Whether you’re in a fender bender that’s entirely your fault or a life-altering accident caused by a drunk driver on the highway, the results are frustrating, stressful, and painful.
Your actions in the moments, hours, and days following the accident can not only affect your health but also determine the strength of your personal injury claim and the value of your case.
Here, we’ve assembled a full resource guide for San Antonio car accident victims. You’ll learn what to do in the moments after an accident, how to document the scene, what NOT to do, insurance claim best practices, and more.
In San Antonio, if you’re in a car accident that’s not your fault, the following five steps should be taken to protect yourself and build your case:
- Seek immediate medical attention
- Call the police
- Document the scene
- Report the accident
- Get legal advice
If your injuries are observable, severe, or life-threatening, seek help! Nothing is more important than your health, life, and safety.
However, not all injuries are obvious, especially during the shock that so commonly follows an accident. Injuries like concussions, internal bleeding, and neck and back injuries aren’t always noticeable until hours, days, or even weeks later. So, even if you feel “fine,” it’s important that you allow a medical professional to examine you and determine the extent of any injuries.
No matter who may have caused the accident or how minor the damage may seem, the police should always be called to the scene of an accident.
The police will:
- Create an unbiased and official report
- Help determine cause
- Perform witness interviews
- Make a photographic record of the accident scene
A police report can provide key evidence for an insurance claim, so never skip this important step.
While a police report is invaluable, you should still personally try to document as much of the scene as you can.
For one, depending on traffic and other conditions, it may take the police several minutes to arrive, and an accident scene can change drastically and quickly. Witnesses may leave, cars may be moved, and evidence can inadvertently be tampered with.
And two, even the most well-trained police officers don’t always see everything. Being proactive about your own claim is the best way to protect yourself.
If you are physically able to and can safely do so, document and gather the following pieces of evidence from the scene:
- Pictures – Almost all cell phones include built-in cameras now. You can quickly pull out your phone and snap a few shots of the damage to your car, the other vehicles involved, license plates of the other vehicles, and the area surrounding the accident.
- Contact information – If the other drivers are safe and able, exchange contact and insurance information with them. Don’t let them talk you out of this!
- Witnesses – If you act quickly, you can usually collect witness statements, names, and contact information from those who saw what happened. Most people are willing to help, especially if injuries are involved.
You must report the accident to your insurance company, even if the other driver was at fault. This will continue to create a paper trail and record of the accident.
Here’s the most important part!
When you report the accident, your goal is simply to give your insurance company the date, time, and location of the accident, as well as the other driver’s insurance information. You should not discuss details, answer probing questions, or give statements about fault! No, not even to your own insurance company. Anything you say can and will be used against you. Never forget that.
Once your urgent medical needs have been attended, the police called, the documentation started, and the insurance company notified, your next and most important call should be to a personal injury attorney in the San Antonio area.
Why is an attorney so important?
- The insurance companies are not on your side! They are in the business of making money, which can’t be accomplished by fairly paying claims. Odds are, you will have to fight for a fair settlement for your accident.
- Your emotions are running high. Dealing with insurance companies is frustrating, even under the best of conditions. But when you’ve just become the victim of a car accident, it’s even worse. Your emotions will be running high and your patience levels low, which will cloud your judgment and logic.
- The law is complex and Texas is certainly no exception. The laws that govern car accidents, medical and insurance claims, personal injury, and fault or negligence are complicated and often overlap. Only with an experienced personal injury attorney will you be able to truly understand your rights and effectively negotiate with the insurance companies for a settlement that is fair and just.
Protecting yourself after a car accident also means knowing what not to do. These are common mistakes made after a car accident and why you need to avoid making them:
- Admitting fault – When you speak to the insurance company, you should never discuss fault. Simply provide facts and leave it at that. The insurance companies will use your statements to minimize or deny your claim.
- Avoiding medical care because of the bills – Many accident victims deny immediate medical care because they’re afraid of the costs. While the fear is certainly understandable, it can also be detrimental to your health and your claim. Remember, the insurance company’s job is to cover your losses. With a good attorney on your side, your medical bills should be recouped from the settlement. Don’t ever let fear of the bills stop you from taking care of yourself.
