What to Do After a Car Crash in NC
Car accidents happen every day across the Triangle and across the state. There are more than 250,000 crashes reported to police in North Carolina every year. You are likely to be involved in a car accident at some point. It will most likely be a fender-bender, but it could be much worse and cause serious personal injury.
You need to know what to do after a car accident, regardless of whether the accident is your fault or someone else’s fault. It is also important to be aware of the missteps to avoid after a car crash. If you are in North Carolina, where our law firm helps car accident victims, there are certain steps that you need to take after a car accident.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in North Carolina, you should have a clear understanding of your legal rights. Talk to a personal injury attorney at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., in Raleigh, N.C., as soon as possible. A serious car accident will involve the police, doctors, insurance companies and possibly the courts. Only your attorney is obligated to look after your best interests.
What You Should Do After a Car Accident
Following a car accident — whether you are at fault, not at fault or might be at fault — you need to take certain steps and be careful about making any statements. As much as possible, you need to remain calm and react calmly to whatever comes from others involved in the accident and its aftermath. Try to keep it simple: it happened; it was an accident; now we’ll deal with it.
First, summon medical care for anyone who needs aid. Call 911. If you need emergency medical care, follow the instructions of emergency responders who arrive at the accident scene, including getting into the ambulance if they suggest you should.
If you do not need emergency medical care, see a doctor as soon as possible after a car accident. Some serious injuries have delayed symptoms that a doctor can recognize. Additionally, a prompt doctor’s exam documents your injury from the start, which will be helpful if you need to file an insurance claim.
Reporting A Car Wreck to Police
North Carolina law requires you to report a motor vehicle accident to law enforcement authorities as soon as possible if it has caused an injury, death or property damage. Within city limits, call local police. Otherwise, call the N.C. Highway Patrol or county sheriff’s department. In most places in North Carolina, you can dial 911 locally or *HP (*47) for the N.C. Highway Patrol.
If your car accident injury claim goes to court, the report filed by the responding police officer, sheriff’s deputy or N.C. Highway patrolman is the only description of the accident that may be used as evidence. North Carolina law (G.S. 20-166.1(i)) specifically says “a report of an accident made … by a person who is not a law enforcement officer … shall not be used in any manner as evidence, or for any other purpose in any trial, civil or criminal, arising out of the accident.”
North Carolina Car Accident Laws
North Carolina law requires drivers involved in a crash to exchange names, phone numbers, addresses, driver’s license numbers and their vehicles’ registration numbers. It is also a good idea to share information about your insurance company and policy numbers.
Technically, you are to provide the information if requested by the driver or occupants of other vehicles involved in the accident or by someone who has been hit by your vehicle. If you are uncomfortable dealing with the other driver for any reason, the responding law enforcement officer will collect this information from each of you and make the exchange.
As you talk with police and with your insurance company, answer questions honestly, but just provide the facts. Answer with just “Yes” or “No” whenever possible. Don’t blame anyone for the crash and don’t accept blame.
While waiting for police to arrive, take photos of the crash scene, your vehicles and their damage, your injuries, and anything else that will help show what happened. Get names and contact information from any witnesses, including your passengers.
Filing a Claim with your Insurance Company
Notify your insurance company of the accident as soon as possible. Either way, you will need:
- The insured driver’s full name.
- Insurance policy number.
- Start and expiration date of the policy.
- Date, time and location of the accident.
- Driver’s license and license plate numbers for each driver and vehicle in the accident.
- General description of the accident.
- General description of your injuries.
The last two points are important. Be cautious when describing the accident and your injuries. Just state facts, such as, “It was a right-angle crash with the other vehicle’s front hitting my driver’s side door, and I suffered a broken leg.” Do not downplay your injuries or complain about how bad they are. Do not talk about who is at fault.
Getting a Copy of Your NC Car Accident Report
Your insurance company will require a copy of the accident report. To obtain one, download and complete a Crash Report Request Form (TR-67A) from the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles. Mail it and a check payable to NCDMV to:
Traffic Records Branch
Crash Reports Unit
3106 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27697-3106
In Raleigh, you can go to DMV Headquarters at 1100 New Bern Avenue to get a copy of the accident report.
Common Mistakes People Make After a Car Accident
It’s just as important to understand the mistakes that people make after a car accident. There are certain common missteps to watch out for to avoid undermining a valid insurance claim.
Here are 5 mistakes you can avoid making if you get in a car accident:
- Not calling the police. It’s tempting to keep the aftermath of a car accident simple by not involving the police. Another motorist may offer to pay for your damages out of pocket if you don’t call the police. But you cannot count on this working out. A police report is an official record of the accident and who was involved. Without a police report, you will have difficulty pursuing an accident claim. What if you hear from the other driver’s insurer or lawyer later with demands about what you owe them? Protect yourself. Call the police immediately after a car accident.
- Not seeing a doctor right away. Seeing a doctor provides the medical care that you need and creates a medical record of your injuries related to the accident. You also need to follow all doctors’ orders for treatment. If you make a claim for compensation based on an injury but didn’t seek medical care right away, what is a judge or jury to make of your claim? See a doctor within 24 hours of a car crash and tell her or him about every ache or pain that could possibly be related to the crash, including old problems made worse.
- Giving a recorded statement to insurance. Insurance companies want to pay out as little as possible on a car accident claim. They’ll use any statement you make to discount your claim if they can. Giving a recorded statement to another driver’s insurance company is a misstep to avoid. Talk to a personal injury lawyer before allowing the other driver’s insurer to take a recorded statement.
- Not filing medical bills with your health insurance. Some accident victims expect an at-fault driver’s insurance to pay their medical bills, and therefore don’t file with their own insurer. But a third-party insurer will not pay up front and, in the meantime, your late bills could go into collections. The at-fault driver’s insurer will only pay at the end of your treatment or only when a disputed case has been settled.
Instruct your medical care provider to file all medical bills with your health care insurance provider. In the meantime, keep receipts. Your personal injury attorney will be sure to calculate all of your medical costs in the demand made to insurers on your behalf.
- Accepting a quick settlement. When dealing with a serious injury and mounting bills after a car accident, it can be tempting to accept what seems like a good settlement just to ease your mind. But no one knows what your full medical costs will be until you are completely healed.
Never accept a quick, early settlement offer. You must wait until you have been discharged by all doctors and therapists to know what a proper settlement for medical expenses connected to your car accident looks like.
Should I Get a Car Accident Attorney After a Car Accident?
After a serious car accident, a knowledgeable and determined car accident attorney can help you pursue a proper insurance settlement for medical expenses and other losses caused by the accident. It costs you nothing to discuss your personal injury case with an experienced legal professional at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., in Raleigh, N.C. If we can pursue compensation for you, we will handle all dealings with the insurance companies so that you may focus on your medical recovery.
Our attorneys have the knowledge, experience and resources to take on your case and pursue the full compensation that you are allowed to claim. Don’t wait. Contact us today for a free legal consultation. Even if you don’t hire us, you will understand what you deserve after a car accident.