A car accident is unpredictable, and it may feel overwhelming or confusing to figure out what to do after one occurs. The following guide will help answer all of your questions about what to do after a car accident, including whether you need a lawyer and what information your lawyer will need.
What steps do I need to take after I’m in a car accident?
You will probably speak to a variety of people in the days and weeks following a car accident, including law enforcement officials, your car insurance company, and doctors, as you sort out the consequences of the accident. The process may be overwhelming, and the information that you are able to provide will ultimately be used to decide whether you are able to receive compensation after the accident, and if so, how much. For that reason, one of the most important things you can do after a car accident is to gather as much information as possible right after the accident occurs.
After checking to see if you or anyone else in your car is hurt, you should contact the police, who will complete an accident report. You should also exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver and get the names and contact information of anyone who witnessed the accident. Take photographs of the scene and the other vehicle if possible. Soon after leaving the accident scene, you should write down all the details that you remember about the accident so you can refer to them later, when you speak to your insurance company or your lawyer.
Since car accidents are unexpected and chaotic events, it is a good idea to keep a car accident checklist in your vehicle. Your checklist will remind you of the important steps you need to take, and the evidence you need to obtain, before you have lost the chance.
You will need to contact your insurance company soon after the accident, regardless of how much damage was done or who was at fault. You might be tempted not to for a minor accident out of fear that it will raise your premiums. Even if you don’t report the accident, your insurance company is likely to find out about it from another source, so it is to your advantage to provide the information yourself. The company will then begin investigating any claim that you file.
Who is liable in a car accident?
Determining fault is important because South Dakota is a tort state, which means that the party, or parties, at fault is responsible for paying for the damages.
It is not always easy to know who is at fault for an accident, particularly if multiple vehicles are involved or if the accident causes serious injuries. Under South Dakota’s comparative negligence laws, the blame can even be divided up between two or more drivers, with a different percentage of fault assigned to multiple parties. Another party’s insurance company may try to assign you some fault for the accident in order to minimize the amount paid to you, or to avoid paying you at all. Also, if the at-fault party was uninsured, or does not have enough insurance to pay all the damages owed, you will need to work with your own insurance company to see if you will receive compensation under the terms of your own policy.
Ultimately, it is not your responsibility to determine who was at fault for your accident. However, the more information you are able to provide to an experienced car accident attorney about the accident, and the sooner you provide it, the better the chances that you will receive a fair settlement.
Should I hire a lawyer after a car accident?
You may be surprised by how complicated and time-consuming the settlement process can become, especially if someone was injured or a number of parties were involved. Depending on the circumstances, it may be months, or even years, before you receive the compensation that you are owed from an insurance company.
A knowledgeable car accident attorney has experience dealing with insurance companies, and he or she can help you handle complications that slow down the claims process. You should provide your lawyer with all of the information that you gathered at the time of the accident, as well as any medical records that you have related to injuries caused by the accident. It can be hard to know how much to expect for pain and suffering or emotional distress following an accident, and your lawyer will help you decide what to ask for in the settlement so you are compensated fairly for your losses. By hiring a lawyer early in the settlement process, you will also avoid potentially costly mistakes that you might make while negotiating with the insurance company on your own.
Do not make an already stressful situation worse by trying to handle your car accident claim alone. One of the knowledgeable attorneys at Turbak Law Office, P.C. can help you understand your options and guide you through the next steps after an accident. Contact us today for a free consultation, or call 866-231-0914 to get the help you need.