What to do after a Car Accident in Austin
Car accidents, as well as any other type of automobile accident, can be an overwhelming event. This is especially true if you were hurt or injured. For many people, it is not always clear what steps they should take after a crash. Often, the most important things to do (and to avoid doing) depend on how long it has been since the wreck occurred. Below, please find general guidelines on the important steps to take while still at the scene of a car accident, in the days shortly thereafter, and in the weeks and months that follow.
Of course, if you were recently in a car accident, it may be best to speak with an injury attorney directly. The lawyers at Sandoval & James are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer your accident and injury related questions, completely free of charge. Simply give us a call at (512) 382-7707. Or, if you prefer, feel free to stop by our office during business hours. We are happy to sit down with you and carefully address your concerns.
What to do at the scene of the accident
Check on the health and safety of everyone involved
The very first thing to do after any type of auto accident is to take a moment and, to the best of your ability, check yourself for injuries. You may be seriously injured and not realize it due to things like shock and confusion. Then, if it is safe to do so, check on the other people involved in the crash, starting with those in your vehicle. Before checking on any other vehicles and their passengers, please ensure it is safe to exit your vehicle. If there are oncoming vehicles, it may be safer to stay in your car and call 911 from your car. If it is safe to get out, make sure your vehicle is turned off and your hazard lights are on. It is also important to check the vehicles involved to see if they are at risk being involved in a secondary or subsequent wreck. This typically occurs when the vehicles involved in the initial wreck come to rest while still in a busy roadway. It is also important to check the involved vehicles for signs of other immediate dangers, such as a fire. Of course, the next best steps to take will depend on the unique circumstances of each particular crash.
Once you are satisfied that the people involved in the accident are not at risk of further injury, attempt to determine if they are in need of emergency first aid. However, authorities on the issue often advise against moving accident victims unless there is an immediate need to do so. For more detailed guidance on how to render first aid in an emergency, please see the American Red Cross. It is important to note that Texas law provides protections to those who render aid in an emergency known as Good Samaritan laws. The language of the law itself is available here.
Call the police
Always call the police after an accident. Even if you think the accident was minor, the damage to the vehicles involved and to the people involved can be and, unfortunately, often is far worse than it initially appears. Moreover, Texas law actually requires drivers involved in a vehicle crash with over $1,000 of damage to a car or any injuries to report the accident to the police. This is true even if the car accident is just a fender bender and any injuries appear minor. It is also true even if the other driver admits they were at fault. Unfortunately, it is common for a driver to admit fault at the scene and then change their story when discussing the crash with their insurance company. A police report can be very helpful in establishing what happened, who is responsible, and the contact information for any witnesses, and, without a report, it may be your word against theirs.
Do not let anyone talk you out of calling the police
Often, the person responsible for the crash will try to talk the other driver out of calling the police. They may offer to pay to have the other vehicle repaired, offer cash, or act like calling the police is not needed. This is especially true when the damage to either or both cars appears to be minor. The other driver may even say that the police will not respond or that calling the police is overreacting – call the police anyway. Again, it is not uncommon for the person who caused the car accident to turn around and say that they were not at fault once they have left the scene.
If you were recently involved in a car accident and the police were called, you can find more information on how to obtain the police report in our blog
If you were hurt, seek medical treatment
If you believe that you or someone else may have been hurt, you should always request medical assistance. This is true even if injuries seem minor. Misjudging the severity of an accident-related injury is common because of the confusion and adrenaline that often occur after a crash. Even once the adrenaline and confusion wear off, many common types of injuries sustained in car accidents may not be felt for hours or even days. This is common with injuries that typically result from a car accident, such as injuries to the neck and back. Seeking immediate medical care and letting a doctor or other medical professional assess the extent of your injuries is the only way to know how injured you really are. Again, your injuries may be worse than you think. And leaving the scene with having them evaluated could put you at risk of severe complications. Also, if you delay in seeking medical treatment, the other driver’s insurance company may try to take advantage of your attempt to let the injuries resolve on their own. They often claim people who wait to get treatment were not really hurt.
Once you have checked on everyone involved, called the police, and requested any needed medical assistance, the next step is to gather information and evidence. If it is safe to do so, take photos and video of the accident. The photos and video should try to capture the entire scene of the accident if possible. This may require that they be taken from a distance. Ideally, the photos and/or video would show the vehicles involved as well the area immediately surrounding the crash. If possible, it is also helpful to document the vehicles involved and the damage they sustained. Images of the vehicle in its entirety as well as close-up images of all the damage they sustained are ideal. It is also important to capture images of anything else that may have been involved in the crash. For example, if there was road construction at or near the crash site. It may have played a role in the crash and having images of the state of the cones and other traffic control devices can be critical. Especially considering that they are moved on an almost daily basis.
Talk to any witnesses. If there are bystanders, ask if they witnessed the car crash. If they did, ask for their contact information. If a police officer has already arrived at the accident scene, you should also notify the officer of any potential witnesses. The officer can then include their name and contact information in the police report. Also, ask the names of any responding officers, what the event number is for the accident, and ask when a copy of the police report will be available.
Do Not Take Responsibility for the Crash
When speaking with the other driver, or anyone else at the scene, do not apologize. A lot of people apologize as a natural response to a car accident, often meaning that they are simply sorry that the car wreck occurred. However, the other driver and their insurance company may attempt to use this polite response as an admission that you caused the wreck.
It is also best to avoid discussing liability with anyone at the scene. While you will need to carefully describe what happened to the police officer, you should avoid discussing the crash and who is responsible with the other driver or anyone else at the scene. Also, do not admit fault. Even if you are unsure and if the other driver accuses you of being responsible, do not be pressured into admitting fault. The cause of the car accident can be very complicated, and the liable party may not be who it first appears.
