The moments following an auto accident can be overwhelming. Accidents that last only a couple of moments can quickly derail your day, year, and even life. Rear-end collisions can be incredibly unpleasant, as they can happen out of nowhere on even the quietest residential streets. Although it can be hard to focus as you navigate the moments after an auto accident, what you do after being involved in a rear-end collision can have a massive impact on your claim, settlement, and recovery.
Here are five things to keep in mind in the tragic event you are injured in a rear-end collision.
You Should Seek Medical Attention Immediately
Your health is the single most important consideration after an auto accident. Before you do anything else, check yourself for injuries and call 911 if needed. Next, you should check on the well-being of your passengers. Any signs of pain or discomfort should be given medical attention as soon as possible. The worst thing you can do after an automotive accident is trying to tough it out—injuries like whiplash can get even more severe if left untreated for long enough.
Even if you do not feel injured, it is still important to get a checkup. The initial shock of an accident can prevent you from feeling pain, which means you may be injured in ways you're not aware of yet. Additionally, having a doctor document your injuries is vital when later filing an auto accident insurance claim. Establishing document proof of your injuries can decide if the insurance company even offers a settlement for them.
The Law Often Considers the Rear Driver to Be at Fault, But There Are Exceptions
Determining fault has a significant impact on how an auto injury insurance case plays out. Illinois law often assumes the rear driver—the driver who collided with the back of another car—is responsible for the accident. However, there can be a variety of factors affecting a car accident, and the law recognizes this as well.
Illinois' comparative negligence law, drivers can be found to be proportionally at fault for an accident. This means that one driver might be considered 70% at fault, while the other occupies the remaining 30%. You are only entitled to compensation if you are found to be 50% at fault or less.
Avoid discussing fault with the other driver at the scene, but make sure the events are reported accurately in the police report. There could be mitigating circumstances, such as sudden braking from the front car, irresponsible driving that culminated in the collision, or another vehicle that adjusts how fault is calculated.
Whiplash Is Serious, Even If Symptoms Do Not Immediately Appear
One of the most common injuries from rear-end car collisions is whiplash. These injuries are caused by your neck bending forcibly as the result of an impact. Passengers in both the front and rear cars in these collisions are at risk.
Symptoms can include pain in the neck and shoulders, which can carry through arms and fingers if severe enough. Additionally, whiplash can cause cognitive injuries like blurred vision, memory problems, and extreme emotional episodes.
What makes whiplash so dangerous is that symptoms might not emerge until after victims have left the scene of the accident. As noted above, this makes seeking medical attention extremely important after a rear-end collision. Catching whiplash in the first 24 hours is essential for preventing potential long-term side effects, which can potentially last for months.
Document the Accident – It Could Make a Difference in Your Case
After you've checked on all of the passengers involved in your rear-end collision, it's helpful to document the accident for your future insurance claim. In the likely event the police respond to an accident, their report will provide an official timeline of events for your insurance company. Still, it is helpful if you're prepared to fill in the details with photos and other documentation of the scene.
When making a statement to the police, make sure you're given the information required to claim a copy of the report for your records. Additionally, get the name and badge numbers of any police officers on the scene in case you need them to provide further context.
It's also essential to take down the names and contact information of ALL parties involved, including the passengers in the other vehicle. If there were any witnesses to the scene, make sure to get their names and contact details. Having multiple eyewitness accounts can fill in any gaps in the accident's timeline when dealing with insurance companies. These corroborated accounts can be vital for determining fault in collisions where it would otherwise be murky.
Finally, you should thoroughly document the accident scene by taking pictures of both vehicles from several different angles. Make sure any damage caused is visible in these pictures. Proper documentation ensures any conversations with the insurance company are more ironclad than just being your word versus someone else's.
The Sooner You Talk to a Lawyer, the Sooner They'll Be Able to Help Your Case
If you're injured in a rear-end auto accident, the decision to hire a lawyer has significant benefits for your case. No matter how clear-cut the accident is, there's a real possibility of encountering pushback from auto insurance companies. As these companies lose money whenever they pay a rear-end collision settlement, they are incentivized to deny or lowball as many claims as possible.
Hiring a lawyer levels the playing field. An experienced auto accident attorney will be able to address the various tactics insurance companies have at their disposal to ensure you're offered the compensation you deserve. An attorney can have a massive impact on your recovery, as being properly compensated by insurance companies can affect what access you have to emergency care, physical rehabilitation, and trauma counseling.
Read End Auto Accident Attorneys at Zayed Law Offices
Since 2009, Zayed Law Offices have been fighting tirelessly for victims who have experienced personal injuries in Joliet, Chicago, Wheaton, and surrounding areas. We prepare every auto accident case as if it were going to trial, which gives us incredible precision and agility in negotiating insurance settlements. We believe our clients should get their lives back on track after traumatic injuries, and we don't rest until we win the settlements they deserve.