The aftermath of a car accident can be a stressful, overwhelming time. However, if you’ve been in a car crash in West Virginia, there are four main steps you should take immediately after the accident if you are able to, which will help ensure a smoother outcome.
4 Steps to Do Immediately After a Car Accident in West Virginia.
- Document the scene of the auto accident and collect evidence. The most important thing to do right away is to take photographs of the scene, including any damage to your vehicle and other vehicles involved, any property damage, nearby street signs and traffic signals, any visible injuries, the orientation of the vehicles before they are moved, and anything else that might be relevant. It’s also important to collect the names and contact information of other drivers as well as any witnesses to the accident, as their testimony can be very useful in a car accident lawsuit.
- Report the accident to the police. If you are the one to call 911, be sure to request that a police officer is dispatched to the scene of the accident. If someone else calls for help and/or no police officer is present at the scene for any reason, be sure to call the local, county, or West Virginia state police after the accident to file an accident report. The police report will be a helpful document in your case. Ideally, you should call and request assistance from the accident scene, and before vehicles have been moved or witnesses have left the scene.
- Get medical treatment. You should always visit a doctor or get a medical evaluation after any car accident, no matter how minor. Having an official medical record of any injuries will be a critical piece of evidence for your case as well.
- Call a West Virginia car accident attorney. Call an attorney as soon as possible after your accident for a free initial consultation and case review – definitely talk to a lawyer before you speak to any insurers or anyone other than the police or your doctor.
What Kind of Evidence Should I Collect?
As we mentioned above, the most important evidence to collect at the accident scene is photographs of the scene and witness names and contact information, as well as the other motorist’s phone number and car insurance information. Other important documents to be collected include a copy of the police report, copies of medical expenses and reports, car repair receipts, and so forth, but your attorneys will in most cases prefer to collect those items for you.
If you are not able to collect evidence at the scene of the accident due to shock, injury, or any other reason, don’t panic. Our car accident attorneys at Kaufman & McPherson are extremely experienced in evidence gathering. We can track down witnesses for interviews and statements, collect medical and police reports, gather security footage, and find any other relevant evidence on your behalf for your car accident claim.
Do I Still Need to See a Doctor Even if I Don’t Think I Was Injured?
Yes, you should see a doctor after any car accident. Bodily injuries might not be immediately evident after a crash due to adrenaline or shock masking the pain. You may also have sustained internal injuries or a concussion, which could cause major problems if left untreated.
Obviously, if you sustained any serious injuries in the accident, you will be transported to the hospital right away, but even if you walk away from the accident you should still seek medical attention. Insurance companies and the court will look at your medical records surrounding the crash to ensure that any injury sustained was in fact caused by the car crash, and the medical bills will help determine your settlement amount.
What If I Was Given a Citation?
If you are given a citation at the scene of the vehicle accident, remain calm and cooperate with law enforcement officers. Accepting the ticket does not mean that you admit guilt or fault for the accident, and you can later contest the ticket in traffic court if you feel that the citation was unwarranted.
You can explain your side of the story to the police, but be careful not to implicate yourself. Additionally, be sure to cooperate with law enforcement even if you feel that they aren’t hearing your version of events. Follow their instructions and do not yell or argue, as this will not benefit you, obstructs the investigation, and can result in your arrest. Instead, calmly follow instructions and accept any citation that they may give you, and then call a personal injury lawyer as soon as you can.
Can I Continue to Drive My Car?
If your car is not severely damaged and all of the safety features such as headlights, tail lights, turn signals, seatbelts, airbags, and so forth are still in working order, you can drive your vehicle away after a car accident. However, it’s a good idea to have the car checked out after any kind of accident to be sure.
If your car’s safety features are not working properly, do not drive the car. Instead, call your roadside assistance program, a tow truck, or a friend for a ride.
What If My Car is Totaled?
If your car is totaled in a car accident, you will need to have it towed or otherwise removed from the scene. This will affect your insurance claim since the car is a total loss and the cost of removing the car is added. If you are not injured badly enough to warrant an ambulance ride but have no other means of transportation nearby, law enforcement officers may be able to help you get to a safe location. If you are close to home, you can call a friend or family member to come to pick you up.
How Do I Know If I Have a Personal Injury Case?
In order to have a personal injury case, your motor vehicle accident must meet the following requirements: the at-fault driver owed you a duty of care and breached it (for instance, they should have given you the right of way and failed to do so), you as the accident victim suffered damages (pain and suffering, financial loss, wrongful death of a loved one, etc.), and the damages are the direct result of the at-fault driver’s actions.
If you aren’t sure whether your situation meets these criteria, contact us at the Kaufman & McPherson Law Firm for a free consultation with one of our experienced accident lawyers. You may call our offices 24/7 at 304-842-4300.
What Should I Say to the Insurance Companies?
In general, say as little as possible to any claims adjusters who contact you. Your insurance coverage is a contract between you and your insurance company, so you are obligated to notify them of a car accident, but you do not have to speak with them beyond that, especially not before speaking to a car accident attorney. It is best to retain an attorney before you speak to any of the insurance companies involved. All of them, even your own, have financial motivations to take actions that are not in your best interest.
How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit?
West Virginia law dictates that the statute of limitations on personal injury cases is two years, so you have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim. However, the sooner the better. There are many actions that need to be taken prior to the limitation date, and many things that hurt the value of the claim tend to happen with the passage of time of the actions or inactions of an injured party who is not being properly advised.
How Long Will it Take to Settle my Car Accident Case?
The length of time necessary to settle your case will depend on several factors, but it will take one to two months at least. Factors that can prolong the case include whether other parties involved have liability coverage if there were any uninsured motorists involved, how many out-of-pocket expenses were incurred, how long your treatment lasts, and whether workers’ compensation will be necessary. We do everything in our power to get you your settlement as quickly and efficiently as possible, but every case is different.