The moments immediately following an accident in West Virginia are critical for several reasons. For one, they can play a big part in your health and well-being. Staying safe and receiving the appropriate medical attention as quickly as possible is extremely important.
The aftermath of an accident can also have an impact on your legal situation, including whether or not you are able to recover fair compensation for the damages you sustain.
At Colombo Law, we have seen far too many accident victims jeopardize their claims through simple, avoidable mistakes. Here, we are going to help you avoid making any decisions—no matter how innocent—that could compromise your ability to win compensation for your damages.
If you have recently been in an accident in West Virginia and are seeking legal guidance on what to do next, please do not hesitate to reach out to our car accident lawyers for a FREE, no-obligation case review. Call us at 304-599-4229 to get started.
Steps to Take at the Scene of the Accident
How much you are able to do at the scene of an accident is completely dependent on your situation, including the extent of your injuries and whether or not you are able to exit your vehicle.
However, if you are able, you should:
1. Stay Calm and Get to Safety
It can be difficult to think clearly immediately after an accident, which can happen in the blink of an eye and disorient you. Nevertheless, staying calm and getting to safety—especially if you are along a highway or other high-traffic area—will help ensure that a bad situation does not become worse.
2. Call 911
After any accident resulting in injuries or property damage, you should call 911 to report the accident. While it is generally true that a police report will not be considered evidence if your case goes to trial, it does solidify the details around the accident.
Police reports can also play an important role in negotiations with insurance companies. They often serve as the primary piece of documentation outlining the facts of the accident.
3. Gather Evidence at the Scene
Accident scenes are usually cleaned up very quickly, but they can hold important pieces of information that you should collect if you can. For example, taking photos that show the position of the cars, the presence of skidmarks, or the location of a guardrail in relation to the accident could all be important bits of information that factor into your case.
You may have no idea how or why the accident occurred at first. However, gathering this evidence may help your attorney build a case that shows how the other driver’s negligence led to the accident.
4. Exchange Information with the Other Driver
While it should go without saying, making sure you or a police officer gets the other driver’s information is absolutely crucial. At the very least, you should record their:
- Full name
- Contact information
- Insurance information (NOTE: All drivers in West Virginia are required to have auto insurance.)
- Driver’s license number
- License plate number
- Year, make, and model of the vehicle
If you do not gather this information, it may be difficult—if not impossible—to track down the driver later on.
5. Report the Accident to the Police
If and when the police arrive at the scene of the accident, you will be asked to answer their questions if you are able. Make sure to stay calm and give straightforward answers to whatever questions the officer asks.
Do not say anything that could seemingly be an apology, such as “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t mean to.” These statements could later be misconstrued by insurance companies as admitting fault.
Steps to Take After an Accident in West Virginia
Once you leave the scene of an accident in West Virginia, the steps you take next can be just as important as what you do at the scene.
1. Get Medical Treatment
The most important thing following an accident is to receive the medical attention you need for your injuries. Even if you think you are okay, your injuries may be worse than they initially appear—often the case with internal injuries—so delaying treatment can be deadly.
Furthermore, if you don’t get the appropriate medical treatment right away, the other driver’s insurance company may later use that to argue that your injuries were not as serious as you claim. This can make it more difficult to recover the compensation you need and deserve.
2. Notify Your Insurance Company
Notifying your own insurance company after an accident is important for a few reasons. First, insurance policies require prompt reporting of accidents—usually within 30 days. Second, your insurance may cover some of the costs associated with the accident while your claim is in progress.
Finally, if you have uninsured or underinsured coverage and you were in an accident in West Virginia with an uninsured or underinsured driver, you may be reliant on your insurance for compensation. Reporting the accident promptly is crucial for getting your claim started.
3. Do NOT Communicate with the Other Driver’s Insurance Company
While it is important to communicate the details of the accident to your own insurance company, we strongly discourage you from speaking with the other driver’s insurance carrier. The other driver’s insurer has one goal in mind: to pay you as little compensation as possible.
As such, they will do everything they can to use your own words against you, get you to agree to less than you deserve, and try to access your medical records. All of these matters should be deferred to your attorney.
4. Document All Expenses and Symptoms
How much you will be able to recover in compensation ultimately comes down to the damages caused by the accident. A significant portion of these damages typically come in the form of medical bills, meaning you should keep all documentation related to your medical treatment.
You should also keep notes about your injuries, including the treatment you receive, symptoms you experience, and advice from medical personnel. These facts could all play an important part in recovering the maximum compensation you deserve for your injuries.
5. Speak to a Car Accident Lawyer
If it is not yet clear, car accident cases can be complicated, challenging matters. From proving negligence to calculating damages and negotiating with insurance companies, there is no shortage of opportunities for mistakes.
One of the best ways to avoid these mistakes is to speak with a car accident attorney who has experience fighting for—and winning—compensation for car accident victims.
Injured in an Accident in West Virginia? Colombo Law Can Help
At Colombo Law, we have worked on hundreds of personal injury claims throughout West Virginia, fighting for accident victims’ right to compensation for the damages they sustain. We know that a car accident can be disorienting and frustrating, both in the immediate aftermath and for some time after. Our lawyers are here to help lessen the burden you are facing with the experience, compassion, and know-how you can rely on.