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What Should You Do After a Car Crash?

Steps to take after an accident in Texas

First things first: If you’re the victim of an automobile accident, make sure you’re safe and seek any medical attention you may need. 

“The first thing you need to do is just call for help,” says personal injury lawyer Ryan Thompson of Thompson Law in Dallas. “If you’ve been hurt, ask them to dispatch EMS. But it’s also really important to have a police officer get out there so that you have a third party who’s taking statements from everyone that’s involved, trying to reconstruct what happened, and then writing out a report about it. Because people’s memories fade.”

Adds Brant J. Stogner of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner in Houston: “Make sure and get out of the roadway as safely as you can. Assess your own injuries, call 911. Do what you can to help anybody else that’s hurt. And then go into evidence-collection mode.”

Collect information at the scene of the accident

Evidence collection means taking photographs of any vehicles or objects that were involved in the crash, as well as collecting names and contact information for any witnesses. Thompson recommends taking photos of documents, too. “To make sure you don’t write something down wrong, the easiest way to exchange information with the other driver is to take pictures of their driver’s license, take pictures of their insurance,” he says.

Even audio recordings of conversations between drivers in the wake of an auto accident can be helpful, says Jennifer Stogner, also of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner. “People have a tendency to either accept fault or to say things that may not later be in their interest right after a collision,” she says. “And then, later, their story may change.”

Seeking medical treatment quickly can be crucial not just to your health, but to a potential personal injury case, says Brant Stogner. “Insurance companies have got a playbook,” he says. “They like to point out if there’s a gap in treatment. Is it three hours? Is it three days? Is it three weeks? The bigger the gap gets, the more difficult it will be to convince the insurers or potential jurors later that someone was actually injured in this wreck. Plus it creates a time period where someone could argue, even without evidence, that something happened [to cause your injuries] in between the incident and your first treatment date.”

What not to do after a car accident

As for what you should avoid doing after an accident? Don’t post about it on social media. “Once you make a claim for your property damage a couple weeks later, the insurance adjuster can easily go on to Facebook or Instagram and see what’s there,” says Jennifer Stogner. “And if you end up having to file suit, they are going to open up your social media accounts and read the posts and comments. They’re going to subpoena basically your whole life. If you feel like you want to share it with people, text them or do it the old-fashioned way and call them. But don’t start posting it on your social media. Just lie down until the feeling passes.”

If you’ve been injured, Thompson recommends not speaking to the other driver’s insurance company until after you’ve sought legal counsel. “When you call the insurance companies, they’re not asking you questions to help your claim,” he says. “They’re not asking you questions to make sure you get the medical care or treatment that you want. They’re asking you these questions to try to minimize what happened and, if possible, deny liability. And if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can put yourself in a risky position.”

Contacting a car accident attorney

If you reach out to an attorney, bring along the evidence you collected after the accident; as well as the insurance information for all the parties involved in the accident; and personal information like your driver’s license and Social Security numbers so the attorney can access your medical records.

The time frame in which a case can be resolved often depends on the circumstances of your injuries. “The more severe the injury, and the more substantial the likely recovery, generally, the longer it takes,” says Brant Stogner. “The wheels of justice move slowly, particularly on the civil side.”

For more information on this area of personal injury law, see our motor vehicle accident overview.

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