- Making a deal with the other driver – Unfortunately, some accident victims are persuaded by the at-fault driver to forgo calling the cops and exchanging insurance information. While you may be tempted because you’d like to “avoid the hassle,” it can also backfire on you. If a serious injury develops after the accident, you’ll have little chance of successfully filing a claim. Honesty and adherence to the system is the best possible way to handle a vehicle accident.
- Talking about it on social media – As soon as you make a claim, the insurance company will start collecting evidence. Today, that includes following your social media pages and posts. So, if you’re on Facebook or Twitter telling everybody about the accident, the insurance company is likely to see it. Whatever you say on social media can be used as evidence against you. As much as you may be tempted to tell everybody about your situation, it’s best to stay quiet until the claim is final and a settlement is reached.
Nobody plans on being in a car accident, but there are things you can do to be prepared, just in case.
- Create an emergency kit for your car, which includes:
- Flares and triangle reflectors
- First-aid kit
- Phone charger
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Basic tool kit with screwdriver, pliers, wrench, and pocket knife
- Water and protein or granola bars
- Updated car insurance info – Make sure your car insurance is up to date and keep current proof. When you’re in a car accident, the last thing you want to do is find yourself uninsured.
- Obey all signs and traffic laws – Every time you get in your car, wear your seatbelt, avoid texting while driving, and obey the rules of the road. You cannot control the actions of other drivers, but you can be safe and follow the laws to minimize your risk of being in an accident.
Filing an insurance claim can be intimidating. Follow these basic steps to protect your rights and help the process go a bit smoother.
- Call your local agent, if you have one. If not, call the general number for your insurance company. (Most major auto insurance provider numbers are found below.) Be sure to write down the name of the agent you spoke to and ask if you need to fill anything out to make the claim official. Some providers require a form.
- Review your policy so you know exactly what type of coverage you have. This policy constitutes a legal contract, and your insurance company is required to honor it.
- Cooperate with the agent and timely provide them what they need. Remember not to apologize or admit fault, though, and talk to your attorney about any forms that the insurance agent requires, just to be sure.
- See your own doctors or those referred by your attorney. Do not let the insurance company dictate who you see. You have every right to see a doctor or specialist of your choosing.
- Choose your own auto shop for repairs to your car. Just like your body, you are well within your rights to decide who fixes your vehicle.
- Keep records of all phone calls and emails between you and your insurance company, as well as all receipts and other paperwork related to the accident. Do NOT rely on the insurance company to do this.
State Farm — 1-800-782-8332
Allstate — 1-800-255-7828
Progressive — 1-800-776-4737
Geico — 1-800-841-3005
Farmers — 1-800-435-7764
Liberty Mutual — 1-844-339-5299
Nationwide — 1-800-421-3535
USAA — 1-800-531-8722
If you’re at fault for a car accident, or at least partially at fault, it’s not the end of the world. It does change the situation and claims process, but there are ways you can mitigate the damage and costs.
- Keep your emotions in check – Being at fault can be difficult to swallow, but don’t let it cause anger or aggression at the accident scene. Refrain from raising your voice, yelling at the other driver, or trying to convince witnesses to lie or leave. This will only make matters worse.
- Be the last to leave the scene – If you leave the scene of the accident before everyone else, discussions may take place without you, witnesses may make statements you’re unaware of, and the insurance company may question your motives for leaving. Don’t leave until after the police has arrived and not until the witnesses and other driver have left.
- Watch what you say – Keep in mind that many accidents can actually be contributed to both drivers when you start looking at the evidence. So, even if you know that you clearly contributed in some way, don’t jump to conclusions and immediately take all the blame. Refrain from saying things like, “I didn’t even see you,” or, “I’m so sorry.” Simply follow the steps listed at the beginning of this guide and let your attorney advise you through the rest of the claim.
We are happy to answer additional questions during your free consultation.
An auto accident, whether big or small, is disruptive and stressful. Being prepared, understanding your rights, and having the right legal advice and protection can minimize the damage and improve your claim.
Call (210) 298-6666 24/7 to speak with Felix Gonzalez about your car accident today.