Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Injured in a collision? Find out what steps to take after a car accident (and what mistakes to avoid) in order to recover the compensation you deserve. Get free help from an accident injury lawyer 24/7.
What are the steps to take after a car accident? The list is longer than most people think. While you may be focused on getting your car repaired and taking care of your medical bills, you could be entitled to far more, and you will need to take all of the necessary steps to secure just compensation. This starts with hiring an accident injury lawyer to deal with the insurance companies for you.
After a car accident, the best thing you can do is hire a care accident lawyer to help you. There are many ways an accident lawyer can help—including fighting to make sure you receive the full settlement you deserve. But, there are steps you will need to take before and after you hire an accident injury lawyer, and it will be important for you to get started right away.
In this ultimate guide to the steps to take after a car accident, we cover:
- 21 Steps to Take After a Car Accident
- 15 Mistakes to Avoid After a Car Accident
- Recap: Your Immediate Next Steps
21 Steps to Take After a Car Accident In Order to Maximize Your Compensation (Don’t Worry, We’ll Break It Down)
Yes, we know—21 steps is a lot. But, the reality is that it takes a lot to recover your losses after being injured in a collision. You need to make smart decisions and you need to be patient, but you also need to be diligent. Recovering your losses isn’t easy, but you can do it with the help of one of the experienced accident injury lawyers near you.
We have broken down our 21 steps to take after a car accident into three phases:
- 7 Steps to Take as Soon as You Get Home (or While You are Recovering in the Hospital)
- 7 Steps to Take When Dealing With the Insurance Companies
- 7 Steps to Take When Choosing (and Working With) an Accident Injury Lawyer
Protecting your legal rights starts immediately after your car accident. Once you get home, or once you are stable and recovering in the hospital, you should take the following steps:
1. Write Down Everything You Remember about Your Car Accident
One of the first steps to take after a car accident is to write down everything you remember. Take your time and be as detailed as possible. Don’t make any assumptions or write down anything that may or may not be accurate. Instead, just stick to the facts and record them while they are still fresh in your mind.
2. Make Sure You Understand Your Doctor’s Diagnosis and Treatment Recommendations
Seeing a doctor promptly after a car accident is extremely important. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and try to make sure you have a clear understanding of your doctor’s diagnosis and the next steps in your recovery process.
3. Be Sure to Keep Your Photos and Personal Items
Any photos you took at the scene of the accident could serve as evidence in support of your claim for financial compensation. The same is true of your clothes and any other personal items that were damaged in the accident.
4. Start Getting in the Habit of Collecting Records
As you continue with your medical treatment and start going through the insurance claims process, you will receive lots of records and documentation. From medical bills and receipts to letters and emails, get in the habit of keeping copies of everything in one place.
5. Stick To Your Doctor’s Treatment Plan (or Seek a Second Opinion)
Not only will sticking to your doctor’s treatment plan help ensure that you are able to recover as quickly as possible, but it will also help ensure that you are able to recover full compensation for your injury-related losses. If you do not trust your doctor’s advice, you should not simply ignore it, but instead seek a second opinion.
6. Notify Your Employer if You Will Be Unable to Work
If you are unable to work due to your injuries (or if your doctor tells you to rest), the steps to take after a car accident include notifying your employer promptly. Not only will this ensure that your employer isn’t left wondering when (or if) you’ll be back, but it will also establish a paper trail for proving your loss of earnings.
7. Start Keeping a Daily Log, Calendar, or “Pain Journal”
In addition to compensation for your medical bills, lost earnings, and other direct financial costs, you may be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering as well. By keeping records of your daily pain levels and the day-to-day impacts of your injuries, you can help your lawyer build a strong case for maximizing your pain and suffering damages.
Dealing with the insurance companies is not easy, and it is where many car accident victims end up making mistakes that cost them dearly. While you should hire an accident injury lawyer to handle your insurance claim for you, if you decide to try to handle your claim yourself, here are some of the key steps involved in the process:
8. File a Claim with Your Insurance Company Promptly
Filing a claim with your insurance company promptly is one of the most-important steps to take after a car accident. This is something that you can either do on your own or ask your attorney for car accidents to do for you. If you file your claim yourself, stick to the facts, and avoid saying anything which might even arguably suggest that you were partially at fault in the accident.
9. Provide Sufficient Details So that Your Insurance Company Can Investigate
When filing your insurance claim, you must provide sufficient details so that your insurance company can conduct an investigation. If you do not provide your insurance company with the information it needs, it will not be able to assess liability—and it will not pay for your injuries.
10. Promptly Respond to All Calls, Texts, and Emails
As your claim progresses, you will need to respond promptly to all calls, texts, and emails from your adjuster. Not only will any delays extend the duration of the process, but they will also give your insurance company more potential grounds to dispute or deny your claim.
