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Be proactive after a car accident

You may have seen the lights in your rearview mirror. You thought that they were a little close to your bumper and may have tapped a warning with your brakes. Unfortunately, your flashing lights did nothing to increase the distance between your car and the tailgater's vehicle, and traffic may have prevented you from removing yourself from the driver's path. As you had been observing the car's proximity, you may not have been surprised by the resulting collision.

If you want the accident to be covered by insurance, you will need to be as diligent after the accident as you were before. Whether it resulted in a scratch, ding or major damage to your car, a car accident should trigger the same series of preventative measures to ensure that you will not have to go out of pocket to pay for the injuries suffered. 

The flood of thoughts and emotions that are released in the aftermath of a traumatic experience can inhibit clear thought. It is for this reason that it's helpful to become familiar with the process in the event that such an accident does happen. These are five steps that you should follow if you've been involved in a car accident:

1. Remove yourself from hazardous conditions.

If it's possible, move your car from a heavily-trafficked area. Parking on the shoulder of the road or on a side street will enable you to examine your car safely. You can signal your intention to remain parked on the side of the road by activating your hazard lights.

2. Contact the police and obtain a police report.

Even if you are not severely injured, you should call 911 so that you can begin to document the incident. A police officer can secure the scene, record the appropriate information and begin the paperwork that your car insurance may require to process a claim.

Resist the urge to "be cool" about the accident and drive off without filing a report on the accident. Those omitting this step do not have proof regarding which party is at fault for causing the accident.

Additionally, it is possible to sustain injuries in an accident that are not initially felt. After the adrenaline has left the body in days following an accident, accident victims begin to experience pain from whiplash or soft tissue injuries. If there has been no record of the accident, your options for recourse will be limited. 

3. Document the scene

Take advantage of the sophisticated camera embedded in your smartphone to snap photos of both cars. Should claims arise about responsibility and type of damage suffered, time stamped pictures can authenticate your claim.

If it's possible, locate witnesses of the event. They will be able to bolster your claims should the other driver change his story.

4. Exchange insurance information

While most states require drivers to have car insurance, not every driver complies with this law. Should the other driver not have insurance, you may have to pay for the repairs and medical bills out of your own pocket. Drivers who do not have proof of insurance on their person at the time of the accident are often given a day to provide their insurance card at the police station.

5. Submit the information to the necessary agencies.

If you are planning on filing a claim with your insurance company, you should begin the process as soon as possible because it will take some time before your claim is approved. Additionally, you may have to submit a report with the DMV.

As you can see, there are many steps that need to be taken to ensure proper documentation of a car accident. In the aftermath of an accident, it may be difficult to remain objective and focus on recording the incident. It is for this reason that those involved in a collision may find that receiving counsel from a knowledgeable attorney will help them resolve issues in a satisfactory manner.

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Haggerty Hinton & Cosgrove LLP 203 Franklin Ave Scranton, PA 18503 Phone: 570-904-8259 Fax: 570-343-9731 Scranton Law Office Map

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