Severe car accidents that lead to injury or fatality come with added emotional stress and financial pressure on top of the physical pain of injury and recovery. Accident victims typically miss work for some time, losing wages as bills for medical expenses continue to accumulate. Illinois law permits you to take legal action against the at-fault driver and try to recover the losses you’ve incurred as a result of the accident and injuries.
The steps you take in the minutes and days after a car accident can affect your chances of receiving maximum compensation from an insurance claim and/or personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. If you are in a severe car accident, you might lose the ability to physically do all the things you need to do.
Below you will find a checklist of what you should do after a car accident, with the help of a car accident lawyer, to give you the best chance of prevailing in your car accident claim.
Notify Law Enforcement Immediately
It’s likely a witness or passerby will call 911 when a car accident occurs. Emergency response teams will arrive including local police and/or Illinois State Police. If police do not come to the scene, you need to report your accident as soon as possible. Drivers in Illinois must report accidents that cause death, bodily injury, or more than $1,500 in property damage. It’s in your best interest that police come to the scene of the accident so they can record information beyond your statement. Once you file a report, obtain a copy for your records.
Accept Medical Treatment at the Scene
The trauma of a car accident often initiates an adrenaline rush in the human body. This can prevent you from feeling significant pain from injuries you might have sustained. Some accident victims decide to forgo immediate medical treatment because they only feel a little sore. Medical documentation of your injuries is crucial for your claim. Let paramedics examine you and transport you to the nearest emergency room to get checked out for common car accident injuries by a physician.
Collect Contact and Insurance Information From Others Involved
While you are waiting for police and emergency response teams to arrive at the scene, collect information from other drivers and occupants if you are physically able. Don’t talk about the accident and how it happened because your words might be used against you later. Ask for names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, and insurance information. You should also record the license plate information and makes and models of any other vehicles in the accident.
Gather Witness Information
If witnesses stop to check on you or remain at the scene to wait for police, ask for their contact information. Don’t discuss the accident with witnesses and risk saying something that can hurt the outcome of your claim.
Sometimes witnesses leave before law enforcement arrives, and you want to be able to share this information with the officers who come to the scene.
Additionally, eyewitnesses can help your claim by providing statements to insurance adjusters and the court, which can help determine liability.
Take Photos or Videos of the Accident Scene
Insurance companies and the court value photographic evidence when it’s available. The officer(s) who files the accident report will include information about the accident that can determine liability. Yet, these narratives are subjective and solely based on the officer’s interpretation of the accident scene. Help bolster your claim by taking photos of hazards that might have led to the accident, road conditions, damage to vehicles, and anything else you think might be relevant.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Illinois is not a no-fault state, so the at-fault driver will be responsible for damages after a car accident. Even if you didn’t cause the crash, you still need to report it to your insurance company. Many policies have clauses that require drivers to report accidents where their coverage might apply. Non-compliance might result in cancellation or non-renewal of your policy. Reporting also protects you if the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured and you have to rely on your carrier to recover some of your losses. If you’ve been injured, we would recommend that you contact an attorney before contacting your insurance carrier.
Contact a Reputable Car Accident Lawyer
Car accidents that lead to severe injuries can result in complex claims with multiple parties, and insurance companies are more concerned with their bottom line, even if you are the policyholder. Hiring a skilled car accident attorney puts someone in your corner who will fight for you. An attorney can investigate the accident, gather relevant evidence, speak to witnesses, and consult with experts who can help build a strong case against the at-fault driver. Car accident attorneys are also skilled negotiators who know how to talk with insurance companies and help you get the most compensation possible for your car accident claim.
Keep Records of Economic Loss
It can take months to settle or litigate a car accident claim. You need to document all costs and expenses related to your injuries, so you can include them in your claim for damages. This means keeping copies of all medical bills for emergency room visits, hospitalization, surgery, medication, diagnostic imaging, lab tests, and anything else. You must also keep records of your lost wages if you have missed work. Depending on your injuries, you might incur other expenses for home modification and domestic help to do the things you did before your injury.
Document Your Injuries
Write down how your injuries affect your life after a car accident. This information can help lawyers place a value on the non-economic aspects of your car accident claim, and can also help your doctor treat you. Take photos of visible injuries periodically to document changes as you recover. You should also keep a journal and record any symptoms, feelings, and difficulties you experience. And make sure to keep copies of all doctor, pharmacy, and physical therapy bills and records you receive to help support your claim.
If you were in one of the almost 320,000 motor vehicle crashes that occurred on the roads and highways of Illinois in one recent year, and you need advice about how to pay for all the bills that have resulted, call a car accident lawyer for advice.
Abels & Annes, P.C.
100 N LaSalle St #1710
Chicago, IL 60602