Checklist: What to Do After an Auto Accident


It can be difficult to know where to start after the shock of an auto accident, keep these steps in mind after an accident so that dealing with the aftermath of the crash goes as smoothly as possible.

Call the Police

The first thing you should do whenever you are in a car accident is to call the police. Even if you think you are not injured or if the damage is minimal, call the police. If you are too injured to call the police, ask a bystander or someone in your car to call the police for you.

Calling the police at an auto accident scene is helpful for a number of reasons. The first reason to call the police is safety. The police will put out flares, turn on their lights, and secure the scene to prevent further crashes and injuries.  The second reason is car accident documentation. Oftentimes the police will take statements, photograph the scene, and issue tickets. Documentation of an accident is important when it comes time to deal with the insurance company. The third reason to call the police immediately is for medical attention. The police will survey the scene and request ambulances or fire trucks to the scene if needed.

Seek Medical Care

The moments after a serious auto accident are not the time to “tough it out” or “brush it off.” After a car crash, your health is the first priority! It is commonplace for the adrenaline and shock of a car accident to mask symptoms of pain, but it is vital to get examined by emergency medical services (EMS) at the scene.  If you are feeling uneasy at all, go to the emergency room. If you hit your head in the crash, get checked for a concussion.

We have handled many cases where our clients dealt with the pain until they could not take the pain anymore, and come to find out they were suffering post-concussion headaches, a fracture, or a disk herniation. In these cases, a delay in treatment meant a delay in recovery.

Take Photos of the Car Accident Scene

Taking photos after a car accident seems like common sense. That said, you would not believe how often clients have no photos of the auto accident scene, the damage to their cars, or their injuries. With everyone carrying smartphones these days, it is easy to take photos of anything related to the accident which will help you later.

It is important to take photos documenting the scene of the accident, the position of the vehicles, the damage to your car, the damage to the other vehicles, and any related injuries.

If you are not able to take photos, ask a friend, witness, or bystander to take photos and have them email the photos to you.

Get Witness Information

Many people assume that the police are going to obtain witness information.  This does not always happen, especially in smaller car accidents.

As we all know, just because the accident may be a small-scale auto accident, does not mean that the damages are small.  I have handled many smaller-scale auto accidents resulting in concussions and tens of thousands of dollars in treatment. In smaller auto accidents when there are severe injuries, it is crucial to gather any witness information available, because insurance companies hate paying out large sums of money on small auto accident cases and will fight you every step of the way. Also, car accident witnesses have a way of disappearing. As life goes on, the “call to action” a witness may have felt at the scene of the accident fades as with their motivation to participate in a lawsuit. Therefore, after an accident, it is important to look around for witnesses and jot down their information. If you have witness information, fighting the insurance company after a car crash is much easier.

Follow-up on Medical Treatment

Follow up and follow through with your medical treatment. If the emergency room doctor tells you to follow up with your primary care physician (PCP), please follow up with your primary care physician.  If your PCP tells you to follow up with physical therapy, follow up with physical therapy. And if your physical therapist tells you to complete 10 sessions of therapy, please complete 10 sessions of therapy.

Following up with medical treatment is tedious and inconvenient, but there are two important reasons to follow up:  First and most obviously, your priority after a car crash is getting better. Second, and equally as important in the personal injury context, is that following up makes your personal injury claim more credible.

I have had many cases where the insurance company argued that my client was not hurting as much as he or she claimed because she did not follow-up with treatment. Don’t let the insurance company have this argument. Follow up with your treatment for the sake of both your wellness and insurance purposes.

Beware of Social Media

Beware of posting anything about your car accident on social media. The insurance company may get access to your posts and messages and could use it against you.

Tell the Truth

This should go without saying.  Tell the truth from start to finish. Do not lie or exaggerate a claim in order to fool the insurance company.  Not only will you likely be caught, but it is not the right thing to do. A car accident is not a “golden ticket.”  If you see a car crash that way, you will be disappointed.

Insurance Company

Slow down. Resist the pressure to quickly put the crash behind you.  In Virginia, you have two years from the date of the injury (car accident) to file a claim for personal injury. You almost always get sold short when you settle with insurance too early.

The first step is to call your own insurance company to alert them of the crash.  Give them your statement as to how the crash happened and what injuries you received, if any. Remember, all conversations are recorded. Tell the truth and don’t sell your injuries short. Then focus on getting better.

The defense insurance company will pressure you for another statement and for a quick settlement. They can get your original statement from your insurance company if they really want it. They will make you feel like time is of the essence, but it is not, you have time. It is to the benefit of the insurance company to close the books on your claim quickly and cheaply.

It is to your benefit to understand the full extent of your injuries and damages before dealing with the insurance company. Once you settle, you cannot go back to ask for more money. You will want to know the complete picture of your injuries, bills, lost wages, and inconvenience before you make a demand on the insurance company to compensate you for your damages.

Car Accident Lawyer

Find a good car accident lawyer rather than going it alone. A good personal injury attorney will help you understand your claim, maximize your recovery, and take a load of stress off your shoulders. Look for an attorney who is accessible and experienced in auto accidents and personal injuries.

At Cuthbert Law Offices, we would be happy to sit down with you to discuss your accident or injury free of charge and without any pressure.  Give us a call at (804) 485-2555 We are here to help.