What to Do After a Car Accident

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After a car accident, look out for your safety and the safety of others at the accident scene, report the accident to the police and your insurance company, and seek medical attention for any injuries you sustain, even if they seem minor.

Enlist an experienced Madison car accident attorney if you or a family member was injured due to the careless actions of another driver. You may pursue reimbursement for medical expenses, lost income, and the physical and emotional suffering you’ve endured.

To protect yourself and your rights after a car accident, it is important to know what to do immediately, and in the days and weeks afterward. Here is a helpful checklist:

Ensure Safety at the Scene

Nobody thinks they are going to be in a car accident. Unfortunately, car crashes are a part of life. There were more than 128,000 total car accidents in Wisconsin in 2021, including 546 fatal crashes, and 26,209 crashes with injuries.

Following traffic laws and safety guidelines can lessen the chance that you will be involved in a car accident, but you may be involved in a crash through no fault of your own.

Immediately after a car accident, you should prioritize your safety and the safety of others at the accident scene. If you can move the cars involved, move out of the roadway to the shoulder or another location out of the flow of traffic. This will prevent additional accidents and injuries, protect you from any more harm, and also provide a clear path for emergency responders to reach you.

If the vehicles are too damaged to move or serious injuries prevent moving the vehicles, turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers. Stay alert of traffic around the accident scene.

Call 911 to report the wreck. Ask for both police and medical assistance if there are injuries. Check yourself for visible injuries and assess your pain levels. If you have passengers in the car, they should do the same. Get medical treatment for any injuries you sustain, even if they seem minor.

Work With Law Enforcement

In Wisconsin, the law does not mandate reporting every car accident to the police.

However, in specific situations you must report the accident to the police:

  • Injuries or fatalities: You must report an accident to law enforcement if someone is injured or killed. This typically includes accidents that require medical attention beyond basic first aid.
  • Property damage over $1,000: Wisconsin requires reporting accidents to law enforcement if they result in property damage totaling $1,000 or more to vehicles or other property.
  • Hit and run accidents: If you are involved in a hit and run accident, where the other driver leaves the scene without providing information, you should report the accident to the police.
  • Impaired driving: If you suspect that the other driver involved in the accident is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it’s advisable to report the accident to the police. Driving under the influence is illegal and should be reported.
  • Uninsured motorist: If the other driver involved in the accident does not have insurance, it’s a good practice to report the accident to the police to document the incident.

While Wisconsin law may not explicitly require reporting for accidents that do not fall under these specific circumstances, report any accident to law enforcement anyway. The official police report documents the accident’s particulars and acts as an impartial record of the incident, including details about the involved parties, location, time, and any statements from witnesses.

This documentation holds significant importance for insurance claims, legal proceedings, and the resolution of disputes regarding responsibility or liability.

The police will also help maintain the safety of all involved by directing traffic, securing the area, and requesting necessary medical assistance if it has not already been dispatched.

Exchange Information with Other Drivers

While the police report will provide an official record of the car accident, it can sometimes take a week or longer to get a copy. Collect insurance details and other information directly from other drivers yourself to start the insurance claims process.

If you have a smartphone, use it to capture images of insurance cards and driver’s licenses. Share your own information with the other drivers involved. In cases where another driver is unable to provide their insurance card, consider asking if you can photograph their vehicle registration card instead.

Document the Accident Scene

The police will create an official report of the accident, but it is in your best interest to document as much of the accident as possible for yourself as well. Your records will preserve information and can establish who was at fault.

Take photos of the accident scene and any specific damage to your car and other vehicles involved in the crash. Other things to photograph include debris from the accident, skid marks or other road damage that looks related to the crash, hazards or obstructions on the road, and any visible injuries of those involved.

If possible, talk to witnesses at the scene who can describe what happened. Take notes or record them with your phone and get their contact information.

As soon as you can after the car accident, write down or record your own recollection of what happened—but for your car accident lawyer’s eyes only. Do not share it with the insurance company or anyone else. Do this promptly after the accident, as your recollection may become less vivid as time passes.

