Steps to Take After Car Accident

Already been in a crash? The following is a general outline of the best steps to take after a car accident in New York.

1. Keep Calm and Stay Safe

Car crashes happen suddenly, often without any warning. Victims report that time seems to move differently in those moments. For some, time “slows down,” everything happening in slow motion. For others, the entire ordeal seems to happen in a flash.

The entire experience can be extremely disorienting, confusing, and jarring — perhaps even more than you expect. It isn’t uncommon for people to feel scattered and dazed.

In all situations, it is best to keep calm. Take a deep breath. Tell yourself that you can handle this, resisting the urge to panic.

If it is possible to safely do so, move your vehicle out of traffic’s way. If your vehicle is near fast or oncoming traffic, try to safely exit the vehicle and move as far away from traffic as you can, without compromising your safety.

2. In the Event of an Emergency, Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Try to assess yourself for injuries first. While you can’t always tell whether you are injured, try to notice any signs of serious injury, pain, or disability.

If you are not seriously injured, try to find out if everyone else involved in the accident is okay.

If you suspect anyone is injured, call 911 right away. If you can’t make the call, ask someone nearby to do so. It is better to ask a specific person to call 911 instead of asking, “Can someone call 911?”

3. Notify the Authorities

You must notify law enforcement of the auto accident. Failure to do so may subject you to civil and/or criminal liability and could also compromise any claim you might file later.

If the situation does not appear to be an emergency, you may call the local police line rather than dialing 911.

Do not leave the scene until a law enforcement officer has told you to. Be sure to ask the officer for a copy of the police report (or instructions for obtaining it) before you go.

Even if the accident seems to be very minor, with no apparent injuries or property damage, you still must notify the authorities. They will tell you if the accident is insignificant enough that police action isn’t warranted — let them make that decision, not you.

4. Exchange Information

While still at the scene, exchange your car insurance info with the other drivers. Be sure you get their name, address, phone number, insurance company name, and policy information.

The responding law enforcement officer may be able to assist in facilitating this exchange of information.

If at all possible, you should also write down contact information for everyone involved in the accident, including:

  • Drivers
  • Passengers
  • Pedestrians
  • Witnesses

These people may prove very important to your claim.

5. Be Careful of What You Say

Politeness is a virtue, but at the scene of an auto accident, being too polite can be a bad idea.

Generally speaking, you should avoid statements like these:

  • “I’m so sorry.”
  • “It was my fault.”
  • “You didn’t do anything wrong.”
  • “I wasn’t paying attention.”
  • “I should have been more careful.”

While you might think of these as harmless pleasantries, intended to make a tense situation less uncomfortable, the insurance companies might use your words against you later on.

While it’s good to adopt a gracious and gentle demeanor, you want to be very careful about any statements you make. This is true whether you are talking to other people involved in the crash or to the police officer.

Remember: the responding officer may not have seen the crash, so he or she will be limited to what they see and hear once they arrive.

While you should remain courteous and cooperative – and never dishonest or argumentative — do avoid saying anything that might be construed as an admission of fault.

6. Take Photographs

In any auto injury claim, evidence is important. While the police report is one important kind of evidence, other documents can be just as valuable: video footage, handwritten notes, medical records, and so on.

One of the most important forms of evidence? Photographs taken at the scene of the crash.

The more pictures you take, the better. Here are some tips for getting photographic evidence that may help you and your attorney later:

  • Take more photos than you think you need.
  • Take photographs from various angles, distances, and vantage points.
  • Get close-up photos and farther-away shots.
  • Document obvious vehicle damage and physical injuries.
  • Try to get broad-scale photos of the accident scene at large.
  • Capture any evidence of adverse weather, traffic lights, and other relevant road signs or conditions.
  • Photograph license plates so you remember the numbers later.

If your smartphone or digital camera isn’t currently set to timestamp photographs, go ahead and activate that setting now. Your photos will be more useful if they carry an exact timestamp.

It goes without saying, of course, that you should never compromise your safety for the sake of taking photographs.

7. Schedule a Doctor’s Visit ASAP

Seeing a doctor soon after a car crash is an imperative part of the claims process. Doing so is important for at least two reasons:

  1. You could be hurt without realizing it. Auto accident injuries aren’t always apparent. Some symptoms develop slowly. Internal injuries may not produce any obvious signs at all. You need to be examined carefully by a medical professional who knows what to look for.
  2. A documented doctor’s visit can help your insurance claim. Insurance companies frequently look for ways to deny incoming claims. One of their most common strategies is to accuse the victim of getting injured somewhere else and then blaming the injury on the car crash. The more time that goes by before seeing a doctor, the more likely the insurer is to make that argument. Alternatively, they might argue that your injuries must not have been serious if you didn’t need medical attention. Seeing a doctor soon after the crash (even if it wasn’t an emergency situation) is in your best interest.

8. Call a Kingston Auto Accident Lawyer

Auto accident claims are complex, and the insurance companies involved will not be looking out for your best interests. The process can be challenging, and mistakes are easy to make.

An experienced Kingston car accident lawyer can represent your legal interests, help you avoid common pitfalls, and handle every aspect of your claim — all while fighting to maximize your financial compensation at every turn.

The sooner you talk to an attorney about your accident, the better. At O’Connor and Partners, we offer a no-cost, no-obligation case review for car injury victims in New York.

Go ahead and store this number in your smartphone so that you have it when you need it: 845-303-8777. We encourage you to call us as soon as possible after an auto accident.

Free Case Review: Kingston Auto Accident Attorneys at O’Connor and Partners

At O’Connor and Partners, we fight hard to maximize compensation for the clients we represent. If you choose to hire us after your consultation, we will not charge you a fee unless we get you money first. If you can’t come to us, we’ll come to you. Contact us online or call 845-303-8777 to talk with an experienced Kingston auto accident attorney today. As Kingston auto accident lawyers, we offer our legal services to individuals living all throughout the State of New York.

by O'Connor & Partners, PLLC
Last updated on - Originally published on

Posted in: Car Accidents