Being involved in a car accident can leave you feeling shaken up. If you have never been hurt in a car accident before, you might not know what steps you need to take to protect your legal rights and interests. At Arrington Schelin, our Virginia car accident attorneys are here to walk you through what to expect and fight for your recovery every step of the way.
Call or reach out to us online today for a free consultation.
Contact Law Enforcement
The first step you need to take after a car accident is contacting law enforcement. Virginia law requires any driver involved in an accident that results in property damage, injury, or death to report the wreck to authorities. Here’s what you need to know about reporting a crash:
- If you or someone else involved in the accident has been badly injured or appears in physical distress, call 911 for emergency medical assistance.
- If no one involved requires immediate medical attention, contact local law enforcement (or state police if the accident takes place on the highway or interstate) to report the crash. Depending on the circumstances of the wreck, an officer may arrive to investigate and prepare an accident report.
- If the responding officer creates an accident report, you should obtain a copy of the report from the DMV.
- If you do not contact law enforcement from the scene, you should later report the crash to the Virginia Department of Motor vehicles.
Exchange Information with Others Involved
Virginia law also requires you to exchange information with all the other parties involved in the accident. At a minimum, you should exchange contact and insurance information with the drivers involved.
In addition, you should speak with any eyewitnesses to the accident to get their contact information in case you later need them to provide a statement for your claim.
If you are involved in an accident with an unoccupied vehicle or fixed property, try to locate the owner to exchange information. If you cannot find the property owner, leave your contact and insurance information with the damaged property to allow the owner to reach you.
Seek Medical Treatment
You should also seek medical attention as soon as possible after the accident. If you don’t receive or refuse emergency medical treatment at the scene of the crash, you should still follow up with your primary physician or go to the emergency room for a physical exam.
A doctor can promptly identify and begin treating your injuries. This will also create a record that establishes those injuries resulted from the accident and not from something else.
If you wait too long to see a doctor after a car accident, you may give the at-fault driver or insurance company a basis to argue that any injuries that are eventually diagnosed were caused by something other than the crash.
Save Any Evidence from the Scene
Preserve any potentially relevant evidence. Save any cellphone photos or video of details from the crash scene, such as skid marks on the road, the traffic controls, weather and lighting conditions, damage suffered by the vehicles, and any visible injuries you suffered.
After the accident, you should also have your vehicle examined by a mechanic or engineering expert before any repairs are performed.
Follow Your Treatment Plan
If you are diagnosed with injuries from the car accident, you must follow the treatment recommendations and instructions that your doctor gives you. This includes getting recommended imaging tests such as MRIs and attending all follow-up appointments.
If you don’t follow through on your treatment, the at-fault driver or insurance company may argue that your injury isn’t as bad as you say. The insurance company might also argue that you failed to mitigate your losses by promptly treating your injuries. The insurer might claim that by not treating your injuries, you allowed your medical condition to worsen and thereby increased the expenses you will need to incur to fully recover.
Save All Bills, Invoices, and Paperwork
Start a file for all your bills, invoices, and receipts from any expenses you incur due to the accident. Keep everything together in a safe place. Paperwork you should save includes:
- Medical bills and invoices from the hospital or from your treating providers
- Receipts for co-pays or other out-of-pocket expenses from medical services, or for purchases of medical equipment you need for your injuries
- Repair bills from fixing your car
If you miss time from work, you should also have copies of your financial records on hand to help calculate lost wages or loss of future earnings. Relevant financial records may include:
- Pay stubs
- Income statements
- Tax returns
Finally, you may also want to consider starting a notebook to document details of your recovery. You can use this to make notes about what happened at each doctor’s appointment. You can also document your pain levels and note how your injuries are impacting your daily life or ability to participate in activities you enjoy.
Do Not Give a Statement to the Insurance Company
You may be contacted by your insurance company or the insurer of the other driver after a car accident. Even if you are not contacted by your insurer, you likely have an obligation to report the accident to your insurer in a timely manner, usually within 30 days.
If you receive a letter or a phone call from an insurance adjuster asking you to provide a statement about the accident, you should politely decline until you have a chance to talk to a car accident attorney. Insurance adjusters have a lot of experience getting car accident victims to make statements that might later be used to deny or pay less than full compensation on a claim.
Instead, tell the insurance adjuster that they can speak to your attorney about the accident. Your lawyer can provide the insurance company with the information it needs, while looking out for your rights and interests.
Stay Off Social Media
You should be very careful with your social media activity after being injured in an accident. Insurance companies often monitor the social media accounts of car accident victims to see if they post something that contradicts their legal claim.
Ideally, you should stay off social media entirely while pursuing your car accident claim. Of course, many people use social media to stay in touch with family and friends in other cities, states, or countries. If you do continue posting on social media following a car accident, some important tips to follow include:
- Adjust the privacy settings of your accounts to make them visible only to your social media connections.
- Do not accept any friend or connection requests from anyone you do not know.
- Do not discuss any details about the accident, your injuries, or your insurance claim or lawsuit.
- Do not post any new photos or video of yourself while still undergoing treatment of your injuries from the car accident.
Talk to a Lawyer As Soon As Possible
The sooner you speak with a car accident lawyer, the better. At Arrington Schelin, our attorneys can get started on your case immediately. We can work quickly to investigate the accident before critical evidence is lost or before witnesses’ memories of the crash change or fade over time.
Our attorneys are available to meet with you in a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss the details of your case. We want to see you get justice and fair compensation for the harm you’ve suffered, and our team has the skills and resources necessary to help you demand that.
We represent accident victims in Bristol, Marion, Norton, Abingdon, Tazewell, Wise, Lebanon, Grundy, and throughout Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee.