No one expects to get involved in an auto accident, let alone deal with the aftermath of one. However, the unavoidable reality is that during 2016 alone, there were 324,473 crashes involving motor vehicles in Illinois. Injury crashes accounted for 20.5 percent of these crashes, while fatal crashes accounted for less than one percent. The majority of these fatal crashes occurred on dry roadways, with nearly half of all fatal crashes occurring in broad daylight hours, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
The bottom line is that auto accidents can happen to anyone, at any time, and they are far more likely to occur than you may think. The 2016 statistics boil down to 889 traffic crashes every single day, more than ten people injured every hour, and nearly three people killed each day.
The auto accident attorneys at FLT Law know that while nobody gets in the car planning to have an accident, having a plan beforehand in the event of a tragedy is a necessity. That way, if and when the unthinkable happens and you find yourself in an auto accident in the Chicagoland area, you aren’t caught unprepared. Our easy-to-follow guide will take you through several important steps you and your family should take after an auto accident, including everything that must be documented:
1.) Call 911
Call 911 immediately following the accident to report it and request an ambulance to ensure that those who need medical attention receive it as soon as possible. If you find an individual knocked unconscious from the crash or someone is reporting neck pain or back pain, do not move them until medical help arrives unless a hazard requires moving the person from a dangerous situation or location.
When the police and the ambulance arrive, make sure you document the names and badge numbers of responding officers and EMTs. Write them down for your records.
2.) Remain at the scene
Wait for the police to arrive and don’t leave the scene. If you leave before the police are involved, you could face criminal penalties as a hit-and-run driver. This is especially true if someone was injured in the crash.
3.) Collect info from the other party or parties involved
Collect the names, phone numbers, addresses, drivers’ license numbers, license plate numbers, and insurance information from all of the drivers involved in the accident. According to Illinois state law, you must also provide your own name, address, and insurance information to the other party involved. If any other passengers have been involved in the accident, be sure to get their names, phone numbers, and addresses for your records and insurance as well. Again, write all of this information down and save it for your records. You’ll need it, trust us.
While you should be cordial with all individuals involved in the incident, we recommend that you do not talk to them outside of gathering the above information. Conversations in the heat of the moment can be twisted in court, and you don’t want to inadvertently admit legal liability for the incident that occurred even though you may not be culpable. Remember, someone may be videoing the scene. Think before you act. It is hard to determine who exactly is at fault in the immediate aftermath of auto accidents and many states do not consider fault as determinative of which insurer pays for any potential losses. Any conversation outside asking for vital information, even if only in an attempt to be polite, could be potentially harmful to your insurance claim and case. We advise that you only speak to the police and your auto accident attorney after an accident.
4.) Document the accident and your surroundings
Be sure to take clear and detailed photographs of the accident site (including your surroundings, traffic signs, and skid marks), cars involved, and damages. Your insurance adjuster will later want these photos to determine post-crash compensation. These photos could also come in handy as evidence if you find yourself in court after the accident.
5.) Collect witnesses
After the accident, be on the lookout for potential witnesses that saw what happened. If people stop to help, make sure you take down their full names, phone numbers, and addresses if possible. If nobody stops, take down as many license plate numbers as possible so that you can track them down later.
6.) Document medical treatment
Throughout this entire process, you should keep track of any medical treatment that you receive. Keep thorough records of the doctors, physical therapists, and medical professionals that you receive treatment from and also who you are referred to. Keep complete records of any treatments and medications you receive as a result of the accident. Be sure to request a copy of any medical bills and reports that you are issued.
These records will help you prove your medical expenses for insurance later. It is much harder to prove any long lasting pain and suffering you have experienced without documentation of your medical care. You can do this by logging the daily impact of your injuries, including missed work days, and activities you can no longer undertake. A daily log will strengthen your case for any insurance claim you file. Additionally, be sure to communicate details about your recovery to your medical providers. Let them know how you’re doing, what problems you’re experiencing, and how your injuries are responding to treatment. Not only will this provide better documentation, but it will also help your doctor tailor a treatment plan that ensures the fastest possible recovery.
