When you’ve been injured in an automobile accident, gathering evidence usually isn’t your first thought—and it shouldn’t be. The first thing you should do after a car accident is to seek medical attention.
However, what you do immediately and shortly after a car accident may significantly impact your ability to receive the compensation you need to get back on your feet. If you’ve been involved in an auto accident and believe someone else may be at fault, take these steps to preserve your rights.
1. Seek medical attention immediately after a car accident.
Obviously, seeking medical attention should be your first step in order to protect your health and safety. In addition, getting prompt medical treatment helps to protect your claim, since you are establishing a clear record of your injury and its association with your accident. It is also important that you follow the doctors’ instructions and keep follow-up appointments, or you may find yourself held partly to blame for the extent and duration of your injuries.
2. Don’t blame yourself for your car accident.
In the aftermath of a traumatic event, it is common for people to make statements like “It was all my fault!” That’s generally an emotional reaction rather than a factual one. A person who has just been involved in a serious accident is in no position to make that sort of assessment. However, that type of admission may come back to haunt you. When telling police and other emergency responders what happened, stick to the facts.
3. Contact the police immediately after an accident involving personal injury.
When you or another person is injured in an accident, you are legally obligated to contact the police immediately. This step isn’t just about creating a record or protecting your right to recovery: it’s a crime in New York to leave the scene of a personal injury accident. If only property damage is involved, you may not have to call the police from the scene, but may be required to submit a Report of Motor Vehicle Accident.
4. Gather witness information if you are able.
Depending on the nature and extent of your injuries, you may not be able to take any action at the scene of the accident. That’s okay. Protect your health first. However, if you are able, ask any witnesses for their names and contact information. It can be difficult or even impossible to locate witnesses to a motor vehicle accident after the fact, so any information you can obtain immediately may be critical.
5. Contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Scheduling an appointment with a lawyer is probably the furthest thing from your mind as you’re recovering from your injuries and sorting out car repairs or replacement, but the sooner you get advice about your car accident case, the better. You have three years to file a personal injury lawsuit in New York, but waiting to seek counsel may reduce your chances of recovery. You may make serious mistakes in your interactions with an insurance company, for instance, or lose the opportunity to preserve important evidence.
Recovering from a car accident may take time, and you may be facing significant medical expenses, lost work time, automobile repairs and other expenses. If you’ve been injured through someone else’s fault, a personal injury settlement or verdict in your favor can take the pressure off, cover medical expenses, and give the breathing room to heal. Don’t neglect this important aspect of your recovery.