Updated June 29, 2020
Automobile accidents disable, injure, and take the lives of more than 2.7 million Americans every year. If you’re one of the millions involved in an accident, knowing the laws will serve you well. The ins-and-outs can get complicated, but knowing the basics of what to do if you are in a crash will be beneficial in the long run if you end up taking legal action.
First and foremost, you should know that you don’t always need to take the legal route after you’ve been in a car accident. So what should you actually do after an accident?
Everything is circumstantial, but there are some ground rules we recommend you follow.
Before you head out to the car, take steps that will lessen your stress should you end up in an accident. Make sure you have a copy of your insurance information with you. Know where it is. Also, have pen and paper in your car.
In addition, don’t forget to buckle up, as your chance of survival increases significantly if you are properly restrained. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 47% of people killed in an accident in 2017 were not properly buckled in.
Consider downloading an accident-assistance app on your smartphone, as well, to help you document an accident if you get into one.
As soon as an accident happens, follow these steps.
Many people feel that after an accident they have to stop wherever they are, such as in the middle of an expressway. If you have been in an accident, your first priority should be to get to a safe location as quickly as possible. This precaution is not considered leaving the scene of the accident.
Find someplace close to the accident site where you will be safe as you assess the damage and communicate with the other driver. If it is not safe to move your vehicle, don’t. Just make sure you and your passengers move to a safe location. These recommendations assume, of course, that the accident was minor and no one was severely injured.
Check yourself, your passengers, and the people in the other vehicle for injuries. Seek medical attention immediately if any injuries are identified. If you have been in a wreck, it is advised you get checked out by a doctor to make sure you don’t have any injuries you can’t see—even if you feel fine immediately following the accident.
Health and safety come first. Check to make sure that everyone is okay, but don’t touch or move anyone unless there is immediate danger; you don’t want to risk injuring someone further. If a death has occurred, call your local emergency number immediately.
You will want to make sure the other driver is okay and get their information. Be careful what you say during the conversation, though. Don’t admit fault or say you are sorry as those words may be used against you in the future.
Gather all information from the parties involved, such as the following evidence:
You should try to gather information from any eyewitnesses and take photographs of the site. Also, take note of traffic and weather conditions. When you speak to the officers on the scene, make note of exactly what you and the other parties said. Location will be included in a police report, but the specific location, such as street names, is good to have for your own records and your insurance company.
If no injuries were sustained, call the non-emergency number in your area to report the accident.
After the accident, your first move should be to report it to your insurance company. You will need all of the information you obtained from the accident and a copy of the accident report, which can be ordered from your local police department.
You can always call your insurance company while you’re on the scene of the accident, but you run the risk of an agent coming by to begin the assessment. While this starts the process sooner rather than later, we recommend waiting until you are off-scene when you have a more complete package of information.
If necessary, take your car to a repair shop and get an estimate. If you have a trusted mechanic, we recommend going there before you go to one an insurance adjuster will recommend. Don’t forget that you have a choice.
In Indiana, the statute of limitations allows a two-year window for filing a claim after a car accident. The clock starts ticking the day of the accident, so move as quickly as you can.
If the accident caused someone’s death, the statute of limitation is still two years, except that the clock starts ticking at the time of death. For example, if death occurred three weeks after the accident and the cause of death is related to the accident, the two-year timeline will begin that day.
If there are no injuries and the property damage is minor and covered by an insurance policy, chances are an accident lawyer won’t be necessary.
However, if you’re experiencing any of the following complications, consider hiring an attorney:
Every crash is different, so how and why you decide to hire a lawyer is circumstantial.
If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a car accident, you are urged to contact the law offices of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. Our Indianapolis car accident lawyers can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
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