Car accidents are common in the United States. Americans get into about six million car accidents every year. These car accidents result in about three million injuries annually to drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. When you add up all the costs, the U.S. economy bears about $1 trillion in losses due to deaths, medical expenses, missed work, and property damage caused by car accidents.

After a car accident, you will have three primary concerns — your health, your insurance claim, and your potential legal exposure.

What to Know if You Get Into a Car Accident

Health Concerns

After a car accident, you might be injured seriously enough to require emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or other emergency care. If you do, make sure you are thoroughly checked when you visit the emergency room. Car crashes can cause fatal injuries such as concussions, spinal cord injuries, and internal bleeding.

However, in most situations, your injuries will not warrant a visit to the emergency room. Even if you only feel bumps and bruises, you should visit an urgent care facility for examination.

Urgent care facilities have filled an important role between the emergency room and your doctor. You usually do not need an appointment to visit an urgent care clinic. But more importantly, you do not need to be critically injured to see an urgent care physician. This is why urgent care clinics are just as important to the patients who suffer one of the one billion colds Americans get each year as the patients who are bumped and bruised in a car accident.

Some reasons you should visit an urgent care facility after an accident include:

  • Diagnosing hidden injuries: Some injuries might not have obvious physical symptoms. For example, a traumatic brain injury or internal injury might only be detectable by a trained nurse or physician at a medical center.
  • Creating medical records: If you plan to file an insurance claim, you will need medical records to prove your injuries.
  • Identify emotional trauma: Car accidents cause more than physical injuries. Depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can all arise from car accidents.

Insurance Claims

You will need to file an insurance claim to recover any money due to you for your car accident. In most states, your insurance claim will be filed with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. But a few states use a no-fault insurance system. In these states, you file your insurance claim with your insurance company.

In either case, the insurance company will investigate your claim by interviewing you and any other witnesses, reviewing police reports, and inspecting your medical records and property damage estimates. Based on this evaluation, the insurance company will pay or deny your claim. If it pays your claim, it may pay less than the amount you requested if it believes your medical bills or property damage estimates were not accurate.

To improve your chances of having your insurance claim paid, you should consider:

  • Hiring a lawyer: A lawyer can represent you when the insurance company interviews you. This will help you to say the right things and avoid saying the wrong things. For example, speeding is the number one cause of car accidents. Admitting that you were speeding can allow the insurance company to deny your claim.
  • Getting medical treatment: The insurance company will pay your medical bills. The medical bills will document your injuries and your treatment.
  • Saving your paystubs: The insurance company will pay your lost wages for work missed because of your injuries. Keep your paystubs so you can document your missed paychecks.

Criminal Exposure

You could have criminal exposure if you caused an accident under certain circumstances. Some of the situations in which you could be charged with a crime after a car accident include:

  • Impaired driving: If you cause an accident after using drugs or drinking alcohol, you could be charged with DUI. You could be charged with vehicular assault or homicide if you cause an injury or death.
  • Reckless driving: If you take unreasonable risks while driving, you could be charged with reckless driving. For example, causing an accident while street racing could constitute reckless driving.

If you are charged with a crime, the costs could be enormous. In addition to jail time and a fine, you could be required to pay bail. Bail bond companies serve as a surety by pledging money or property as bail to ensure you appear in court.

A car accident is a traumatic event. After a car accident, you will feel like you have a million things to do. But if you focus on what is important, like your health, your insurance claim, and your possible criminal exposure, you will take care of most of the issues you need to resolve.