Next Steps After an Accident
May 25, 2022
No one plans on getting in an accident, and many of us haven’t spent any time considering what to do when one happens. While accidents can be devastating on a number of levels, you’ll still need to think logically about your next steps. The moments after an accident are critical for not only your physical well-being, but also for any future compensation you hope to receive.
At G. Aldrich Law, we focus solely on personal injury cases, and when you choose to work with us, you know you’re getting experienced legal advocacy that will make a significant difference in your pursuit of damages. We have two locations, one in Lakeport and one in Woodland Hills, California, but can serve clients in Lake County, Los Angeles County, Colusa County, Riverside County, and the surrounding Northern and Southern California counties. If you need help figuring out what to do after an accident, give G. Aldrich Law a call today to talk through your options.
Steps to Take After an Accident
Safety/Medical Care: You should always make sure you and any other people who were involved in the accident are safe and that you’re evaluated by a medical professional. Even if you don’t feel obviously injured or that your injuries are only minor, you should still seek medical care. Many injuries won’t be noticeable right away, especially with all the adrenaline running through your body, and only a trained professional can accurately assess your health.
It will also be helpful to have this documentation when you make a claim. By getting this done promptly and following all the doctor’s instructions (including treatment programs and follow-up visits), you’ll get ahead of any potential delays in your claim. If you wait too long to seek care, some insurance companies will use this information against you to claim your injuries aren’t that serious or that you’re faking them.
Call the Police: Even for a minor accident, it’s wise to call the police. By law in California, you need to contact the police within 24 hours if anyone is injured. Make sure you get the responding officer’s contact information and obtain a copy of their accident report as this will also help you with your claim.
Documentation: Insurance claims and lawsuits are all about documentation—the more the better. You should exchange contact information with the other driver and any witnesses who saw the accident. Keep copies of police reports, medical reports, and write out your own account of what happened.
Notify Insurance: Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible, usually within a couple days. You should do this regardless of who was at fault for the accident.
Hire an Attorney: A personal injury attorney isn’t always necessary after an accident, but if you’re concerned about receiving adequate damages for an auto accident, being held at fault, or if you’re uncertain of the insurance claim process and are afraid you might miss something big, an attorney can ensure you have the best chance of a favorable outcome.
Unfortunately, even if the accident is not your fault and you do everything right, you still could run into setbacks during the claims process. Be aware of these potential pitfalls and what to do about them:
Uninsured Driver: You’re in no control over who you get in an accident with, and sadly, there are many drivers on the road who don't carry insurance. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t pursue compensation! You may be able to claim damages through your own policy with personal injury protection (PIP), uninsured motorist coverage, collision insurance, or through your personal health insurance. You can also still pursue a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Consider All Costs: When making a claim with an insurance company, make sure all your costs associated with the accident are included. This includes property damage to your car and your possessions that were in the car, medical expenses, lost wages, rental car expenses, transportation expenses, and pain and suffering.
Making Sure Medical Costs Are Final: Always follow up with your healthcare provider to get a clear idea of all your medical expenses and make sure the costs are finalized. The last thing you want is a surprise bill coming your way only after you’ve accepted a settlement.
Low First Settlement Offer: Insurance adjusters are trying to save their company money and move on to the next claim as quickly as possible. To do this, they’ll often throw out a lowball first offer just to see if you'll say yes. Don’t say yes! You can almost always get a better offer by waiting, and you likely won’t have a good idea of all your expenses at this point either.
Statute of Limitations: In California, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. This may seem like a lot of time, but if you wait and file after this time period, your claim is likely to be thrown out.
Experienced Guidance You Can Trust
Car accidents are traumatic events both for you and your family, and you shouldn’t have to go through them alone. If you’re located in or around Lakeport or Woodland Hills, California, call us at G. Aldrich Law today to schedule a consultation. We’re committed to protecting your rights when you’ve been injured and can help you seek the compensation you’re entitled to.