Car accidents can be incredibly frightening experiences, especially on New Jersey roadways. Not only was New Jersey considered one of the worst states to drive in in 2021, but serious accidents have been skyrocketing in the last year. The New Jersey State Police reported that in 2021 alone, New Jersey saw 670 fatal accidents and 700 fatalities: nearly a 20 percent increase in fatalities from 2020.
The reasons for the rise in deaths are not yet totally clear, though as Covid-19 vaccines have become available and businesses have reopened, there are many more vehicles on the road. Regardless of the cause, with serious accidents on the rise it’s essential to know what to do if you are involved in a crash. I’ll describe the steps below, as well as when a Northern New Jersey car accident lawyer at Buttafuoco & Associates may be able to help.
Steps After a Car Accident
Step 1: Call 911
Even if you aren’t certain whether your injuries are severe, your first step after making sure everyone in the vehicle is safe should be to call 911. It’s essential to seek medical attention after an accident, as some injuries like whiplash and internal injuries may not emerge for days or even weeks. If you don’t seek immediate medical care and your injuries go unnoticed, there could be serious health repercussions.
In addition, if you are seriously injured and attempt to bring a lawsuit against the responsible driver, you’ll need proof that the other driver’s recklessness or negligence caused your injury. Unless a medical professional documents your injuries right away, it can be difficult to prove this in court. It’s also important to have this documentation for insurance companies, who will almost always try to pay you less than you need to recover.
Calling 911 will also ensure that a police report is completed and filed. This report will contain information that is valuable to your insurance company claim or your New Jersey personal injury attorney.
Step 2: Exchange Information with the Other Driver
Your next move after calling 911 should be to exchange names, driver’s license numbers, and contact and insurance information with the other driver. When speaking to the other driver, however, under no circumstances should you apologize for the accident or admit fault. If you do, especially if a police officer is present, this could be included in the police report.
Accidents are complicated, and even if you were somewhat responsible for the accident, it is possible that the other driver shares some of the blame. In New Jersey, we have laws that assign percentages of fault for serious accidents. For minor accidents, New Jersey no-fault laws require you to first seek compensation from your insurance company, regardless of who is at fault, but it’s still a good idea to avoid admitting fault—including to the other driver’s or your own insurance company.
Step 3: Collect Evidence
If you are well enough to do so after your accident, take photos and written documentation of the accident scene, including:
- Damage to vehicles
- Skid marks at the accident site
- Damage to property
- Weather conditions
- Road conditions
- Names and phone numbers of any witnesses
Having this information on hand can make a huge difference when determining who was at fault for the accident and to what degree. If a witness has an immediate statement, write it down or record it on your phone. This could be useful later if you need to work with a car accident attorney serving Northern New Jersey. If you are unsure whether or not you have a case against the other driver, it’s a good idea to discuss this with an attorney. Buttafuoco & Associates provides free consultations at 1-800-NOW-HURT.
Step 4: Talk to Your Insurance Company
After any accident, you must contact your insurance company right away, whether it is serious or not: this is likely written in your insurance policy. Again, it is incredibly important not to admit fault to your insurance company. Insurance companies are businesses, and getting a fair settlement can be difficult.
You should also avoid making any statements to your insurer that minimize the severity of your injuries. There are many unknown factors within any individual recovery. Some injuries may not appear immediately, your prognosis may change over time, and injuries may be chronic. Minimizing your condition could lead your insurer to significantly reduce your compensation.
Step 5: Get in Touch with an Attorney
Unfortunately, most of us will experience an auto accident in our lifetimes. Sometimes you may emerge with a few scratches, but if you have injuries at all and your insurance company is refusing to pay, getting in touch with an attorney may be in your best interest. Likewise, if your injuries are considered serious under New Jersey law you will need an attorney to assist you with creating a strong case against the responsible party. This can be challenging to prove, but a knowledgeable car accident attorney in Northern New Jersey can help.
At Buttafuoco & Associates, we have worked with hundreds of car accident victims over the years, many of whom would not have received a fair settlement or compensation without working with a lawyer. If your insurance company will not negotiate with you or has paid you less than you know you are entitled to, we will fight for your rights.
Contact us today with any questions at 1-800-NOW-HURT.