Nobody expects to be in a car accident, but obviously, many people are. Studies have shown that planning for emergencies helps you respond better if they do occur. This is certainly true of car accidents, in Atlanta, GA and elsewhere. Here are some things you should do, and avoid doing, in the minutes, days, weeks and months following a car accident.
Especially if the accident appears to be minor, and you think you're okay, you may just want to put it behind you and get moving to your original destination. Avoid this temptation. You may be in shock and injured worse than you know. Pull over in a safe place and turn your hazard lights on. Stay and make a police report, even if it seems unnecessary to you.
First things first: make sure everyone's okay, or that you have a sense of the seriousness of injuries when you call 911. Do not move an injured person unless they are in imminent danger; by doing so, you could injure them more seriously. Don't apologize for the accident; your statement could be taken as an admission of responsibility, even if you weren't at fault. This could reduce any damages you would be entitled to receive.
As noted above, it's important to create an official record of what happened in the accident by making a police report, but it's even more important to get immediate medical help for anyone who has been injured.
While you've got your phone out, take as many pictures as you can: of the vehicles, of your visible injuries, of the accident scene, of the other driver's license plate. Pictures provide visual documentation that could provide crucial evidence later, evidence that can't be reconstructed or that will be difficult to reconstruct.
If you are physically able, determine if there are any other drivers or passersby who witnessed the accident. Ask what they saw. If they are local (e.g. shopkeepers near the location of the accident) ask if there have been other accidents in the location. Tell witnesses that the police have been called and ask if they would be willing to stay and contribute to the police report. If they are unable or unwilling to, ask if you can get their name, address, and phone number to give to the police. If they are driving, document their license plate numbers so the police can track them down if necessary.
If it was a multi-car accident, exchange insurance information with the other driver(s). Other than this, minimize conversation. Angry exchanges could escalate, resulting in danger, or your sincere expression of concern could be taken and later used as an admission of responsibility.
You may not feel badly injured, but you should always consent to be checked out medically at the scene and at a hospital emergency room. Some injuries are serious but may not be immediately obvious, especially if you're in shock. Prompt medical attention can identify injuries and keep them from getting worse. Also, if it later turns out you were seriously injured, the other driver will have more trouble suggesting that your injury is exaggerated if you received a prompt medical examination.
You may not think you want to sue anybody, but you should consult an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney anyhow. If the other driver was at fault in any way, their insurance company may offer you a settlement. This might sound good, but it comes with strings attached: you won't be able to come back later for more money if you need it—and you might. Never accept a settlement without consulting your own attorney first.
A personal injury attorney can help on a number of levels. First, just the fact that you've retained an attorney means an insurance company is less likely to offer you a "lowball" settlement offer. Second, an attorney's presence signifies that you are willing to litigate the matter; this may encourage the insurance company to settle, actually saving you a lawsuit.
Last but not least, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you assess what your needs and expenses might be following the accident, so that you will be better informed as to whether a settlement offer is reasonable. Your attorney will help you know what to settle for—or to fight for—and guide you through every step of the process.
Buddoo and Associates offers free consultations to Georgia car accident injury victims. Contact us as soon as possible to discuss the particulars of your case so that we can help to protect your interests.