What to Do After a Car Accident in Atlanta
If you are involved in a car accident in Atlanta or the surrounding area, it’s important to keep your wits about you. There are certain steps you should take that could not only benefit your wellbeing, but also increase your chances of filing a successful personal injury lawsuit in the future.
1. Check on Everyone Involved
First, check your own body for any injuries. If you have serious injuries, don’t move more than you need to. Instead, call 9-1-1 immediately and stay put. If you don’t have any serious injuries, check on the passengers in your car. Again, if they have any serious injuries, especially to the neck or head, DON’T MOVE THEM! Also check on the passengers in the other car, taking the same precautions.
If it’s possible, move the cars off the road and onto the shoulder. If the cars are inoperable, try to get yourself and your passengers to the shoulder and out of harm’s way. If you do plan on moving the cars, try to take a few photos of the scene before doing so.
2. Call 9-1-1
Once everyone is in a safe location (or as safe as they can be), call 9-1-1. Not only should you request a police officer, but you should also request an ambulance. Even if you don’t think you are seriously injured, a medical professional can conduct a full evaluation to look for any injuries you may have missed.
When the police arrive, give them a full, unbiased statement. For instance, “The other driver struck my vehicle from the rear” is much better than saying, “The other driver was speeding and didn’t even see me when they hit me” — after all, you don’t know those details for sure. You will need to retrieve a copy of the police report after it’s filed.
3. Gather Evidence and Stay Quiet
While you’re at the scene, take as many photos as you can. Use your phone (or a camera, if you have one handy) to photograph damage to your vehicle, the other vehicle and any injuries you sustained. You should also take photos of road conditions, weather conditions, skid marks, street signs and anything else you may think is important. It’s always better to have too many photos than not enough.
You should also get the other driver’s information. This includes their name, contact information and insurance information. If possible, take a photo of their driver’s license. At the very least, take a photo of their license plate. Also talk to any witnesses about what they saw, and get their contact information as well.
What you should NOT do is apologize or admit fault in any way. Provide only the very basic information, such as your name and insurance information. Avoid any speculation or finger-pointing.
4. Call Your Insurer
Unfortunately, you’ll need to report the car accident to your car insurance provider. You should do so as soon as possible. If you don’t report the accident, there’s a good chance your insurer won’t cover your bills, and filing a successful lawsuit later on can be much more difficult. What’s more, if you fail to report the accident, your insurer could decide to stop providing coverage.
Giving a statement to your insurer is similar to giving a statement to the police. Stick with the facts. Offer as little information as possible, especially regarding your opinion of what happened. Your insurer will be recording the call and looking for any way to reduce your settlement offer. If they ask any probing questions, tell them politely but firmly you’d like to speak to your attorney before answering any other questions.
5. Keep Up With Your Medical Treatments
If the EMTs who arrive on the scene recommend you go to the hospital, do it! At the hospital, doctors can use other tools like x-rays and MRIs to further diagnose your injuries. If you aren’t taken to the hospital, at least visit your doctor within a couple days to have your injuries evaluated. Otherwise, any injury that becomes apparent later could be blamed on some other incident.
Whether you go to the hospital or your doctor, always follow any treatment prescribed. That way, there’s no question that you were injured in the car accident. Keep record of any diagnosis you receive, as well as all of your medical bills — including from any ambulance ride. All of these records can be used by your Atlanta car accident lawyer later on as evidence that you deserve greater compensation.
6. Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer in Atlanta
Under Georgia law, you have exactly two years from the time of the car accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you wait until after those two years have elapsed to file a lawsuit, it will almost certainly be dismissed. That’s why it’s important to talk to an Atlanta car accident attorney as soon as possible.
One of the main factors your attorney will evaluate is who’s at fault in the accident. Georgia follows a modified contributory negligence statute. That means if you are found 50 percent or more at fault for your injuries, you won’t be able to recover any compensation. As such, your lawyer will evaluate all the evidence of the accident, including the police report, to determine if you have a viable case.