Being in a car accident can be a frightening and overwhelming experience. Your top priority should always be to ensure the safety of everyone involved. But it’s also crucial to know the proper steps to take after an accident to protect your rights and access the compensation you may need for injuries, damages and other losses.
This comprehensive guide will provide you with a step-by-step overview of the key actions you should take following a car accident in Baltimore. Being prepared and informed can make all the difference in achieving the best possible outcome for your unique situation.
Ensure Safety First
In the stressful aftermath of a collision, it’s vital to not overlook basic safety precautions. The first step after any accident is to assess the scene and ensure the wellbeing of all motorists and passengers.
If anyone has suffered any injuries, call 911 immediately to summon an ambulance. Administer first aid if you are safely able to do so while waiting for medical personnel. Keep the injured person warm, comfortable and still. Do not attempt to move an injured person unless they are in immediate danger.
If vehicles are creating a hazardous situation or blocking traffic, and the vehicles are drivable, move to a safe location such as a parking lot or side street. Turn on your hazard lights and set up roadside warning triangles or flares to alert other motorists.
Check for any hazardous vehicle fluids like gasoline, coolant or engine oil leaking from damaged vehicles. If you detect a fuel leak, do not start any vehicle and warn other motorists not to start their engines or smoke.
Make sure all parties involved are in a secure spot away from traffic. Do not wander into lanes of traffic to assess damage or exchange information. Your safety is the first priority.
The next critical step is to contact the proper authorities to report the accident. Call 911 to summon police officers.
Police play several key roles in any traffic accident including:
- Documenting the details of the collision
- Interviewing involved parties and witnesses
- Assessing damage and searching for evidence
- Completing an official accident report
Having an official police report is crucial for insurance claims and any potential lawsuits down the line. The officers will gather statements, take photos, analyze skid marks, and thoroughly document the scene. Be sure to get the badge numbers and contact information of all officers present.
Provide as many details as you can to the 911 operator and police. Explain the nature of any injuries sustained and your exact location. Answer all questions from officers truthfully and recount your recollection of how the accident occurred. Avoid admitting fault or making any statements that would imply you are responsible. Simply provide the facts as you know them.
If you refuse medical treatment at the scene, be sure that refusal is documented in the police report. This can become important evidence if you suffer any delayed injuries later on.
After authorities have been notified, you will need to exchange relevant information with the other motorists involved in the collision.
Key details to exchange include:
- Full names of all drivers and passengers
- Driver’s license numbers
- License plate numbers
- Insurance information including provider name and policy number
- Make, model and color of all vehicles involved
- Current addresses and phone numbers
Also attempt to obtain the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses to the crash. These independent perspectives could aid your claim.
If possible, take photographs showing damage to all vehicles involved. Be sure to photograph the entire vehicle, not just a close-up of the damaged areas. This provides important context.
Make sure to get all information at the scene of the accident, even for minor collisions. It is much more difficult to track down the necessary details after the fact.
Having the other party’s insurance information is especially vital. Do not trust any verbal representations that the other motorist will pay for damages out of pocket. Exchange official documentation.
Document the Scene
In addition to exchanging critical information with the other driver, also document important details about the accident scene itself. Thoroughly documenting the site provides crucial evidence that could be used if you need to file an insurance claim or lawsuit.
- Take ample photographs showing the extent of vehicle damage, final positions of cars, and overall scene. Photograph street signs, traffic signals, road conditions, and weather.
- Look for skid marks, debris, broken glass or other physical evidence. Take close-ups.
- Note the date, time, weather conditions, lighting, and any visual obstacles.
- Illustrate the scene with specific measurements if possible.
- Write down the intersecting streets and nearest landmarks.
- Document the road design in the area like the presence of turning lanes.
Even mundane details like the weather or a damaged street sign could prove legally significant down the line. The more complete your record of the accident scene, the stronger your potential case.
Seek Medical Attention
Once the immediate accident scene is secured, you will need to promptly seek medical evaluation. This is a vital component even if your injuries seem minor at first.
Adrenaline rushing through your body immediately after a collision can obscure serious impairments like fractures, spinal misalignment or traumatic brain injury. Always get checked out by emergency responders or visit an urgent care clinic or hospital emergency room to be thoroughly evaluated.
Describe all your symptoms to responders and clinicians clearly and accurately. Explain exactly what happened, what body parts impacted interior surfaces, and even subtle complaints like minor dizziness, ear ringing or numbness. Don’t downplay anything. These details must be recorded in your medical file, since the records will serve as evidence of your injuries.
Make sure to follow all treatment instructions and attend any follow-up appointments. You will need documentation of the entire treatment process and prognosis, not just the initial emergency department visit. Save copies of all medical bills, records, lab results and prescriptions.
Watch for any delayed onset symptoms in the hours or days after the crash. Headaches, stiffness, abdominal or back pain could arise well after the adrenaline has worn off. Report any emerging symptoms promptly to your healthcare providers.
Notify Your Insurance Company
As soon as feasible after the accident, notify your insurance company to file a claim. Failing to promptly report the incident can jeopardize your claim under some policies.
