Car accidents are common, but when you are involved in one, you may not know exactly what to do next. In the confusion after an accident, it is easy to make mistakes that could affect the amount of a claim you file later. Even a fender bender can cause significant headaches in the form of property damage and a potentially lengthy claims process. If you have been involved in a car accident and are thinking of handling it on your own, keep reading to learn more about what you should do after an accident, and why a seasoned South Dakota attorney can help you.
What to Do Right After an Accident Occurs
While you are still at the scene of the accident, it is important to gather as much information as you can, so be sure to take the following steps:
- Call the police. Even if no one seems to be hurt, or if the property damage is minimal, contact the police so a police report can be made documenting the circumstances of the accident.
- Exchange car insurance information with the other driver. Keep other conversation with the driver to a minimum, though. It is not a good idea to discuss who was at fault, or admit to the other driver that you were to blame. You should also not discuss injuries or tell the other driver that you are fine, even if you think you are, as some injuries may take time to become apparent.
- Take photos and talk to any witnesses. Take photos of your car and the other cars involved, including license plates. Take photographs of your surroundings and any other damaged property. If anyone saw the accident, get their contact information.
You can provide the information that you obtained to your insurance company, but it is never too early to think about involving an attorney. A car accident attorney who has experience dealing with insurance companies can help streamline the claims process and give you one less thing to worry about after your accident.
What to Ask for in a Car Accident Settlement
The amount and type of compensation you receive after a car accident depends on several factors, including who is liable for the accident. The at-fault driver is responsible for paying for all the damage caused by the accident, including damage to your vehicle and medical costs for any injuries you suffer. However, some of the losses that you suffer following an accident may not come with receipts, and you may find it difficult to express your needs to an insurance company. An experienced lawyer can help you determine if you are entitled to compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Lost opportunity to enjoy life
If you were at fault for the accident, you may still be able to receive compensation for property damage if your insurance policy includes collision coverage. With collision coverage, your policy will typically pay for the repair costs to your vehicle minus your deductible, regardless of who caused the accident. If the cost of repair would exceed the value of your car before the accident–in other words, if your car is “totaled”–the insurance company may pay you the fair market value of your car before the accident. An experienced attorney will know if your insurance company is offering you a fair amount of compensation based on the details of the accident and the terms of your policy.
Do I Need to Tell My Insurance Company about a Minor Accident?
You might be considering not telling your insurance company about an accident, especially if you were the only person involved or property damage was minimal. However, withholding such information could lead to serious consequences. If the police were involved, the accident is a matter of public record: when your company learns of the accident, they may construe your omission as misinformation and terminate your coverage. You may find it difficult to obtain insurance with another provider, and even if you do, it will probably cost you significantly more. If you cannot decide how best to handle the accident, do not risk making a costly mistake: discuss your options with an attorney.
Obtain the Legal Assistance You Need
People are sometimes surprised by the complications that can ensue following a car accident, even a minor one. You may quickly reach a settlement for an accident that was not your fault, only to discover afterwards that your injuries were more serious than you thought. The other party’s insurance company may claim that you were at fault to avoid payment. Or you may simply be overwhelmed by the amount of time you have to spend talking to insurance companies, submitting paperwork, and justifying your account of the accident in order to receive compensation. You may contact an attorney at any time after a car accident, but the sooner you do so, the more likely you are to receive the best possible outcome.
If you have recently been in a car accident, it is never too early or too late to speak to an attorney. The South Dakota car accident lawyers at Turbak Law Office are available at 866-231-0914. Call us today to schedule a consultation.