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What to Do During and After an Auto Accident in Virginia

Tuesday, April 9th, 2024

Staying calm and keeping your wits about you during and after an auto accident in Virginia is no easy task. Accidents happen fast, and the events that unfold afterwards can happen just as fast. The situation can also be complicated by any number of additional factors: injuries, anxiety, and answering questions from numerous individuals.

There is no one-size-fits-all response that is appropriate in every auto accident. This is why it is vital to consult an experienced Virginia personal injury attorney as soon as possible, so you can get specific and tailored advice that takes into account the specific details of your circumstances.

There are some generalizations, however, that are true. Below are some tips and advice to aid you in confronting your accident and responding in the days and weeks that follow.

1. Control Your Vehicle

Proper response to an accident begins before the wheels stop spinning. Your first priority, greater than any consideration of liability or fault, is to survive the accident and minimize the chance you suffer significant injuries. When a collision occurs or is imminent, it is often the case that individuals simply freeze and stop driving the car. Never relinquish control of your vehicle. Do what you reasonably can to avoid the worst of the collision: take emergency action, and, if possible, navigate to safety entirely.

2. Assess the Situation

After the collision, monitor your surroundings and take appropriate action to prevent further accidents or injury. Can you safely move to the side of the road? Do you need to evacuate the passengers from the car and safely behind a guardrail? Can you place road flares or reflective triangles to warn oncoming motorists of the upcoming danger?

Further, you should assess your medical condition and that of your passengers or other individuals involved in the accident.

3. Call 911 or Appropriate Emergency Services

When safe to do so, call appropriate emergency services. Even if you feel that there are no injuries that warrant a trip to the emergency room, it still may a good idea to get checked out. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Responding police officers can help direct traffic in the area and ensure that you, your passengers, and other motorists on the road remain safe. Additionally, and especially if you aren’t at fault for the accident, having a neutral assessment of the manner and cause of the accident can help with later litigation. The responding officers may seek statements from the parties as well take photographs of the scene.

4. Carefully Consider Statements

When making statements, either to the police or to anyone else at the scene, carefully consider your words. While an accident and its immediate aftermath can be an extremely stressful time, it is important to try to calm yourself, get your wits about you, and avoid speaking from a place of hysteria or emotion.

It is extremely easy to make a statement that can be used against you later, especially when caught up in the emotion of the moment. Comments like “That guy came out of nowhere!” and “I didn’t even see her!” can be used to demonstrate that you failed to keep proper lookout. Also be careful with expressions of sympathy or apologies. While these statements on their own may not be an admission of guilt, these statements often accompany other statements that can be. For example, consider the statement “I am so sorry! I thought the way was clear!” The statement of sympathy may not be admissible against you, but your statement that you thought the way was clear likely would be.

Auto Accident

5. Document the Scene

While responding officers may document the scene, it is not a good idea to completely rely on them. If you are medically able and it is safe to do so, it is a good idea to document the scene. This could include taking pictures of the vehicles and the damage caused by the collision. It can also including taking video (but pay careful consideration to what you say on the video, that audio lasts forever).

It is also important to remember that the “scene” is more than just the location of the accident. Proving your medical condition and your injuries associated with the accident will be vital during future litigation. Remember to record your condition, via video, pictures, and written recordings of your condition and experiences. It is easy to forget important things, especially when they are unpleasant and you wish you had never experienced them in the first place.

6. Seek Medical Attention

Don’t be a hero. You are not a medical expert. If you feel pain, you have no clue what the source of that pain is. You do not know the severity of the injury that is precipitating that pain. You do not know if you will recover, given enough time, or if this is just the start of a lifetime of pain and discomfort.

Seek medical attention. Lots of people have “toughed it out” only to discover much later that they were more injured than they thought they were. First and foremost, this would mean that you have suffered more than you had too. You have experienced pain and discomfort that a trained professional might have alleviated. More than that, you may have prejudiced your personal injury case. If there is a large gap between the accident and your medical treatment, you can bet that this will be use against you later.

7. Notify Your Insurance

As soon as you are able after an accident, you should notify your insurance company. Many insurance contracts require you to notify the company of an incident within a reasonable time. If you fail to do so, you can waive your coverage for the accident. You should also make sure that you are given the other driver’s insurance information.

8. Seek a Qualified Personal Injury Attorney

Finally, seek the tailored advice of a qualified personal injury attorney. While it is never too soon to seek competent legal counsel, sometimes it can be too late. Virginia has a two year statute of limitations that is nearly absolute. If you miss this deadline, your case is dead. It doesn’t matter how good your case is. It doesn’t matter how injured you were. If you miss this statutory deadline, you may miss your opportunity to seek compensation for your losses.

Again, while this is not intended to be an exhaustive checklist of how to respond to an auto accident in Virginia (no such checklist could ever be exhaustive), following these tips can help you respond to what will, in all likelihood, be a difficult situation. Those injured in an auto accident in Virginia would be wise to consult with a Virginia personal injury attorney who is familiar with all of the pitfalls associated with litigating this type of case. Plaintiffs in Southwest Virginia would do well to hire a personal injury lawyer in Roanoke, Virginia. There is no need to go through this alone.

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