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Tips for protecting your rights after a fender-bender

None of us gets behind the wheel thinking we'll be in an accident. When a collision does occur, it's easy to panic and lose sight of what's important. Even fender-benders can understandably leave you shaken up. Knowing what to do in advance is critical for keeping a cool head - and protecting your rights down the road.

In the first moments

Immediately after the accident, it can be difficult to wrap your head around what just happened. You may be in shock or denial. It's important to evaluate the situation so you know what you're dealing with.

The first priority is to make sure you're okay. Take a moment when the car has come to rest to inventory yourself for obvious injuries. If you have any numbness, tingling or other signs of a back or neck injury, try to keep still.

If you're able, check on your passengers as well as those in the other vehicle. Call 911 if you suspect that anyone has sustained injuries.

Assuming nobody is seriously hurt, you can take your time in thoroughly assessing the situation rather than tending to injuries. You should:

  • Pull over to the shoulder of the road if possible. Turn on your hazard lights and use caution around traffic.
  • Exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver.
  • Contact the police. Even if nobody was injured, it's important to get a police report documenting what happened, especially if it turns out that the other driver's carelessness or intoxication contributed to the accident.
  • Inspect the damage to your vehicle and take photos of the accident scene.

You should also get a head-to-toe medical evaluation, even if the accident was minor. You could have underlying injuries - such as whiplash or other soft-tissue damage - that aren't immediately apparent.

After you go home

Accidents happen in an instant, yet their aftermath can take weeks or months to fully resolve. You will need to deal with insurance issues and navigate the claims process. You may have chronic pain - such as whiplash or other soft-tissue injuries - that require ongoing treatment and therapy. You might end up missing work.

During this phase, the best thing you can do is involve an attorney as soon as possible. A knowledgeable lawyer can advise you about your options and help you pursue compensation for all aspects of the accident.

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