According to the DMV, there were 128,172 car crashes in Virginia in 2019. Out of that total, 6,171 crashes happened in the city of Richmond.
No matter where you are in the state of Virginia, and no matter how well or safely you drive, there is always a chance that you could be involved in a car accident. From small fender-benders to totaling wrecks, someone else’s negligence can change your entire day in an instant.
Car crashes can be traumatic and emotionally difficult. As such, it can be difficult to remember what you need to do. Just as important is to remember what not to do after an accident. By not following these steps, your accident could become a tough legal battle.
What You Should Not Do After a Car Accident
- Do Not Leave the Scene
After a car accident, no matter how minor or major, your “fight or flight” response might kick in, forcing you to make a seemingly difficult decision. Let’s make this decision easier: if you are involved in an accident, you are legally required to stay at the scene of the accident.
According to Virginia Code Sections 46.2-894, the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident in which a person is killed or injured, or property is damaged, must stop “as close to the scene of the accident as possible…”
Even if you clip someone’s car or knock over a mailbox, it is best to either stay at the scene of the accident or leave your contact information. You never know if a camera is filming or if someone wrote down your plates. Fleeing can only get you into worse trouble.
- Do Not Admit Fault or Apologize
Many people’s first instinct after a car accident is to say, “I’m sorry”. This instinct could lead to serious legal implications. By saying something as simple as “I’m sorry”, the other person(s) involved in the accident may try to use this against you, claiming you admitted fault.
Rather than apologizing or taking the blame, make sure to check on the other people involved in the accident. Use this time to gather contact information and help anyone who has been injured. You can still show empathy and support without admitting fault.
- Do Not Get Aggressive
On the other hand, your first instinct might be to blame the other parties involved, possibly resorting to physical action. Even if the other party is responsible, yelling and blaming the other people involved will get you nowhere fast. Getting into a fist fight could get you behind bars.
Any aggressive or physical action towards the other party can be used against you in court. Even if the other person is at fault, you can only make things worse by fighting with them. Try to remain calm and gather all the necessary information you need.
- Do Not Forget to Call the Police
Often after a car crash, the people involved will want to not involve the police or insurance companies. While a seemingly good idea on paper, this usually never works out in your favor. Without the accountability provided by a police report or insurance documentation, the other person is given more room to not take responsibility and pay for damages.
Make sure to call the police as soon as you can. While no one may be injured and no laws may be broken, a police officer is still helpful at the scene. They can file an official police report that can be referenced in case anyone attempts legal action. They can also check on the people involved and ensure that no serious injuries have been suffered.
- Do Not Forget to Document the Accident
A perfect thing to do while waiting for the police to arrive is to document as much as possible from the scene of the accident. This information can be used to defend yourself in court or support your claim for your insurance company.
You should not forget:
- Photos of the vehicles and where they were damaged
- Photos of the scene, including skid marks
- Insurance information, like representative phone number or account number
- Witness contact information if possible
- Do Not Wait to Visit a Doctor
Once you have left the scene of the accident, you may feel no pain or have any signs of injury. While you might want to wait for a doctor to examine you, it is important that you visit a doctor as soon as possible.
While you may not have any immediate injuries, a physician can identify strains and possible pressure points in your body. Not only will you get the medical care that you need, but you can prove that any injuries you do have were caused by the accident. If you have health insurance make sure the medical provider knows this and ask that the bills be submitted to your health insurance company even if you were not at fault and want the at fault person’s insurance company to pay for your bills.
7. Do Not Forget to Report the Accident to Your Insurance Provider
Car accidents can be very traumatic and stressful, which makes it easy to forget the necessary steps to take after the accident. One step you should do soon after your accident is to file a claim with your insurance provider.
Many insurance companies have time limits for when you can file a claim for a car accident. This also provides more proof of the accident, and lets the insurance company begin to investigate the accident.
- Do Not Speak to Insurance Companies Without a Lawyer
While you should file a claim with your insurance company, the other people involved in the accident will most likely do the same. The other insurance companies will start an investigation and begin calling the drivers involved. When they call you, do not speak to them without first consulting an attorney. The goal of the insurance company is to pay as little as possible, so they want to find any reason to reduce the payout for the accident. That means they will use anything you say to them against you.
By consulting with an experienced attorney first, you can know what to say to the insurance company without unintentionally incriminating yourself. Even if you are not at fault, it never hurts to be prepared for this situation.
Contact the Law Firm of Epperly & Follis
After you have met with your doctor and talked with your insurance company, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. They can use their decades of experience in car accident litigation to help you defend yourself in and out of court, or advise you on how to pursue a court ruling.
If you have been involved in a car accident in Richmond, VA, contact Epperly & Follis. Call us at 804-648-6480 and schedule your free consultation.