With more and more people moving to Colorado each month, you may find yourself in traffic situations that are less than ideal. With more people come more vehicles and with more vehicles, unfortunately, comes more car accidents. So the question is: What should you do if you are in a collision?
Having been in this business for some time, I believe the following steps are what you should do if you find that you have been in a collision that was not your fault:
- Take a minute. Instead of jumping out of your car to see how others are doing, take a minute to inventory how you are feeling. Jumping out of the car right away before you assess your own injuries could make any injuries you have sustained worse. Just take a head to toe inventory and decide if you believe it is safe to get out of the vehicle.
- Check on others. If you determine that you are ok and can safely exit your vehicle, check on the other people involved in the collision.
- Report the collision. Even if there are no injuries, you need to call 911 to report the collision. Colorado law requires that all collisions are reported immediately. Once you report the collision, you should stay on scene until an officer arrives or until you are told by a 911 dispatcher that you may exchange information leave. If you are told that you may leave the scene, you should first exchange all information such as insurance cards and driver’s licenses. NOTE: If there are injuries, if it is a hit and run, if you suspect drug or alcohol use or if there is damage to public property, you will need to stay on scene until the police arrive no matter how long it may take. Be sure to take photos of all vehicles prior to leaving the scene.
- File an online police report. If you are allowed to leave the scene prior to police arrival, you must file an online police report immediately after or as soon as possible. You will need to report all information regarding the collision so, again, it is very important that you get copies of the other driver’s insurance card, their driver’s license, and photos of the vehicles BEFORE you move from the scene. Also note the time of the collision, the direction the vehicles were traveling and any witness information.
- Document details of the collision. Even more than what you report on the online police report, you should get a journal and document every single thing that you remember from the collision. Include details such as the weather conditions, statements made by the other driver, statements made by the police (if they arrived) and statements of witnesses. Describe exactly how the collision occurred, how fast you were travelling, how fast you think the other car was travelling, if you were injured in the collision or if anyone else was injured. If you were injured, make sure you detail exactly what you felt and when, if you saw the impact coming, and how your body was positioned at the time of the collision.
- Report the collision to the insurance carries. This is true for both insurance carriers. Call the at-fault driver’s insurance company and open a claim. You will be given a claim number. Just give general information at this time in order to open the claim. You will be given a second claim number from your own insurance company. You will be told that an adjuster will contact you later to get a statement. Consider consulting with an attorney before making any statement to the other driver’s insurance company.
- Get checked out by a physician. It is very important to understand that just because you do not feel pain at the scene, it does not mean that you are not injured. Many injuries do not make themselves known until hours or even days after the collision so it is important to keep assessing how you are feeling to determine if you should go see a professional. It is a good rule of thumb to get checked out within the first 24 hours after a collision just in case.
- Keep up with appointments. If you do determine that you need medical attention, be sure to keep all of your appointments and follow all recommendations. Many times our lives are interrupted by doctor appointments. This is especially true after a collision. However, in order to be sure that you get the treatment needed for your injuries, you really need to attend all appointments. This is absolutely true if you have opened a bodily injury claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The adjuster will look for any excuse not to settle your claim for what it is worth. They will use breaks in treatment and missed doctor appointments to show that you weren’t really injured in the crash. After all, if you were, why didn’t you go to all of your appointments? Do not give them any additional ammunition to be unfair to you.
- Journal. Keep a journal tracking all doctor appointments, how you feel, and how the collision has impacted your life. Be sure to note if you have physical injuries such as bumps, scrapes, bruises, and cuts. Take pictures off all of the injuries you sustained in the collision and put them in your journal. Also note any cognitive problems that you may notice which can include problems concentrating, problems with comprehension, with memory, and/or disturbed sleep.
- Consider getting legal representation. There is sometimes a stigma attached to people who hire an attorney for a personal injury. The truth is that sometime people really need an attorney. Sometimes the insurance company will only offer a small amount to settle the claim. Sometimes they try to convince you that you do not have a case or that your injury cannot be related to the collision. Sometimes you do not have insurance and therefore you cannot get treatment that is needed. A personal injury attorney can help in all of these situations. It is not about getting rich; it is about getting better and being treated fairly.