An accident can happen at any time, and it can be terrifying. When you’re running on adrenaline, your only instinct might be to make sure you and anyone involved in the accident aren’t hurt. But what about after that?

It’s vital to know how to protect yourself — not just physically but financially and legally, too — in the immediate aftermath of an accident.

Things to Do After An Accident


Call the Police

Not all accidents need to be reported to the police. For example, if you slip at work, you may only need to call a paramedic if you’re in pain. However, as a general rule, auto accidents — such as car, truck, and motorcycle accidents — should be reported.

The specific reporting requirements vary by state. For example, you need to report injury or death immediately and property damage of more than $1,000 within 10 days after an accident in Texas. However, in Vermont, you only need to report the accident if it causes death, injury, or property damage of more than $3,000 — and you have three days to contact the authorities.

If you’re not sure whether or not you need to report your accident, it’s best to err on the side of caution and do so. Reporting the accident is not just a matter of public safety — it can also support a personal injury claim if you’re entitled to compensation.

This is because when a responding officer arrives, they will file an accident report outlining the date, time, and location of the accident, the parties involved, the injuries sustained, and any contributing factors (such as if a driver was distracted or intoxicated during the accident).

If you’re in an auto accident, you should inform your insurance company as soon as possible so an insurance adjuster can process your claim and cover any damages.

Document the Accident

You should also document the accident scene if you’re able to. After a car accident, this would include recording the contact information of any other drivers involved and witnesses to the accident. You should also take photos of the scene, such as the vehicles involved, any damage, skid marks on the road, and weather conditions. This is crucial if another party is responsible for the crash, as you won’t be able to recover evidence once the road is open again, and the other party may claim you are liable. You should also take photographs of your injuries. This will prevent the other party from claiming you didn’t sustain them in the accident.

accident law

Documenting the scene can still be valuable if you’re in another type of accident. For example, suppose you suffer a spinal injury at work after tripping on a hazard that you’ve previously notified your employer about and that wasn’t addressed. In that case, you may be able to recover compensation. Similarly, if a defective product injures you, you’ll stand a much stronger chance of recovering compensation if you have evidence of the defect.

You don’t need to be a professional photographer or have high-end camera equipment to document the scene of after an accident — your cell phone camera will suffice. Don’t be afraid to take multiple pictures, too — a personal injury attorney can determine which ones best support your claim.

Seek Medical Attention

You should also seek medical attention after an accident — even if you don’t have any physical signs of injury. You might be worried about paying emergency room fees or racking up bills for treatment. Still, if you have severe or long-lasting injuries and don’t seek treatment, you may struggle to recover compensation to pay for your ongoing expenses.

Some injuries — such as whiplash and traumatic brain injuries — don’t present symptoms until hours or even days after the accident. Others may seem innocent but lead to long-term complications. For example, you might be tempted to treat a hurt wrist at home, thinking it will get better with rest and ice. But what if you later find out that you need surgery and physical therapy, and you’re left with chronic pain and weakness in your arm that makes it hard for you to complete certain tasks? By seeking prompt medical attention, you can prove when and how your injuries occurred and what treatment you need, allowing you to recover the costs in a personal injury claim.

Your final step to protect yourself immediately after an accident should be to consult a personal injury lawyer. At worst, you’ll spend an hour having a free consultation with an attorney to find out you don’t have grounds to claim. At best, though, you may be entitled to significant compensation for your medical bills, lost wages from being unable to work, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and more.

Get Legal Advice

While you can file a claim independently, hiring a lawyer is well worth the cost. Many firms will only charge legal fees if they win your case. Because attorneys are skilled negotiators, they can ensure you get the maximum possible settlement — often far bigger than anything you could negotiate alone.

Hiring a personal injury lawyer can also take the stress off your plate after an accident. Taking care of yourself — physically and emotionally — is vital after an accident. Dealing with stubborn insurance adjusters, chasing witnesses, and gathering evidence is likely to be the last things you want to do if you sustain severe injuries and are in pain. An attorney can handle the entire process for you so you can take the time to get the treatment you need and focus on your recovery.

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