If you are still at the scene of a car accident and have questions, please feel free to call us. The team at Sandoval & James is here to assist you, (512) 382-7707. Consultations are completely free.
What to do in the days immediately following an accident
Focus on your Recovery
In the days immediately following a car accident, your health is still the most important thing for you to focus on. If you went to an emergency room or urgent care center directly after the crash, the doctor may have instructed you to follow up with another doctor. Make an appointment and go see that doctor as soon as possible.
If you were injured but have not seen a doctor at all – do not wait any longer. Your injuries could be serious and the other driver’s insurance company may try to use any delay in your care against you. Often people who are hurt in a car accident want to give their injuries a chance to subside on their own. While many people do so with the genuine hope they are not seriously hurt, the other driver’s insurance will often try to manipulate a delay in treatment as evidence that you were not really injured. More importantly, failing to get any recommended follow-up care could also mean a serious and even life-threatening injury goes undiagnosed.
Paying for medical services
One common question our clients have is who will pay for the medical treatment they need after a car crash. The driver who was at fault for the crash, and their insurance company, are responsible for your medical bills. However, typically they will not pay for treatment directly. Instead, people injured in a car wreck often pay for any needed medical care through a combination of their own health insurance and letters of protection. Then, the cost of their care is reflected in the settlement of their claim.
A Letter of Protection is a letter sent from the injured person’s attorney to their doctor or another medical provider. The letter agrees to pay for the medical treatment related to the crash out of any future settlements or favorable verdict obtained by the attorney. It entitles the doctors and other medical providers to pay for the services they provide. Typically, under these agreements, doctors and other providers do not receive any money for the treatment they provide until the resolution of a case. This allows people hurt in a car accident to get the treatment they need, including surgeries, without having to pay out of pocket at the time of the treatment. This also helps the doctors and other medical providers ensure they are compensated for their services.
Do not talk to the other driver’s insurance company
In the days following a car crash, you will likely be contacted by the other driver’s insurance company. If you were recently in a car accident and are contacted by the other driver’s insurance company, you should not speak with them. If you choose to do so, they will likely use any information you provide against you. Understandably, many people believe that they must talk with the other driver’s insurance company. People often assume that they cannot get their car repaired or get the treatment they need until they do so. This is not true. You are not required to talk with the other driver’s insurance company after a car accident. Still, insurance companies often contact accident victims to request a recorded statement.
Dealing with the other driver’s insurance can be one of the more complicated parts of what you need to do after an accident. contact the team at Sandoval & James who are here to answer any questions you may have. You can call us completely free of charge at (512) 382-7707. If you decide that we can help you with your case, we will help talk to the insurance companies so you don’t have to.
Report the crash if you have not already
If you either called the police and they did not respond to the scene, or you did not call the police, you should report the crash to the police as soon as possible. Texas law actually requires all automobile accidents to be reported within ten (10) days. The required form is called the cash report-blue form also known as the CR-2. You can fill out the form here.
Do not post on social media
After a car accident, it can be tempting to share your story with your friends and family on social media. However, doing so can seriously harm your case. Insurance companies and their lawyers may be prowling your profile, looking for any posts, comments, or photos that they can use to try and create doubt about your injuries and/or how the car accident occurred. They do so by creating a false narrative around your posts. For example, any photo posted that shows the injured person smiling or appearing to be happy, can be used by the insurance company to claim that person was not really hurt or in pain. Of course, people in pain, even serious pain, often do not want that reflected in photos. So, despite the pain, they will force a smile when taking a photo. However, this will not stop the insurance companies from trying to use it to discredit that person, often claiming it shows the person is out having fun and not really hurt.
It is also important to understand that simply because a profile is set to private does not mean the insurance companies cannot see what is being posted. They are sometimes still able to see the user’s posts. In other words, a private post is not an invisible post. The best practice is to simply limit the posts you make until your claim or case is resolved so the insurance companies and their lawyers cannot falsely use those photos against you.
What to do until your car accident claim or case is resolved
Get the Medical Care Recommended by Your Doctors
One of the most important things to do in the weeks and months following a car accident is to make sure you continue to get the medical care recommended by your doctors. The first and most important reason for doing this is to help ensure you have the best chance of a full recovery. Going to follow-up visits and getting any recommended testing done also helps to document your injuries from the crash. If your doctor or other medical provider releases you from care, and you continue to have any symptoms, you should return for further evaluation. If additional testing or physical therapy is recommended, it is very important that you go. If an appointment cannot be kept because of transportation or other issues, you should try and reschedule.
If you do not follow your doctor’s recommendations or have significant gaps in your treatment, the other driver’s insurance company or their attorney may argue that if the person was “really” injured and in pain, then that person would want to get well and would follow all their doctor’s recommendations. Also, if a lawsuit must be filed and there is a significant gap in treatment, the attorneys for the insurance company and other drivers may claim that the gap in treatment was because you had recovered and that none of the treatment after that was really needed. Of course, gaps in treatment are often because it is challenging to consistently make it to several doctor’s appointments a week. However, this reality will not stop insurance companies from trying to use it against you.
If you were in a car accident and have questions about your medical care and the next steps to take, please feel free to or call us. The team at Sandoval & James is here to assist you, (512) 382-7707. Consultations are completely free.
Contact the Austin Accident and Injury Attorneys at Sandoval & James
If you have any questions related to a recent automobile accident, please feel free to contact Sandoval & James. We are always happy to provide the professional guidance needed after a car crash has turned your life upside down. You can contact us or call us, completely free of charge, at (512) 382-7707.