WHAT TO DO AFTER A MOTOR VEHICLE COLLISION
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It can be difficult to remember what to do after a car accident, especially if you are under stress from the situation. But having a plan in place in case you get in a motor vehicle collision will help you react more quickly and effectively should the occasion ever arise.
You may be wondering, “Do I need a collision lawyer?” and where to find a collision lawyer near you. In Colorado, there are experienced collision lawyers ready to answer any questions you may have and assist you after your car accident.
Be prepared in the event of a motor vehicle collision
While no one plans to be in a car accident, knowing what to do after a car accident can reduce stress and help you avoid making costly mistakes. The Insurance Information Institute provides the following tips to remember and suggests taking steps ahead of time to stay prepared.
Keep Important Documents in the Car
Make sure to have critical documents in the car at all times. This includes information such as your car registration, proof of automobile insurance, and any relevant medical information in case of emergency. You should also always have your driver’s license available when you are driving.
Stay Emergency Ready
Keep emergency supplies in the car. These may be items such as traffic cones or flares to increase visibility. It is wise to consider keeping other useful items handy, as well, such as a first aid kit for minor injuries. In rural areas or in areas that experience cold temperatures, extra blankets, a coat, and food and water may be helpful.
Have Automobile Insurance
Make sure to maintain the proper amount of auto coverage that fits your needs, especially as it is required by law. For example, Colorado requires that you carry liability insurance at a minimum. Liability insurance covers bodily injury to another person or property damage to another person’s vehicle or property. Having extra coverage may help pay for additional costs in a car accident. Knowing that you have a policy that will cover certain damages may give you peace of mind.
What to do Immediately after a car accident
Car accidents are unfortunately very common. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were over 36,000 fatal car crashes in 2019. Most accidents can be prevented if drivers practice caution while driving. However, sometimes being in a car accident is out of your control and is through no fault of your own.
Consider the following tips should you ever find yourself in a car accident:
Stay Calm and Remain at the Scene
Remembering to stay calm will help you take action more effectively. Do not leave the scene of the accident before speaking with the other drivers first, even if you feel that damages are minor. Fleeing the scene may not only be irresponsible, but in Colorado and some other states, it is a crime that may carry legal consequences.
Call for Help
Call the police and wait for them to arrive and file an accident report. Always file an accident report, even if you think the accident was minor. Having a police report on file will be useful later should you choose to file a claim.
If a police officer was present at the scene and took a report, you do not need to provide any additional information to the Department of Revenue. If a police officer was not available or not called, you may file an accident report online.
If someone is injured, dial 911 immediately. Calling 911 will also dispatch the police to the scene if you have not already called them. Once medical personnel and the police arrive, they can assist in directing traffic away from the accident and can assist you in gathering information about the crash.
Pull your car over to the side of the road if possible. This will prevent blocking traffic and may prevent a secondary accident from occurring. Getting to safety should be your first priority.
Offer Reasonable Assistance
Colorado law requires you to offer “reasonable assistance.” This means possibly making arrangements for a ride or offering a ride to someone if they are in need of medical attention. If a person asks for assistance, even if they do not appear to be injured, you should offer help.
The State’s Department of Revenue, Division of Motor Vehicles in Colorado requires you to exchange insurance information after a car accident. This should include the name of the insurance company and their policy number. You must show your driver’s license to the other driver if they request it. Drivers should also exchange their names, phone numbers, addresses, and vehicle registration numbers.
If tensions are high after the accident and the other driver does not want to comply, wait for the police to arrive and the information must be provided to the police instead.
Take Notes of the Scene of the Crash
Try to write down or make a recording on your cell phone of all the details you remember of the car accident as soon as you can. This will help you remember later and may be useful should you decide to file a claim later.
Consider taking note of the following information:
- Time of day
- Weather conditions
- Road conditions
- Speed of both cars
- Did the other driver signal any turns?
- Did the other driver have their lights on if required?
- Take pictures of both vehicles and the surrounding area
- Take pictures of any injuries
Documenting the scene of the crash is important to do while the memory of the events is still fresh in your mind.
What to do to follow up after a car accident
After the most important things have been done at the scene of a car accident, keep in mind these several other things you can do to help your case once you have been able to reach a safe and secure place. Some of these things are actually actions you should be careful to not do.
Get a Copy of the Accident Report
To get a copy of the accident report, you will need the completed form DR2489 (Requestor Release and Affidavit of Intended Use) and the required fee. Allow 90 days for the accident report to be entered into the system before requesting it. You may request this accident report online or you may send a written request by mail.
Find a Car Collision Attorney Near You
Whether or not you were at fault, you may have damages or injuries that resulted from the collision. The assistance of a car collision attorney may be beneficial to you. Some car accidents may involve criminal activity, such as driving under the influence or reckless driving. Failing to stop at the scene of the accident, not exchanging information, or not providing reasonable aid after an accident may also give rise to criminal charges.
Do not delay in filing a claim. The time limit for filing a car accident claim in Colorado is three years. After this time limit has passed, you will no longer be able to bring a claim for your damages.
Most cases for car accidents and personal injury are brought under a legal theory of negligence. An experienced attorney will be able to determine if the elements of negligence are met. For example, in order to have a successful claim for negligence, you must be able to show that the other driver or drivers owed you a duty, that that duty was breached, and because of that breach, they caused you to suffer damages.
Do Not Admit Fault
Colorado is a “fault” insurance state which means that only the party whose conduct was negligent, reckless, or intentional will have to pay for damages.
Be sure not to admit fault to your insurance company or to the other drivers. Fault can be determined by insurance companies. Avoid posting details about the car accident online on social media. Only speak with your attorney about the accident.
Do Not Sign a Settlement Agreement from your Insurance
Additionally, be sure not to sign a settlement offer or a release waiver from your insurance company until you have spoken to your attorney. Often times, an insurance company will try to get you to agree to a settlement offer that is much lower than what you might receive after a full assessment of your damages. If you accept a settlement payment right away, you will not be able to bring a lawsuit or recover for any other damages.
Once you have an attorney who is helping with your case, insurance adjusters will have to speak directly with them instead of you. It is important to hire an experienced car accident attorney because they will have your best interests in mind.
Types of Damages That May be Recoverable
Each car accident is unique and the damages will be different for every person. Money damages (economic damages) and non-economic damages may include compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Prescription medication
- Ongoing medical treatment
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Permanent disabilities
Get Help from Colorado Car Crash Lawyers
At Zinda Law Group, our car crash attorneys in Colorado are experienced and have handled many cases involving car crashes. We have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you determine what to do next, negotiate with insurance companies, and recover the best possible outcome for your case.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.