Taking the following 7 steps to protect your rights after a wreck can help you ensure the at-fault driver compensates your injuries and pays your property damage. After this, our knowledgeable and experienced attorneys can help you get the compensation you deserve for a car accident in Oklahoma City or anywhere else in Oklahoma.
1. Safety First
Before you do anything else, check for injuries and call an ambulance if needed. Put out reflective triangles or flares if appropriate. After you confirm your passengers’ safety, look around for any indicators that can help you picture exactly where the vehicles stopped. If your car stopped in the road but you can still drive it, move it to the shoulder. Vehicles stopped in traffic can cause further accidents and risk being hit a second time by a distracted driver. If your vehicle stops out of the way of traffic, however, do not move your vehicle. This may make recreating the accident easier for the police.
2. Call the Police
For a minor accident with no injuries, police may not come out to investigate, but call anyway to let them decide. Plus, if the other driver acts in an aggressive or threatening way, it may help to have the police on the line to cool tempers or intervene. When the police arrive be cooperative and honest, but volunteer nothing more than what the police ask of you. The police may record any of your statements in their report, and if an insurance company can find any way to misconstrue your words, it will.
3. Document Everything
Insist on taking your own photos, and get enough of the background to provide context for the wreck. Take plenty of pictures:
- Damage to the vehicles
- Larger shots of the vehicles from all angles
- License plates
- Vehicle identification numbers (VIN)
- Company or government-related vehicle ID numbers or logos
- Scene of the accident
- Skid marks
- Road and weather conditions
- Any immediately apparent injuries
Insist on trading insurance and contact information for all drivers involved:
- Phone numbers
- Insurance policy numbers
- Insurance providers
Other Important Info
If a driver is not named on the insurance card he or she presents, determine her or his relationship to the policyholder. If the vehicle is not listed on the insurance card, find out who owns the car. Record the names and contact information for all passengers in the other car(s), and try to determine their relationship with the driver. Ask for basic contact information from any witnesses, and ask if they would write down what they saw before they leave. If you’re unable to get contact information from a witness, try to write down their license plate number. Continue to document statements made by other drivers, witnesses, insurance agents, repair specialists, doctors, and lawyers throughout the process.
4. Stay Quiet
Be polite and concerned, but don’t apologize or talk about blame or fault. Not only can any admission be used against you later, but it may add fuel to an already stressful situation. If the driver of another vehicle apologizes or admits fault, make a mental note and write down exactly what they said as soon as possible. If asked to sign anything apart from a traffic ticket or police report, politely decline until you speak to a lawyer. Don’t speak in detail with anyone until you’ve found a lawyer to help you avoid inadvertently admitting more than you should. If an attorney or insurance agent asks to record a conversation with you, politely decline until you’ve spoken with your own lawyer. This includes posting about the incident on social media.
5. Call Your Insurance Company
If you can’t call your insurance company from the scene, do so before the end of the day. You have a duty to notify your insurance company. If you don’t, it may be able to deny coverage. Give your insurance carrier the time and location of the wreck, information on the other drivers and vehicles, and road and weather conditions. Insurance adjusters frequently ask questions about injuries and damage designed to encourage answers that can limit their responsibilities later. Don’t minimize or limit any description of your injuries until you’ve consulted a doctor and lawyer. If another driver’s insurance adjuster calls you, politely decline to make any statements until you’ve been advised by a lawyer.
6. Gather Information
- Gather your own insurance policy, including the policy “Declarations” pages. If you later hire an attorney, he or she will need to verify what coverage you have available.
- If you can, get a copy of the police report.
- Get the treatment you need, and USE YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE IF YOU HAVE IT. Make a list of all medical providers you have seen because of the wreck and gather all bills and medical records in your possession. Put all of this in a notebook or folder.
- Make notes of all contact with any insurance company or any other person regarding the wreck.
7. Talk to a Lawyer
Finally, consult a lawyer. An attorney can help you avoid making common mistakes that limit your recovery or accidentally cast blame on yourself. Additionally, an attorney can help you identify sources of recovery you may never otherwise consider.
Your lawyer should ensure that you are receiving the full benefit of any insurance policy you have purchased, as well as any other policy that might pay damages owed by other involved parties. The more experience your lawyer has in navigating and overcoming these minefields, the more likely you are to receive the money you are owed. Your attorney will help you evaluate any settlement offers so that you receive fair compensation, and he or she will help keep your claim moving. Like most personal injury lawyers, we will talk to you for free to help you evaluate whether you really need a lawyer.
We designed these “7 steps to protect your rights after a wreck” as a starting point. But you still need to consult an attorney.
If you have property damage only, settle your property damage yourself. See our article, “Settle Your Property Damage After a Wreck” for detailed instructions.