11. Follow Up if You Don’t Hear from Your Adjuster
If you do not hear from your adjuster for an extended period of time, you should follow up. While the insurance claims process takes time, it should not take longer than is necessary. Hold your adjuster accountable, and don’t be shy about following up when your questions go unanswered.
12. Collect Your Medical and Employment Records
In order to prove your losses, you will need copies of your medical and employment records. You should gather these yourself rather than giving your insurance company authorization to gather them on your behalf. If you sign an authorization form, it will give your insurance company access to far more than is necessary.
13. Determine How Much You are Entitled to Recover
When you have an insurance claim, another of the key steps to take after a car accident is to determine how much you are entitled to recover. Unless and until you know this, you cannot make a smart decision about how much to accept from your insurance company. While this is something that you can try to do on your own, as a practical matter, the only way to accurately calculate your losses is to get help from one of the experienced accident injury lawyers near you.
14. Be Persistent and Avoid Being Pressured Into a Low-Dollar Settlement
The two most-important things to know when trying to handle your own car insurance claim are: (i) you need to be persistent, and (ii) you need to expect to receive lowball settlement offers. If you give up or give in, you will not receive the compensation you deserve.
As we’ve said above, the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to hire one of the experienced accident injury lawyers in your town or city. Here are the steps you should take when choosing a lawyer and working with your lawyer on your insurance claim:
15. Schedule a Free Initial Consultation Promptly
There is no reason not to hire a lawyer after a car accident. Your lawyer will handle your claim on a contingency-fee basis, and your lawyer will be able to help maximize your settlement from the insurance companies. If you have been injured, one of the most-important steps to take after a car accident is to schedule a free initial consultation promptly.
16. Ask Any Questions You Want to Ask
During your free initial consultation, you should feel free to ask any questions you want to ask. A free initial consultation is your opportunity to decide both: (i) if you want to move forward with hiring a lawyer, and (ii) if this is definitely the lawyer you want to hire.
17. Be Prepared to Answer Your Lawyer’s Questions
In addition to asking questions, you should be prepared to answer your lawyer’s questions as well. While you might not know everything—and that’s okay—you should come prepared (i.e. review your notes and bring copies of any records you’ve received so far) and answer all questions to the best of your ability.
18. Be Prepared to Provide All Photos, Records, and Other Evidence You Have
In order to evaluate your claim, accident injury lawyers will need sufficient information to assess both (i) who was at fault in the accident, and (ii) how much you may be entitled to recover. The more information you are prepared to provide during your free initial consultation, the better.
19. Be Responsive So That Your Lawyer Can Keep Working On Your Claim
While your lawyer is handling your car accident insurance claim, he or she will need to speak with you from time to time. The steps to take after a car accident do not end with hiring a lawyer to represent you. When your lawyer calls, texts, or emails, always respond as soon as possible. Remember, your lawyer is working on your claim, so it is in your best interests to be responsive.
20. Allow Your Accident Injury Lawyer Time To Do His or Her Job
While accident victims can – and should – contact their accident injury lawyers when they have questions, you also need to give your lawyer time to do his or her job. Pursuing a car insurance claim is not easy, and it can take time to build a case for a favorable settlement. When you hire a lawyer to represent you, you can trust that your lawyer is working diligently to secure just compensation as quickly as possible.
21. Carefully Consider Any Settlement Offers You Receive
Receiving a settlement offer can bring a huge sense of relief, but you must carefully consider any settlement offer before accepting. Listen to your accident injury lawyer’s advice, and make an informed and reasoned decision with your long-term best interests in mind.
In addition to knowing what steps to take after a car accident, you need to know how to avoid costly mistakes at each stage of your insurance claim as well. Keep reading to learn about:
- 5 Mistakes to Avoid in the Aftermath of the Accident
- 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Dealing With the Insurance Companies
- 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing (and Working With) an Accident Injury Lawyer
Just as there are several steps to take after a car accident that you need to prioritize, there are some early mistakes you need to avoid as well. Here are five mistakes to avoid in the immediate aftermath of a collision:
1. Not Seeing a Doctor Promptly
One of the biggest mistakes you can make after a car accident is failing to see a doctor promptly. Not only can this be dangerous for your health, but it can also jeopardize your ability to recover car accident compensation.
2. Ignoring Your Doctor’s Advice
Ignoring your doctor’s advice can be just as bad as not seeing a doctor at all. You need to prioritize your health—and doing so will help ensure that you are able to recover full compensation.
3. Assuming You Were at Fault
Unless and until you hire a lawyer to investigate your car accident, you have no way of knowing what factor (or factors) caused your collision. This means that you also have no way of knowing whether you were at fault. Never assume you were at fault; and, even if you have concerns, do not let this deter you from speaking with one of the many accident injury lawyers near you. Depending on where you live, you could be entitled to compensation even if you were partially at fault in your car accident.
4. Posting about the Accident on Social Media
An important fact about how car accident claims work is that the insurance companies monitor claimants’ activity online and in the real world. If you post about the accident (or your post-accident activity) on social media, the insurance companies may use your own photos and comments against you.
