If you are involved in a car accident that’s not your fault, you might wonder what you should do next. What are the next steps you should take, if any? Do the rules for being in a car accident change when you are not the driver at fault?
What to do after a car accident that is not your fault
In the most simple term, if you are involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you should follow the same steps that you would if you were at fault:
1. Exchange Personal Information
Begin by exchanging personal information after the scene of the accident is safe. You should exchange contact information and insurance information with any other drivers involved in the accident. If the driver who is at fault has passengers in the car, get their information as well. Finally, if there were any bystanders or witnesses to the accident, write down their information, in case you need it later.
2. Call the Police
Ensure you call the police immediately. The police need to come to the scene of the car accident to verify what happened. When law enforcement arrives on the scene they will document everything they see and hear and compile it into an official accident report which contains any pertinent information about the auto accident.
In most cases, this police report or accident report functions as the primary piece of evidence if you have to file a claim later. Without a police report it can be very challenging for you to prove what happened, without a doubt. Police reports are broken down into very data-driven segments that include both sides of the story and an explanation of what took place, including any evidence or documentation. This supporting evidence is typically in the form of pictures or official sketches that draw out the scene of the car accident.
3. Document the Scene
Make sure you take notes of everything that happened. Contact information should be obtained, not only from the other drivers but from any other witnesses at the scene.
Ensure that you have collected all pertinent information, including the make and model of any other vehicles that were involved. Take note of when and where the accident occurred, and the names and badge numbers for the police officers who show up after the accident. You will want to reach out to the police officers who attended to access an official copy of the accident report. This accident report will play a large role down the line if you need to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company or file a personal injury lawsuit.
If you can, take pictures, not just of the damage but of any injuries. Consider taking pictures in a panorama of the entire scene of the accident. This will give you things like timestamps and location metadata from your pictures which can specifically prove when and where the accident took place. Photograph the license plates of all vehicles involved, any other potential witnesses, and/or any storefronts nearby that may have had CCTV cameras which recorded the accident.
4. Seek Medical Attention
One of the biggest mistakes people make after a car accident is failing to immediately visit medical professionals. Even if you do not feel like you have a serious injury, you should visit a hospital or your local healthcare provider, if you can get an immediate appointment. The reason that this is so time-sensitive is that you may not feel the extent of any damage or injuries in that moments immediately after the accident because of adrenaline.
In addition to ensuring that you receive care, after an accident you need to have proper documentation of any bodily injury. This report will allow you to seek compensation, for not only the medical costs but any subsequent lost wages from the insurance company of the driver at fault.
Seeking care at a local hospital will help you document any injuries and then, if subsequent injuries or complications arise, these reports can provide a reasonable foundation for comparison. You should remember that just because you might feel fine, things like soft tissue damage can be difficult to detect and will only get worse with time.
It is important to remember that:
- If you visit a hospital and you have documentation from a doctor, you will be more likely to successfully prove that the injuries you have were a direct result of the car accident that wasn’t your fault.
- If you fail to have any documentation and you fail to go to a doctor, there will be no way for you to link your injuries to the car accident.
How to get over a car accident that wasn’t your fault
Even if the crash wasn’t your fault, it can be difficult to get over a car accident mentally, emotionally, and financially. In different states across America the rules vary as to how fault is determined.
For example: Some states will determine that which of the drivers was at fault and whoever is deemed at fault will now be responsible for covering the cost of any injuries or damage. Other states use a proportional system, where one driver will be charged with 20% responsibility of an accident and the other driver will be deemed 80% at fault and must pay for 80% of any damages to your vehicle or property in the area of the car accident, and any medical bills.
It is imperative that you document everything that develops as you recover from a car accident that was not your fault. You might consider getting legal help from a lawyer who works specifically with victims of car accidents. They can advise you as to what information you should collect on a regular basis, such as:
- Lost wages,
- Time off work,
- Injuries or medical bills,
- Repairs to your vehicle.
Typically, this type of documentation will be provided to the other driver’s insurance company. This information can be provided over an extended period as insurance companies understand that not all expenses will occur immediately after the accident.
Why You Should Read the Accident Report
At this point you should already have a copy of the accident report from the local police department. If you don’t, you can reach out to the police yourself or if you have an attorney, they can reach out for you. This car accident report will indicate whether or not any citations or tickets were issued at the scene of the crime, which could help your case.
For example: Your accident report might detail that the police issued a citation for driving and texting to the other driver, which can solidify a claim that you were not at fault.
Take some time to read the report in detail and understand what the different sections indicate. Included in the report is not only information about any potential citations or liabilities for the driver who is responsible, but information related to the insurance company. If you were somehow unable to obtain this information at the scene of the crime, you will be able to get it in the crash report.
The accident report will also provide information as to whether anyone was tested for driving under the influence and the results of those tests. It will also include any potential contributing factors such as:
- Weather conditions,
- Obscured visibility,
- How the other driver was moving,
- The location of the point of contact,
- The direction the cars were traveling,
- Whether the accident took place in a work zone or construction zone, and
- The speed limit and the speeds the cars were traveling.
The report will also include the police officer narrative, the explanation for who the police believe was at fault and why they believe this to be true based on the opinions and perspectives from the drivers, passengers, and witnesses, as well as any property damage or injuries sustained.
Statute of limitations for car accident claims
Every state has what is called a statute of limitations. This refers to the amount of time you have to file a claim or a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver and is, on average, two years.
A good attorney can help you to file an insurance claim to seek compensation from the at-fault driver. If the insurance company refuses to pay, they can file a personal injury claim against the individual driver. These claims can be based on the information you have collected pertaining to:
- Subsequent injuries that you believe were results from your car accident that was not your fault,
- Repairs to your vehicle over the course of three months following when the car accident occurred, or
- Missed work because of your injuries that resulted from the accident. ands.
I got into a car accident not my fault, should I get an attorney?
If you got into a car accident that was not your fault you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Ensure that you contact your insurance company immediately after the accident happened, and then consider meeting with an attorney who can help you to determine if there are any other steps required to receive the compensation that you deserve.
A car accident can be frightening, whether or not you were at fault. What is important is that you collect the appropriate data immediately after the accident, seek medical attention for any potential injuries, and document everything over the course of the next few months as it relates to your accident. An attorney can review the details of the car accident, submit any necessary paperwork, and if necessary based on injuries or damages sustained, submit an insurance claim to the other driver’s car insurance provider or file a personal injury claim.