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There are many things you can do after you or a loved one has suffered from an automobile accident. Being prepared is smart! It can protect you, or your loved ones.

First and foremost, never ever drive away from the scene of an accident, even a minor one.  Doing so can result in having your driver’s license revoked or you could be prosecuted for criminal charges. Even if the other party is at fault, be safe and exchange your driver’s license, registration card (evidence of financial responsibility) and your current address, with the others involved in the accident. If you can’t show proof of financial responsibility, namely from an insurance company with a current policy number, you face a potential citation and fine. It’s a great idea to have a backup of these documents on your cell phone, to be safe. Just snap a photo of your DL, insurance info etc. Better safe than sorry.

If there are witnesses who saw the accident, you should ask them for their information as well and exchange phone numbers. It really helps having a witness. So don’t be shy to ask someone who saw the accident for their cell number and address. This way, you or your attorney can contact them if need be in the future.

If police respond to the accident, the investigating officer usually will provide all drivers with a police report number. You can use that number later to obtain the report. If the accident occurs on a freeway or highway, you must request the report from the CHP. The next thing to do if you are able, is prevent further accidents by setting up flares, or keeping your blinkers on.  Also, get a card from the officer.

You should also have a flashlight in your car at all times. This can help keep you safe while waiting in your disabled car or by the side of the road. By the way, it is a great idea to have an emergency accident kit in the trunk of your car. Many insurance companies sell them. You can also purchase them an any auto store or online retail providers or get it free from AAA.

If there are serious injuries, call 911!  In this scenario, the vehicles involved in the accident should remain where they are, unless they interfere with traffic. Be careful of oncoming traffic while doing so. And if you cannot perform these tasks, be safe and wait for help. When the police arrive, make sure you tell the investigating officer(s) exactly what happened!  If you do not know certain facts, tell that to the officer. Do not speculate, guess or misstate information. If you are asked if you are injured say you are not sure rather than “no” if you are not certain.  More often then not, the pain and injuries from a motor vehicle accident become apparent well after the actual collision. After an accident, your body is filled with adrenaline. This as well other conditions mask the pain you may feel later.

Next, you must notify your insurance company as soon as possible. Many policies require immediate reporting and full cooperation. Find out if you have medical benefits as part of your insurance coverage. You pay extra for that type of coverage – known as “medpay”, so you should use it. In fact, if you have medpay coverage, you are required to submit your accident-related medical bills to your insurance company. Medpay coverage is primary for accident-related medical bills. Once medpay benefits are exhausted, private health insurance becomes your primary insurer. Medpay benefits are available to all the occupants of the vehicle.

Your insurance rates should not increase as a result of submitting claims for medpay coverage.  After an accident, you should see a Dr. Often, injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents are not immediately apparent.  Clients report feeling the most pain a few days following an automobile accident. Unless you are absolutely certain you were not injured, you should seek medical attention at your local emergency room or by seeing your family physician. Even in accidents involving minor impact, you can sustain a serious and permanent injury to your spinal cord. If you lost consciousness or were dazed for even a short period of time following the collision, you may have suffered a concussion or closed head injury. This can cause cognitive and behavioral changes if left untreated.

There is no way to really tell if you have damage to your spinal cord unless you have an MRI. This is a great way along with an X-ray of your back and neck to really see what could have happened in the accident.  Keep all your accident-related documents and information together. This information should include a claim number, the claim’s adjuster who is handling the claim, names and phone numbers of all contacts, receipts for a rental car and other expenses incurred as a result of the accident. If you have been injured, it is also a GREAT idea to have a journal of your treatments and how you feel physically. Be specific and jot down all changes you feel in your body or even your personality or any sickness.

Perhaps the most important thing you should do after an accident is to consult your attorney. Your attorney can protect your rights and make sure valuable evidence is not destroyed. Often, insurance companies want to take statements immediately after an accident. They do not care if you have a concussion or other ill affects. They simply want their bonus. They get those when accident victims don’t have a lawyer.

It is always best to have a lawyer as an advocate after a car accident.  Your attorney can advise you on issues ranging from how to make sure you are fully compensated not only for your car, but lost wages, future medical, and pain and suffering! Also, a lawyer can make sure you are getting the most appropriate medical treatment available! This is very important. Personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means there is no legal fee unless the attorney recovers compensation for your injuries. Basically, you don’t pay your personal injury lawyer from your own pocket. That is standard. So find a good one, then focus on healing and getting back on your feet!