Seek Medical Attention

Closeup of doctor consulting patient in medical office. Women's healthcare and prevention.

It cannot be stated enough. After a car accident, even if injuries seem minor, get a medical evaluation. Not all injuries immediately appear after an accident. Some injuries, like whiplash or internal injuries, may not show symptoms right away. A medical evaluation can uncover these hidden injuries before they worsen and prevent minor injuries from developing into more severe or chronic conditions.

Timely treatment can reduce the risk of complications and speed up your recovery. If you’re in pain after an accident, pain relief and treatment options may improve your overall comfort and well-being.

Seeking medical attention also creates an official record of your injuries and their connection to the accident. This documentation is vital for insurance claims and legal proceedings if you decide to pursue compensation. Insurance companies often require medical records to process claims effectively.

If you delay seeking medical attention, it can raise questions about the cause of your injuries and the severity of your condition. A documented medical history that connects your injuries to the accident strengthens your case.

Notify Your Insurance Company

It is recommended that you notify your insurance company promptly after a car accident, ideally within 24 to 48 hours. Many insurance policies require you to report accidents promptly as a condition of coverage. Timely reporting ensures you comply with your policy terms and gives the insurer adequate time to investigate the claim.

Remember to provide accurate and complete information when reporting the accident to your insurance company. This includes details about the accident, the parties involved, and any injuries sustained.

Insurance companies often insist on a police report to efficiently handle a claim. The report offers an official narrative of the accident, aiding in the establishment of facts and fault determination.

Also share any additional documentation you may have collected, such as medical records that can support your claim. This can streamline the claims process and ensure you receive the appropriate compensation for your losses.

Reporting early also preserves evidence while it’s still fresh, including details of the accident and any damage, and accelerates the claims process.

Talk to a Car Accident Attorney

In case of disputes or liability issues, consider enlisting the help of a personal injury attorney. An experienced car accident lawyer is a good negotiator who understands the claims process and is used to going toe-to-toe with the insurance companies. Your legal team will identify any lowball offers and fight for fair compensation for your injuries.

The first step is case evaluation. An attorney can assess the strength of your personal injury case by reviewing the evidence, such as accident reports, medical records, and witness statements. They can determine if you have a valid claim and estimate its potential value. They’ll maximize the compensation you receive for medical expenses, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering.

Your lawyer can handle all communication with insurance companies and other parties involved, relieving you of the stress of dealing with adjusters and ensuring your rights are protected.

Lawyers are well-versed in the statutes of limitations for personal injury cases, ensuring you file your claim within the required timeframe. In Wisconsin, plaintiffs must file personal injury claims within three years from the date of the injury. After the statute of limitations expires, you cannot pursue the claim in court. Exceptions could change the time limit for filing a car accident claim.

After reviewing all the facts, your lawyer will develop a legal strategy tailored to your specific situation, which may involve filing a lawsuit if a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiations. If your case goes to court, your lawyer will represent you, presenting your case to a judge and jury, and advocating for your rights.

Having a lawyer on your side can provide peace of mind, knowing that a legal professional is working diligently to protect your interests and secure the best possible outcome for your claim.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer at Pemberton Personal Injury Law Firm Today

Car Accident Attorney
Car Accident Attorney, William Pemberton

After a car accident in Wisconsin, you don’t have to navigate the legal complexities alone. The experienced personal injury attorneys from Pemberton Personal Injury Law Firm are here to assess your case and advocate for your rights.

Our firm has the experience and knowledge to help you get the compensation you deserve. Our legal team of personal injury lawyers has investigated hundreds of car accidents and we know what to look for to establish liability and bring a claim on your behalf.

We make it our priority to get to know our clients and their cases so we can best represent you. With offices in Baraboo and Madison, we represent clients throughout Wisconsin.

Arrange for a consultation with one of our car accident lawyers by calling (608) 448-6242 or filling out our online contact form. There is no cost or obligation when you meet with us. Let us help you get back on the road to recovery.

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