Being involved in a car accident is scary, and knowing what to do after a car accident — at the scene and in the days and weeks that follow — is difficult. No one expects to get in a car accident, but in my line of work, I’ve seen accidents happen in the most unexpected of circumstances, so it is important to be prepared. That includes knowing when speaking with a lawyer after a car accident can be a useful tool in protecting your physical, emotional, and financial health.
What Should I Do Immediately After A Car Accident?
When you are involved in a car accident in Ontario, the first priority is everyone’s safety. I tell every client that the first thing they should do is to go and see their doctor and get the medical attention they need. But how can you protect yourself in the immediate aftermath of an accident and dealing with your insurance company? This is a good time to consult with a personal injury lawyer who is experienced with car accidents. One of the many things they will do is make sure you have completed all necessary forms and help you establish a strong foundation on which to build your case in the event that you need to file a car accident claim.
- Call 911 for emergency help: Even if you believe your accident is not that serious, there are a few reasons you should call for police assistance. First, Ontario law requires accidents with more than $2000 in damage to be reported, and it does not take much to reach that threshold. Police also must be called if anyone is suspected to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Being responsible for making judgment calls about the conditions of a driver or the amount of damage is a lot to put on yourself in the midst of an accident, so it is generally easier to call 911 and follow the directions of the emergency operator.
- Check yourself and others for injuries: If you are able, this can be helpful information for emergency operators and first responders. If you or someone else is hurt, tend to injuries or calm them as best as you can, but do not move anyone who appears seriously injured. When in doubt, do not move any injured person — including yourself or your children. If you are assisting someone else, talk to them, tell them who you are and that help is on the way.
- Take pictures of the scene: If it is safe to do so, use your cell phone to take pictures of the scene, including the vehicles involved and the surrounding area. Any pictures that provide evidence of the location, weather conditions, road conditions, and position of the vehicles, any nearby hazards, or other potential factors can be helpful.
- Move your car out of the roadway: If your car can drive, and if you are physically able, move your car to the side of the road when it is safe to do so. If you cannot move your vehicle off the road, turn on your hazard lights or use cones, safety triangles, or other markers to let oncoming traffic know of your presence.
- Accept medical attention: Refusing to allow emergency responders to examine you or send you for more medical attention can not only get in the way of your well-being but also can make it difficult to file a lawsuit. You have two years to file an injury claim after your accident, but if you do not have evidence of pain or injury until long after the collision, you could be sabotaging your own case right from the start.
- Record driver and witness information: Keeping a copy of an accident worksheet in your vehicle, which can help guide you during the immediate aftermath of an accident, is not a bad idea. You can download the accident worksheet for yourself here. Make sure that you remain as calm and collected as possible when speaking with other drivers and witnesses, and do not voluntarily admit fault!
While you are speaking to any other driver, passenger, or witness, it might not hurt to listen for any signs of potential negligent behavior. Distracted driving, for example, is a major cause of car accidents, and it can even be illegal:
- talking on a cell phone
- reading (even maps!)
- using a GPS
- watching videos or movies
- eating or drinking
- personal grooming
- adjusting music settings
- talking to passengers
- driving while tired or upset
You are certainly not expected to be an investigator. Emergency responders, investigators and your attorney are all extremely skilled at figuring out what happened. However, if you are in a position to take steps to advocate for yourself right away, go for it!
Can I Claim Compensation for a Car Accident?
Within the first 24 hours after a car accident, you should have already reported your accident and received medical attention. However, you will need to deal with insurance and apply for statutory accidents benefits (SABS), as well as recovering from whatever injuries you might have.
Because Ontario operates under a no-fault system, you might be thinking that you are going to have it easy when it comes to getting the financial help you need from your insurance company. While all Ontario residents can qualify for SABS — which offer compensation for expenses such as lost wages and medical treatments — you will need to make sure that you follow the guidelines and the timeline required by law:
- Within seven days of your accident: You must inform your insurance company of your injuries within seven days of the accident. They will provide you with an Application for Accident Benefits form.
- Within 30 days of receiving the Application for Accidents Benefits form: You must return your application within 30 days of receiving it, and you should keep a copy for your own records. You may need paperwork completed by any employer you have had in the past 52 weeks as well as medical professionals, so you should not wait until the last minute!
During the days and weeks following your car accident, your recovery will look different depending on the severity of your injuries. Some injuries, like traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), may even have delayed symptoms or can worsen with time, so it is important that you remain attentive to your body. Other “invisible injuries,” like spinal or soft tissue injuries or psychological injuries, may end up requiring you to file a long-term disability claim, and the more documentation you have, the stronger your case.
As long as you are experiencing symptoms, receiving or trying to get compensation for your losses, or are otherwise dealing with the consequences of your accident, make sure that you are sticking to your treatment plan and keeping up with paperwork. It can be overwhelming, so if you have someone close to you who can help, this is not the time to try to handle everything yourself. You can also count on the advice and help of an injury lawyer.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer After a Car Accident?
If you know or even suspect that another person’s negligence caused your car accident, you might have grounds for filing a lawsuit. If your injuries result in an inability to work, you should file a case against the at-fault party. If you have access to Long Term Disability Benefits through an employer plan or your own personal plan, you should apply for those benefits. If you have been denied Long-Term Disability Benefits after a car accident, you might still be able to fight the denial with the help of a lawyer who knows how to handle these kinds of cases.
While every case is unique, we strive to be open, honest, and fair. Here is what you can expect when you reach out to Derek Wilson Personal Injury Law. First your intake will be conducted by one of my law clerks, who will pass on your information to me. If your intake indicates that your situation might benefit from legal representation, we will then ask you to schedule a longer consultation with me. I’ll ask you to share more of your story with me, and together we can talk about your options. Because I worked for insurance companies in the past, I know what it takes to get results that are fair. Call us at 855-769-0418, or get in touch online to schedule a free consultation.