The minutes and hours after a car wreck can be chaotic and confusing. If you have been in an auto collision and you are not seriously injured, you need to remember four things to protect yourself. You can remember these tips by using the acronym CENT:
- Call Police
- Gather Evidence
- Notify Insurance Carrier(s)
- Obtain Treatment
Tylka Law Firm • Houston & Galveston, Texas
Personal Injury Law Firm
409-762-0066 • E-mail
You can also print out this page and keep it handy in your glove box in case you are in an accident.
Tip #1: Call Police
Many people are reluctant to involve law enforcement after an accident. They may be in a hurry and are now even more late than they were. Drivers may be scared and believe that they are somehow at fault for the collision. The other driver may say that the police are not necessary. But having a police officer make a report of the accident is a critical step.
A police officer at the scene can examine any injuries or property damage, assess the scene, talk with witnesses and most importantly, prepare a report of the accident. This report can be used as evidence later to assert or refute any claims of negligence or fault by the other party. The police officer should give you a report number, which you may need to use later.
Tip #2: Gather Evidence
To assert a claim or defend yourself in a legal action, statements and pictures obtained at the scene of a car wreck are the best evidence. With the advent of cell phones with cameras and recording devices, this can be fairly easy, but you can also store a disposable camera in your glove box. Using your camera or video feature on your phone, take pictures of the scene. You should take up-close pictures of the damage to your vehicle and any physical injuries you may have. You should also take panoramic shots of the scene to show where each vehicle was located, as well as track or brake marks for both vehicles. Photograph stop signs and right-of-way signals. You should also capture any physical obstacles such as trees or posts that may have been a factor in the accident.
Obtain the driver's name from his or her driver's license, insurance information and the license plate number of the other car. You can take photographs of the license plate, too.
Other motorists and pedestrians may have seen the accident and will stop to help. Talk to the witnesses about what they saw and obtain their names and a telephone number in case you need to speak with them later. Ask any witnesses to make written statements.
Tip #3: Notify Insurance Carrier
Once you have obtained the information you need from the other driver, any witnesses and the police officer, you should notify your car insurance company that you have been in an accident if you are going to make a claim for injury or property damages or if you think the other party will make a claim. You will need to provide your policy number, explain what happened, and provide the information you have about the other driver. You will also need to provide the police report or the police report number.
If you are injured, you may also have coverage through Personal Injury Protection (PIP). PIP is an optional insurance coverage in Texas, although it is frequently added to young drivers' insurance policies automatically. PIP coverage provides benefits for medical expenses and lost wages, usually within a few days of filing a claim. Contact your insurance company to file a claim for PIP benefits.
Tip #4: Obtain Treatment
Obviously, if you have been seriously injured or even if you have minor injuries that concern you, you should seek medical treatment immediately. Medical reports that doctors made about your injuries can be used later as evidence.
Even if you do not believe you are seriously injured, you should visit a physician if you have any lingering pain or injuries. Stress and adrenaline can mask pain symptoms at the scene. But you may feel pain from bruises, muscle pulls or strains in the days following the accident. See a doctor to verify whether you are injured and the extent of your injury. If you are injured, contact your insurance agent to report it as part of your auto accident claim.
C-E-N-T: Protect Yourself After A Motor Vehicle Accident
When you are reeling after a car accident, keep these four simple tips in mind using C-E-N-T: call police, gather evidence, notify insurance and obtain treatment. You may want to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to help shoulder the legal burden and deal with insurance issues. A knowledgeable car accident lawyer can help you through the claims process and advise you of your legal options.