Any time you step into a vehicle or on a road, you are taking a risk that you may get in an accident. Most of us get in our cars with the subconscious assumption that everyone else on the road will be following the laws and paying attention. Unfortunately, that is becoming less and less true.
Many factors have caused the number of accidents to rise over the years, most notably distracted driving. In fact, in 2016 the increase in fatalities due to accidents rose over 14%, the most dramatic increase in decades, and that number is still rising.
If you have been injured in a car accident, you are probably confused and unsure as to how to deal with this new world you have suddenly been forced into. You’re not alone, though. Every year, 20 – 50 million people are injured in road traffic accidents, and over one million more are killed.
While you are on your path to recovery after your accident, there are some basic things that you need to know.
A Little Background on Car Accident Statistics
At one point, there was a huge reduction in car accident injuries and fatalities from fifty years ago. This was likely due to the innovations in car safety technology and laws. Seat belts went from lap belts only to three-point belts. Airbags were invented and gradually installed in every car.
Road safety increased when medians were made more common, preventing many head-on collisions from occurring. Traffic signals and universal signs became widespread, and driving under the influence was against the law.
Yet over the last decade, the number of car accidents resulting in injuries and fatalities has been steadily increasing. Researchers attribute this to a number of factors. Gas prices have gone down to reasonable amounts, making it easier for travelers to drive long-distances and giving them more opportunities to end up in an accident, whether it was their fault or the other party’s.
Distracted driving is much more common now that almost everyone has a smartphone of some sort. Technology is great, but when you are using Google Maps to find your next destination on your phone in your lap, it’s dangerous. Texting and driving, talking on the phone, or doing anything that distracts you from the road for even a second can be deadly. Yet it happens every minute of every day.
While the laws are becoming stricter regarding distracted driving, it is still a danger. This factor causes 25% of all fatalities, and has caused almost 400,000 injuries each year.
In addition to distracted driving and more traveling, there are still accidents and fatalities due to driving while impaired, fault equipment, poor vehicle maintenance, unsafe road conditions, and numerous other hazards.
While getting your driver’s license is a privilege, it is not a right to be taken for granted. Getting behind the wheel of a car is literally taking your life, and the life of others’, in your hands. When people do not take that seriously, accidents happen.
What to Do If You Have Been in a Car Accident
The hours immediately following a car accident can fly by in a haze of confusion and action. You probably are not going to run straight to Google to follow a step-by-step action plan of what to do after an accident, but there are some steps you should take if you have not done so already.
With millions of people in car accidents every year, these procedures are tried and true and necessary for your recovery, your health, your finances, and your lawsuit should you decide to pursue one.
1. Secure your safety. If possible, move your vehicle out of the way of other oncoming traffic. This is usually the shoulders of the road or an open parking lot. If you can’t, however, put on your hazard lights to warn other vehicles to be cautious.
2. Check on everyone’s condition. This means your car and the other cars involved. If anyone is injured, call 911. Even if you are a doctor, you do not want to be the one making the decision as to whether someone’s minor symptoms are the precursor to something bigger or not. In this case, it is definitely better to be safe than sorry.
3. Call the police. Whether you feel like it is important or not, the police need to be involved in your situation. This is necessary for multiple reasons.
If someone is injured, the authorities can get medical help to the scene faster than you can. You may also need a police report if you find damage later on that you need to claim on your insurance to fix.
The police report is an official documentation of the details of the accident, witnesses and their contact information, the driver of the other vehicle and their insurance and contact information. All of these aspects are crucial to your case should you decide to pursue a lawsuit.
4. Gather as much documentation as you can. Even if you have to go back to the scene of the accident or the police station afterwards because you were too injured to do this at the time, get as much information as you can.
You will need to know all of the personal information of the people in the other car(s), including their names and contact information. You will also have to have the license plate number, make, and model of the other vehicle(s) and the driver’s insurance information.
Describe in as much detail as possible the location of the accident and take pictures of the scene if you can. Get photos of the damage of all of the vehicles and anything else that you feel might end up being pertinent if you have to file a claim or a lawsuit.
Also be sure to grab the name and badge number of the police officer that responds to your accident. This may come in handy down the road.
5. Seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Many times the adrenaline rush of the accident can mask your symptoms. Other times, certain injuries take time before the effects are even felt. Because of this, a lot of injuries from a car accident do not show up for hours and sometimes days or weeks later.
In keeping with the “better safe than sorry” philosophy, let a medical professional be the judge of whether or not you sustained injuries from the motor vehicle accident. This documentation will also be necessary if you do decide to file a personal injury lawsuit in the future.
6. Contact your insurance company. In some states, there is even a time limit on how long you are allowed to wait before you call your insurance company to report an accident, so go ahead and do this as soon as you can. If you wait too long, they can legally deny your claim, making you responsible for both the damages to your vehicle and any medical treatment you may need.
When you contact your insurance adjuster, however, it is recommended that you do not make any statements more than the bare facts. If you feel that you were injured or there is a lot of damage to your car, you may want to speak with a personal injury attorney before you say anything to the insurance company.
Remember, it is in their best interests to give you the bare minimum of benefits that you are entitled to. An expert car accident attorney, like those of us here at Hershey Injury Law, can advise you as to the steps you need to take to get all of the benefits and compensation you deserve.
7. Find an expert in car accident law that you can trust. Most attorneys provide a free consultation so you can meet, go over your individual case, and decide if you want to work together or not.
Use this time to ask a few questions to get to know the attorney. Important things to ask are: How much expertise do you have in this specific field? What is your communication/response time? What are your fees? Do you work on a contingency fee basis?
All of these are necessary to determine whether the attorney will be a good fit for your needs. Many attorneys work on contingency fees, which means if they do not win your settlement for you, they do not get paid. This is a win/win, since you don’t have to pay anything up front and you know they have your best interests in mind throughout the case so they can get paid.
Hershey Injury Law Attorneys Work For You
Here at Hershey Injury Law, we see you as more than just a number. You are an important person, and you have individual needs.
Call us today to schedule your free consultation to see how we can help you during this confusing, difficult time. Begin the path to recovering from your accident with a phone call or an email to us today.