When you’re involved in an auto accident, the impact you feel may be more than the damage from the crash. The incident may also leave you shaken emotionally. You may feel powerless or like you’re no longer in control of your situation. When you find yourself in these circumstances, the next steps you take will determine your physical and financial future.
First Steps to Take
The first thing you should do after getting your car to a safe place is to call the police. Whether you feel there is significant damage to either car or you’re injured, you should call the police. The police will be able to legally determine who is at fault for the accident. After the accident, when you contact your insurance company, they’ll ask if you reported the accident to the police.
While you’re waiting for the police to arrive, ask the other driver to see a copy of their driver’s license and insurance card. Take a picture of those documents with your phone. Step outside your car and look for any damage. Take a picture of any damage to your car and to any property nearby.
Protect Your Physical Health
Whether you believe you’re injured or not, it’s a good idea to go to a doctor or hospital to be examined. There’s a biological response to an accident which delivers a rush of adrenaline through the body. The body will react to that rush of adrenaline as it would to a trauma, which includes a temporary decrease in feelings of pain.
This response means you can’t tell whether you’ve been injured or even feel the extent of those injuries. A small bruise or slight ache could be hiding a serious injury and it’s better to see a medical professional as soon as possible. To cite just one concerning statistic, in 2019, there were over 33,000 fatal auto accidents in the U.S.; and those accidents were responsible for over 36,000 deaths.
Make the Right Calls
As soon as possible, after the accident, you must call your auto insurance company. They’ll need the information from the other driver, the pictures you took, plus the doctor’s report. The New York State Department of Financial Services, for example, mandates you contact your insurance company within 30 days of an auto accident. If you don’t apply before that deadline, you could lose the right to compensation for any medical care after the accident.
Your insurance company will ask to have the car examined by an auto repair shop. They may specify which garage you must use. The insurance company will typically ask for a written estimate of the damages, and they will need to approve the repairs. During the time your car is being repaired, your insurance company may arrange for you to use a rental car.
Your Recovery Period
During the time following the accident, your insurance company will assess the financial damages which occurred. Part of these will include damage to your car, plus property damages, and any medical expenses. They’ll also determine other losses caused by the accident; including lost wages from the time you can’t work. There may be other losses, like your inability to do housework or spend intimate time with your partner.
After your initial visit to the doctor after the accident, it’s your job to rest and recover. Follow any doctor’s orders about activity and when to return to work. If your doctor orders physical therapy, they will help you regain full mobility and help you return to normal activities.
After an auto accident, it’s normal to feel shaken and overwhelmed. However, if you follow the above steps, you’ll be on the road to returning to normal as soon as possible. Let the insurance company fight for your financial rights and let your doctor help you to regain your physical health.