Car Accidents

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Did you know six million auto accidents occur in the U.S. each year? If you find yourself in one, here are 10 things you need to know to protect yourself:

1. Stop. Never drive away from the scene of an accident—even a minor one.

2. Protect the Scene. You can prevent other accidents by turning on your hazards. And keep the vehicles where they are unless they interfere with traffic.

3. Call the police. Even if there seems to be no serious injuries or damage, you’ll likely need a police report to file a claim with your insurer.

4. Take pictures. Take pictures if there’s visible damage and even if there isn’t. If you have visible injuries, photograph those too. Take pictures from as many vantage points as you can.

5. Make an accurate record. When the police arrive, make sure you tell them exactly what happened. If you don’t know certain facts, say so—don’t guess. If someone asks whether you’re injured and you’re not sure, say you’re not sure. Often the pain and injuries don’t become apparent until hours or days afterward.

6. Exchange information. The police usually do this, but take the initiative. Use your cell phone to take pictures of the other driver’s license, plates, and insurance card—front and back.

7. Call your insurance company. Many policies require immediate reporting and full cooperation. You’ll also want to find out whether you have medical benefits as part of your coverage.

8. Seek medical attention. Even accidents involving minor impact can cause serious and permanent injury. You should get checked out at the emergency room or by your doctor.

9. Keep a file. It should include your claim number, your adjuster’s name, the names and numbers of all contacts, the police report, and all your receipts. This information could be important months or even years later.

10. Lastly, protect your rights. Talk to a lawyer. A lawyer can make sure valuable evidence isn’t lost or destroyed. Because personal-injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, this means they don’t get paid unless you win.

Hopefully, you’ll never need this information. But if you ever do, now you know where to find it.

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