Being in a car accident can be a frightening, emotionally trying experience. For many people, this might be the only time they are involved in a wreck. Without prior experience it can be hard to maintain a level head when you are facing injury, serious property damage and the worry of future bills. The North Carolina Bar Association suggests numerous tips that can help you keep your cool after an accident.
- Stop. If you were involved in an accident that resulted in personal injury, death or property damage, North Carolina law requires that you stop at the scene of the accident. It is crucial that you don't obstruct traffic and keep yourself safe, but the only reason you can legally leave the scene of an accident before an officer authorizes you to leave is to receive medical attention.
- Call an officer. Much like the first point, if your accident resulted in personal injury, death or property damage, you must alert law enforcement by the quickest means of communication possible.
- Take notes. You should make notes regarding the exact time of day, the weather conditions, condition of the road and any other factor that might have led to the accident. You should note any witnesses, the types of vehicles involved and every other element you can think of. By making detailed notes - just the facts, no editorializing - it will make it easier to recall things in the future. Days - or even hours - after an accident, your memory might become blurry. Having a notepad with the facts written out will be critical to answering your doctor's, your lawyer's or your insurance carrier's questions.
- Exchange information. According to North Carolina law, you must exchange information with other drivers in an accident. Without admitting fault, you are required to give your name, address, operator's license number and the registration number of the vehicle you are driving to the driver of the other vehicle(s).
- Call your insurance carrier. As soon as possible, you should notify your insurance carrier regarding your accident. They can provide information such as phone numbers for nearby towing companies (although they might not be able to provide advice) and area hospitals. At the very least, they can start a file on your accident to be filled in with greater detail at a later time.
- See a doctor. Even a seemingly minor collision can result in injuries that linger or cause chronic pain. It is wise to see a doctor who can carefully review your injuries and order any diagnostic tests necessary to ensure you receive the proper course of treatment. Make sure you inform your insurance company of your diagnosis, condition and medical bills.
- Call an attorney. If you have questions regarding your rights to monetary compensation or you are concerned about the paperwork your insurance carrier or the insurance carrier of the at-fault party is asking you to sign it is wise to consult with an experienced vehicle accident attorney. Too often, individuals miss out on this step and potentially ignore the compensation they are owed. A lawyer can provide guidance and protect your rights throughout the process.
By taking steps in the present to keep organized you can prevent problems in the future. Taking notes, exchanging information and notifying everyone you're supposed to can mean the difference between facing a challenging legal process and a process that runs smoothly and efficiently.