When speaking with the claims representative, stick to just the clear facts. Provide:
- Time and location of the collision
- Description of damage to your vehicle
- Nature of injuries to occupants
- Other vehicles involved and extent of damage
- Insurance details of other involved parties
- Copies of accident report and medical records
But avoid admitting fault, speculating about cause, or offering your version of events. Anything you say to your insurer could potentially be used against you later, so stick strictly to the facts for now. Also resist the urge to contact the other party’s insurance company directly. Let your insurer handle communications.
Save a copy of all documents and correspondence with your insurance provider pertaining to the claim. Keep a log of all phone calls, including whom you spoke with and when. Confirm conversations via email if possible to create a paper trail.
Closely review any settlement offer from the insurer before agreeing. Consult with an attorney if the offer seems unreasonable or you are pressured to accept too quickly.
Consult with a Car Accident Lawyer
An experienced car accident attorney can be invaluable after a collision by managing the legal complexities on your behalf. An attorney helps:
- Investigate accident circumstances to establish liability
- Negotiate with insurance adjusters and pursue maximum compensation
- File a lawsuit against any negligent parties if warranted
- Prove the full scope of both economic and non-economic damages
- Enforce time limits so legal rights are not forfeited
Retaining legal representation is advisable any time injuries are more than just minor bumps and bruises. Severe or permanent impairment, large medical expenses, major vehicle damage, lost income, and complex liability scenarios also indicate a lawyer may be needed.
Do not delay in seeking counsel – there are strict statutes of limitations dictating filing deadlines. Ideally consult an attorney before agreeing to any insurance settlement.
Key Reasons to Hire an Attorney After a Car Accident
- Determine Accident Liability: An attorney will gather evidence, interview witnesses, and conduct a thorough investigation to build the strongest case regarding who was at fault.
- Deal with Insurance Companies: Insurers have entire claims departments experienced at minimizing payouts. An attorney levels the playing field and knows how to maximize compensation.
- File a Lawsuit if Necessary: For severe crashes caused by negligence, a lawsuit may be required to recover sufficient damages. An attorney handles the litigation process on your behalf.
- Calculate Damages: The true costs stemming from an accident extend far beyond just medical bills and car repairs. Experienced lawyers account for both economic and non-economic damages.
- Avoid Delays: Strict legal deadlines apply after accidents for filing claims and lawsuits. Lawyers ensure all actions are taken promptly.
- Negotiate Effectively: Attorneys have negotiating skills and experience to reach optimal settlements without sacrificing full and fair compensation.
Step-by-Step Guide to After an Accident in Baltimore
To summarize, here are the key steps to take after a car accident in Baltimore:
- Check for injuries and call 911 if medical help is needed.
- Move vehicles to a safe location if possible and activate hazard lights.
- Call 911 to report the accident and request police assistance.
- Exchange important information with other involved parties.
- Take ample photos documenting damage and the full accident scene.
- Note weather, lighting, road conditions and other physical evidence.
- Get checked out promptly by medical professionals even for minor aches.
- Notify your insurance provider about the claim as soon as possible.
- Contact an experienced car accident attorney for advice and representation.
- Closely track vehicle repairs and all medical treatments related to the incident.
The moments after an accident are crucial for collecting evidence, reporting key details, and taking action to protect your legal rights. Follow these steps, and consult with a qualified attorney for guidance tailored to your unique situation. With the right representation, you can achieve the most favorable financial recovery possible.
Frequently Asked Questions About Post-Accident Protocols
Being in a car crash can leave you with many uncertainties about navigating the aftermath. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions:
Should I admit fault at the scene of the accident?
Never admit fault or accept blame at the scene. Anything you say can potentially be used against you later. Even if you believe you were at fault or mostly at fault, let the professional investigators determine liability. Simply stick to objective facts and avoid speculating.
What if the other driver doesn’t have insurance?
Unfortunately accidents caused by uninsured motorists are common. If the at-fault driver has no insurance, you may need to claim damages through your own uninsured motorist coverage. There are also special uninsured driver insurance funds available in some cases. Discuss options with your attorney.
How long do I have to file a claim after a car accident?
In Maryland, the statute of limitations allows three years to file a legal claim from the date of injury. However, there are exceptions and nuances. To preserve all legal rights, consult a qualified attorney as soon as possible after any significant accident.
Can I still claim compensation if I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt?
Maryland follows shared fault rules. Your failure to use a seatbelt can be considered comparative negligence. You could still recover damages, but the amount may be reduced based on portions of fault assigned. An attorney will get the fairest outcome.
What if the accident was partially my fault?
Maryland follows comparative fault rules, meaning you can still recover damages if partially at fault, with compensation reduced proportionally. The ability to collect depends on your percentage of fault. An attorney determines liability and argues for the smallest reduction.
Do I need a lawyer if the accident was minor?
Even minor collisions can produce hidden injuries and insurers may dispute small claims. Having professional legal advice can get the fairest outcome. Lawyers also handle communications, paperwork and negotiations so you can focus on recovery.
Conclusion: Be Informed and Proactive Following a Collision
Being involved in any vehicle accident can derail lives with injuries, financial burdens, property damage and legal issues. But by staying calm, being proactive, collecting evidence, and working with experienced professionals like medical providers and accident lawyers, you can emerge with the resources needed to recover.
Knowing these steps means you won’t have to make uninformed choices during a disorienting time. Follow this guide, choose an attorney you trust, and don’t settle for less than maximum available compensation. With the right help, you will be empowered and equipped to handle your unique situation in the best possible manner.