7.) Inform your insurance
While you should contact your insurance company as quickly as possible after the incident occurred, make sure you are prepared to provide them with as many clear details as possible about the events before, during, and after the accident happened. This includes obtaining and providing them with any police report filed so you can assert definitively who was at fault for the accident that occurred. Be cooperative when talking to them and do not lie or exaggerate to drive a point home. If they find any of the information provided was intentionally false, it is possible they will deny you any coverage of the accident.
Note that the state of Illinois has a fault system for determining who is financially responsible for an accident. According to Illinois Auto Insurance laws, “the person who was legally at fault for causing the accident must compensate anyone who was injured or whose property was damaged by the accident, typically through the insurance company. Illinois law requires all drivers to carry a minimum of $25,000 coverage for bodily injury liability and $15,000 coverage for property damage. However, if you have suffered severe injuries requiring more than $25,000 in medical care you will need to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover the remainder.”
When dealing with your insurer, it would also be wise to obtain a copy of your insurance company’s damage valuation of your vehicle. Not only is this documentation essential for your records, but in the event that you are not satisfied with your insurer’s valuation of your vehicle damage, you can obtain two independent repair estimates or replacement quotes for comparison. If the situation still cannot be resolved with this further documentation, consider consulting an attorney or third-party mediation.
8.) File the necessary state report
Don’t forget to file a report with the Illinois Department of Transportation within 10 days of the accident. Failing to report this in a timely manner may result in a $2,500 fine or up to a year of jail time. Do note that if a police report was filed, then you do not need to worry about this step.
9.) Consult an attorney, if necessary
Hiring an auto accident attorney might be a potential solution if you are unable to determine the amount of damage to the vehicle. However, if anyone was injured in the accident, you should contact an auto accident attorney as soon as possible. Attorneys will work to maximize the recovery for any damages you receive if you are injured or protect you if you are found to be at fault. Typically, auto accident attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, therefore your attorney only receives a fee if you are awarded damages or if you receive a settlement. Oftentimes, experienced accident attorneys offer free claim review.
10.) Keep it on the down low
As a general rule of thumb, avoid talking about the incident unless absolutely necessary when speaking with your attorney, the police, and your insurance company. If another insurance company reaches out to you after your accident, do not talk to any representative without consulting your attorney and insurer first. Remember, all insurance companies record calls for “quality assurance.” You should assume that they are recording your conversation. Direct any calls to your auto accident attorney and insurer to arrange an interview if that is what they desire.
Additionally, consider any offers presented to you by an insurance company with caution. The insurance adjuster’s goal is to reduce the payout on your claim for the insurance company. They are not your friend. Confirm that all physical and mental injuries that you sustained in the accident have been treated and you have been released from care. Do not settle any claims until you are certain you will be compensated for all of your injuries. Again, consult your auto accident attorney before attempting to discuss settlement with an adjuster. Remember the insurance adjuster is a trained professional. You should have a trained professional working for you.
Here at Friend, Levinson & Turner, FLT, we understand that auto accidents are often emotional and stressful to think about, but they are a reality for many people in Illinois. Our goal is to make sure you are ready to take control if the unthinkable does happen. Being prepared ahead of time for the worst will leave you better equipped to deal with the accident at the moment. We recommend printing out this easy guide and keeping it handy in your car so you and your loved ones can reference it step-by-step in the event of a crash.
If you or a loved one is injured in an auto accident, please call my office at 312-346-8465 or contact us using the form below.
For some people, there will be a post-accident step 11: Filing a lawsuit. If this applies to you, are you equipped with the proper knowledge to win? Click here to download FLT’s list of must-haves for a successful auto accident lawsuit in Chicago, Illinois.