Hundreds of thousands of motor accidents happen in Texas every year. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, a car accident occurs every minute and seven seconds, causing anything from a minor bump to a severe or fatal injury.
But many people don’t know the proper steps to take after an accident. We discuss what you should do if you’re in a car accident in the Lone Star State.
Step 1: Stop Your Vehicle
The first step is to stop your vehicle — even if you’re not hurt or responsible for the crash. It is against the law in Texas to leave the scene of an accident, and you could face criminal penalties if you do so.
Step 2: Call 911
If you can do so, you should also call emergency services. Don’t wait for another driver or witness to call the police — they may be severely injured and unable to call 911, or think someone else will do it instead. If in doubt, make the call.
The police will ask for information about the accident, including what happened, when, and where you are. Once a responding officer arrives, they’ll secure the scene and create a police report, which is a vital piece of evidence.
Step 3: Collect Evidence
Evidence is the foundation of a successful claim, whether you intend to file a personal injury claim or recover costs from your insurer. It’s also vital to prove what happened if another driver intends to sue you for damages.
You can gather some of the best evidence immediately after the accident while the scene is preserved.
Texas law requires drivers to share their name and address, their driver’s license information and registration, and the details of their car insurance company. However, you should also:
- Take Photographs: If it’s safe to do so, take photos of the scene, including the other vehicles involved and any skid marks or hazards on the road that may have contributed to the crash.
- Document Your Injuries: If you’ve sustained any injuries in the crash, note them down. You can also take photographs.
- Speak To Any Witnesses: Statements from people who may have witnessed the crash can help support how the accident happened and who was responsible. If possible, get the name and contact details of anyone present — your lawyer can collect a format statement later on.
Step 4: Go To The Hospital
Many people in a car accident sustain minor injuries — or none at all — and don’t think it’s worth going to the hospital. Some even think they can “tough it out,”only for their injuries to worsen.
Unfortunately, if you don’t seek medical attention after an accident and your injuries worsen and require significant treatment and time off work, it can impact how much compensation you receive in a personal injury claim. In some cases, the other party may dispute that your injuries happened during the car accident, preventing you from claiming.
It’s also crucial to ask your doctor for a copy of your medical records. Review these carefully, making sure they accurately convey your injuries and symptoms. These records will help to support your claim and allow you to recover the cost of treatment.
Step 5: Contact The Insurance Companies
US states are either fault or no-fault states, which affects the insurance claim process. Texas is a fault state, which means any person injured in an accident can claim compensation from the party at fault. This is usually another driver in a car accident, but a third party — such as a manufacturer or organization — may sometimes be liable.
Most insurance policies require you to contact your insurance company and the at-fault party’s insurance company after an accident. Doing this as early as possible gives you an advantage — it allows an investigation to get underway so you can negotiate and receive a settlement, and it also prevents the other party from making the first move and claiming you’re responsible for the accident.
When you contact the other party’s insurer, you’ll speak to a claims adjuster appointed to the case, who will determine how much compensation they will offer you.
However, bear in mind that the adjuster is working on behalf of their client and will want to pay out as little as possible. If they ask questions about who caused the accident or your injuries, polities refer them to your attorney or state that you’re still seeking treatment. You should stick to the facts of the accident (when, where, what, etc.), but know that you do not have to talk to them at all. A personal injury lawyer can handle all communication for you.
Step 6: Speak To A Car Accident Lawyer
The final step after being in a car accident is to contact a personal injury lawyer. Some lawyers will specialize in specific claims or cases in certain locations, so you want to hire an attorney familiar with where the accident happened and experienced in negotiating settlements for your type of claim. For example, if you’re in Bexar County, you may want to consider hiring a dedicated car accident lawyer in San Antonio.
There are several benefits of hiring a car accident attorney. Personal injury lawyers are expert negotiators and can secure a fair settlement that compensates you for your lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering. They can also explore all potential avenues of claiming compensation, especially if multiple people or parties are responsible.
If you’re worried about the cost of hiring an attorney, look for a firm that works on a contingency basis. With this fee arrangement, you will only pay legal fees if your lawyer wins your case, which avoids you having to pay upfront with no guarantee of success. Your lawyer may also be able to postpone the payment of medical treatment until you receive a settlement, which can support you if you cannot work because of your injury and can’t afford your medical bills.
If you are in a car accident, it is important to take action right away. By following these steps, you can ensure that you are protected and get the compensation you deserve.