5. Trying to Handle Your Insurance Claim on Your Own
While we have outlined the basic steps involved in filing an insurance claim above, we do not recommend trying to handle your insurance claim on your own. You should hire a lawyer to help you, and you should schedule a free consultation right away.
If you decide to try to file your insurance claim on your own, you will need to be extremely careful at every stage of the process. Here are just some of the mistakes you will need to avoid:
6. Giving a Recorded Statement
When you file your insurance claim, you do not have to give a recorded statement. Provide enough details to start the claims process, and then leave the rest to your accident injury lawyer.
7. Providing a Blanket Authorization for Your Medical Records
If you sign an insurance authorization, your insurance company will have access to your medical records before and after the accident. This is unnecessary, and it can lead to additional complications during your claim.
8. Letting Your Insurance Company Decide How Much to Pay
If you let your insurance company decide how much to pay, it will only pay a portion (and probably a very small portion) of what you are owed. You need to independently calculate your losses with the help of one of the experienced accident injury lawyers near you.
9. Accepting a Settlement Without Calculating Your Losses
As we said above, unless and until you calculate your losses, you don’t know what constitutes just compensation. Accepting a settlement without knowing how much you are entitled to recover is a mistake you may not be able to afford.
10. Giving Up if Your Insurance Claim is Denied
If you file your insurance claim on your own, you should not give up if your claim is denied. Accident injury lawyers may still be able to help you, and you should schedule a free initial consultation promptly.
After a car accident, making smart decisions starts with getting advice from an experienced lawyer. Here are the mistakes you need to avoid when it comes to seeking legal representation:
11. Assuming Accident Injury Lawyers Cannot Help You
Many car accident victims assume that “they will get what they will get,” and there isn’t anything a lawyer can do to help. However, this could not be farther from the truth. A lawyer can take many steps to help maximize your recovery, and your lawyer can make sure you do not settle for less than you deserve.
12. Assuming an Accident Injury Lawyer Can Handle Your Claim Without Your Help
When you hire a lawyer, your lawyer can do a lot without your involvement, but he or she will still need you to remain actively involved in the process. In order to have a positive experience, you need to start with reasonable expectations.
13. Waiting Too Long to Schedule a Free Consultation
If you have been injured in a car accident, there is not one single reason to wait to speak with a lawyer. On the other hand, waiting longer than necessary could make it more difficult than necessary to recover the compensation you deserve.
14. Expecting to Receive a Quick Settlement
While your lawyer will work to secure just compensation as quickly as possible, this does not mean that you should expect a quick settlement. There are many steps your lawyer will need to take beyond those listed here, and it will simply take time to build a strong case for maximum compensation.
15. Ignoring Calls, Texts, or Emails from Your Accident Injury Lawyer
If your lawyer tries to contact you, there is a reason why. Do not ignore your lawyer's calls, texts, or emails. If you do, you will only delay your claim and potentially harm your chances of recovering just compensation.
We’ve covered a lot in this ultimate guide to the steps to take after a car accident. If you are just looking for the highlights, here is what you need to know:
Step #1: See a Doctor (and Follow Your Doctor’s Advice)
If you have not already seen a doctor, you should do so as soon as possible. Not only do you need to make sure you receive any medical treatment that is necessary, but waiting to see a doctor could also make it more difficult for you to recover just compensation. Once you see a doctor, follow your doctor’s advice (or seek a second opinion if you feel one is necessary), but do not simply ignore your medical needs.
Step #2: Schedule a Free Consultation with an Accident Injury Lawyer
Once you’ve seen a doctor, your next steps to take after a car accident are to contact a lawyer and schedule a free consultation. Your lawyer will need to investigate promptly, and you will need to rely on your lawyer’s advice to avoid costly mistakes. Your lawyer can deal with the insurance companies for you, accurately calculate your losses, and fight to secure maximum compensation on your behalf.
Step #3: Collect All Photos, Records, and Other Evidence You Have
If you took photos at the scene of the accident, your lawyer will need copies. Your lawyer will need copies of your medical records, any personal items that were damaged in the accident, and anything else you may have from the accident as well. While it is not necessary to have these things, if you do have them, you should collect them to provide during your free initial consultation.
Step #4: File an Insurance Claim, But Do Not Give a Recorded Statement
It is important to file an insurance claim promptly after a car accident. But, when doing so, it is equally important not to give a recorded statement. Just provide the details that are needed to report your collision, and then let your adjuster know that your lawyer will be handling your claim. You can also ask your lawyer to file your insurance claim on your behalf.
Step #5: Be Prepared to Work With Your Lawyer to Win Just Compensation
When you get a lawyer for your car accident, you still need to play an active role in your insurance claim. Be prepared to work with your accident injury lawyer throughout the process, and be responsive when your lawyer tries to get in touch with you. The more effort you put into working with your lawyer, the better your claim will go, and the better chance you will have to receive a maximum settlement.