Checklist: What to Do After A Car Accident in Texas
When you get into a car accident here in Texas, there are important steps should take in order to make sure that everyone is safe, to follow Texas law and properly begin the insurance claim process. Being involved in an accident is stressful, so it's important to educate yourself early on to protect yourself when a crash does happen.
The checklist is a guide composed by our legal experts. The following steps will help you make the important decisions after being in a auto accident, whether you are the innocent driver, or the motorist liable in causing the collision.
1. Remain at the Scene
If you're involved in a car accident, Texas law requires you to stay at the scene of the crash if there are damages to the vehicles, or if the accident caused a person involved to suffer injuries. While that may sound obvious, hit and runs are illegal and carry hefty criminal implications in our state. Stay safe and err on the side of caution by remaining at the accident until the police arrive. You could be injured and not even realize it, so it is a best practice to obtain medical care from paramedics while at the scene even if you feel only mild sensations or discomfort.
2. Get out of harm's way
If your vehicle is in a dangerous position that may cause more harm to you or others on the roadway, it is vital to get out of harm’s way by moving the vehicle to a safe area. Pull to the emergency lane or into a nearby parking lot, if possible. Once you have confidently done this, check to make sure those involved in the crash are unharmed. Start with any passengers in your vehicle, and then check on the other motorist. If there are any babies or small children with your, gently ensure they are capable of performing normal movement without indicating that they are in destress. You may be the only person who can provide first aid or prevent an additionally dangerous situation from happening until emergency responders arrive.
3. Exchange information
While waiting for the police to arrive you should request that the parties involved exchange insurance coverage information. Texas law actually requires that motorists engage in this exchange while at the crash site. Do not rely on the police to obtain these details later, because sometimes they won't, so expedite the process. Even in cases where the investigating officer secures the contact information of each driver, you still may have to wait until the Crash Report releases to receive these details (which sometimes take between 7-10 business days). So, take the initiative of capturing a picture of the other driver's license and insurance card if you can.
If auto insurance information is not readily available for any of the drivers, you can ask for their vehicle registration information instead.
Also, write down the make and model of the car, license plate number, and any other identifying details about their vehicles.
4. Call 911
Dial 911 to report the accident. Don't rely on the other driver to report it. The other party involved might also try to persuade you from calling for emergency assistance by mentioning their insurance rates, driving history, or a lack of structural damage to the cars, but it is essential to gain the assistance of a police officer to protect your health and others.
The responding officer will file a Texas Crash Report that includes the contact information of drivers involved, along with their auto insurance company and policy number. The officer will also investigate the factors that contributed to causing the accident and make a determination of who was at-fault. Any traffic citations issued by the police officer will help an attorney when seeking compensation for any innocent drivers, passengers, or pedestrians hurt in the wreck.
5. Request medical care
If you feel any pain or new sensations after being involved in an automobile accident - even something as small as lightheadedness or a headache - request an ambulance to the hospital from the scene. After being involved in a car accident in Texas, it is critically important that you receive prompt medical treatment and observation from an emergency room. Additionally, certain life-threatening complications, such as internal bleeding, bone fractures, and concussions, might not manifest until later, but can be detected during the initial trauma assessment.
Additionally, the medical records associated with your claim help establish your right to compensation by describing the mechanism of injury and evidencing your grievances. After being discharged by a hospital or emergency room, keep a hold of this documentation as your attorney will want to review it.
Do not discuss fault
Even if you think that you caused the accident, don't admit fault or say anything about how it happened. While it might seem like the "right" thing to do at the time, it can significantly impact your case later on. It is up to courts or insurance companies to determine who is at fault, so simply gather the information necessary, and let others make the required determinations.
6. Preserve evidence
If it is safe to do so, jot down notes about what happened at the scene before you forget any helpful details. You don’t want to later forget critical evidence that would make or break your right to a settlement or award. If you have a cell phone with a voice recording, open a new memo to record notes more rapidly and refer to later.
Feel free to also take a video recording of the post-accident scene. Try to capture the position of the vehicles, along with evidence such as tire tread marks, broken glass, deployed airbags, or similar. Video footage has little room for interpretation later. If someone involved in the accident is intoxicated or appears to be impaired in by drugs, a video of their present state at the scene could help the officer that will arrive later.
7. Contact your insurance company (not theirs)
As soon as you can, notify your insurance company of the car accident. Make sure to tell the claims handler or adjuster whether you were injured in the accident, even if your pain level is mild at the time. If your insurance policy includes automobile collision benefits, then you have the option of having your car inspected and repaired when you report the claim, or you can wait until the insurance company of the other driver accepts fault.
Do not speak to the other party’s insurance without legal representation. Even if you believe that only the actions of the driver caused the collision, insurance company’s train their adjusters to analyze the facts independently and they often attempt to re-apportion fault after taking your recorded statement. Your attorney will most likely not allow the insurance to take your statement and instead speak entirely on your behalf.
8. Purchase the crash report
Don’t forget to get a copy of the crash report. The police officer who investigated the traffic accident will complete a report that includes the information needed to process your insurance claim. These reports are usually available for pickup from local law enforcement agencies within seven to ten days of the date of the crash. Most completed reports can by purchased through the Texas Department of Transportations online purchase system, found here. If another agency completed the report, you can also purchase a certified or uncertified copy of the report by inputting information related to the crash into the search portal of Crash Dot or Lexis Nexis.
9. Contact an attorney
When car accidents happen, local law enforcement will arrive at the scene and assess it. You may be asked to give a statement about what happened. Take a deep breath and remain calm. This can be an overwhelming experience after impact. Your adrenaline is pumping, and your responses may seem exaggerated or defensive to an on-looker. Please do not admit fault, apologize for the accident or make any kind of admission about the incident before you speak to an experienced car accident attorney.
Once you do share your side of the story with a lawyer, they can help you determine whether any actions or statements made were or were not appropriate while speaking with law enforcement. Choosing the right legal team can make a huge difference in your outcome after an accident!
10. Start a diary
Keeping a diary is very important after an accident. Trust us, although auto accidents are often the most traumatic events that a person experiences in their lives, days go by afterwards certain details will always become more foggy. Your brain also works to overcome trauma by trying to aid you in forgetting events that have major impacts on your psychological state.
Since car accident claims and lawsuits are determined by facts and evidence, it is important to capture the details of what happened in a diary or some form of an information log. For ease, you can also opt to use an audio recording device. Your recollection of what occurred is strong evidence and helps in either protecting your innocence or fortifying a claim seeking compensation for your damages.
11. Keep a copy of your records
You should keep a copy of all medical bills and records, especially if you sought treatment because of the crash. Information like car repair estimates or receipts is also essential to keep. The objective is to compile as much evidence as possible, which will aid in solidifying who should be help liable in causing the accident or how liability should be apportioned between the motorists involved. The more evidence, the merrier, and your attorney or insurance company will never complain that you did too much. We aggressively negotiate with insurance companies and use a skilled approach to representing our clients in the courtroom.
Remember, when you're in an accident, you may be in a state of shock and frustration, but try to remain calm. More than likely, it'll be one of the rare times you'll encounter an accident, so do whatever you can to have a positive outcome from the situation. The best course of action after an accident is to collect as much evidence as possible and contact the authorities like the police, insurance, and your lawyer so that you can get a complete picture of your options after the crash.