There are tens of thousands of car crashes and hundreds of serious motor vehicle accident injuries in Fulton County each year. About 10% of the annual traffic fatalities in Georgia take place in and around Atlanta.
Even a minor car accident can be jarring, and more serious accidents can have a long-term impact on your health, finances, psychological well-being, and even relationships. It can be hard to think beyond the moment when you’ve just been through a traumatic event. But, what you do after a car accident can affect both your recovery and your access to compensation.
6 Things to Do at the Scene of the Accident
What you can do immediately after the accident will depend on whether you’ve been injured, how seriously, and any dangers at the accident scene. This list provides information about things you should do at the scene if you are physically able and can do so without putting yourself or others in danger.
- Assess yourself for possible injuries before you move or try to get out of your vehicle. In the moments of disorientation and possible shock following a serious car accident, you may not notice injuries immediately. But, some injuries can be aggravated–perhaps seriously–by moving around.
- Call the police, or have someone else do so if you are unable. Georgia law requires that any accident involving death, injury, or property damage of $500 or more be reported immediately. Of course, you won’t know at the scene exactly how much property damage is involved, but even a minor accident can result in more than $500 in damages. When in doubt, make the call.
- Exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver. In Georgia, you are also required to provide the name and address of the vehicle’s owner and the driver, the license plate number of the vehicle, and liability insurance information to other parties involved in the accident.
- Get assessed by emergency personnel. If you’ve been injured or are unsure whether you’ve been injured, let emergency personnel assess you at the scene. Many people who believe their injuries are minor resist this step because they just want to get home as quickly as possible. That’s understandable, but can also be risky.
- Take photographs of the scene. Very shortly after the accident, vehicles will be removed from the scene and evidence may be lost forever. Photographs showing the positions of the vehicles, where they are in relation to intersections, the damage to each vehicle and other detail can help insurance companies and expert witnesses reconstruct what happened, which may be key to recovering damages or defending yourself against a claim that you were at fault.
- Collect witness names and contact information. Often, bystanders or those in nearby vehicles witness an accident, and may even have a clearer understanding of what happened than the drivers involved. But, it will be difficult (and perhaps impossible) to locate those witnesses later.
5 Things to Do After the Accident
- Write down what you remember. If you’re seeking compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier, you’ll be asked to make a statement. Later, if you aren’t able to come to an agreement, you may have to give a deposition or testify in court. But, it may be very difficult to remember exactly what happened months after the crash. And, inconsistencies or uncertainty can hurt your claim. Documenting what happened as soon as possible will help keep your memory clear, and give you something to refresh those recollections with if you’re called upon to tell your story long after the fact.
- Contact your insurance company. Even if the accident wasn’t your fault, the terms of most automobile insurance contracts require the insured to notify the company promptly after an accident. And, depending on your coverage and the specifics of the accident, you may be entitled to some benefits from your own insurer.
- Follow all medical advice. Whether the paramedic at the scene told you to see your own doctor for x-rays or you were transported to the hospital and the doctor there gave you a referral to a specialist, it’s important to do exactly as instructed. Failing to follow medical advice can slow down your recovery, or even turn temporary injuries into lasting ones. And, if you don’t do as instructed, the responsible party may argue that you’re partly responsible for your own damages.
- Continue to document your experience. If you’re undergoing a long recovery with ongoing medical care or physical therapy, continuing pain, good days and bad, lost work time and other challenges, keep a journal or log of things like pain, setbacks you experience, events and activities you miss out on, and other effects of the accident. It will be difficult to reconstruct the specifics when you’re making a case for damages. And, documenting in real time gives your claims greater credibility.
- Contact an experienced Atlanta car accident attorney. In Georgia, you have two years to file most personal injury lawsuits. But, there are many reasons to act quickly. Under some circumstances, such as when a governmental entity is responsible, your window to provide notice of a claim may be very limited. Your personal injury attorney can also run interference with insurance companies that may be trying to mislead or bully you into settling your claim for less than you deserve, conduct an investigation while evidence and witness recollections are fresh, and take over responsibility for managing deadlines and technical requirements. The sooner you have an experienced advocate on your side, the sooner you can relax and focus on your recovery.
Atlanta attorney ReShea Balams fights for maximum compensation for people who have been injured through someone else’s negligence. The Balams Firm offers free, no-obligation consultations so injury victims can gather the information they need to make good decisions in difficult times. You can schedule yours right now by calling 855-352-2727 or filling out the contact form on this page.