able to collect what you are owed by the insurance company, or at least not as easily. If you can provide proof of expenses, it will be much easier to get all of that sorted out with your adjuster.
After all, they are doing their job by asking for this information, to corroborate your claim, so make it easier all around by having what they need handy and well organized, even if it is only in a shoe box.
Remember, the most important thing after an accident is to stay calm. After that, call for help. You don’t have to deal with it all on your own.