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What to do after a car accident when you’re not at fault

After a motor vehicle collision, take these five steps to protect your legal rights:

What to do after a car accident that's not your fault in Wisconsin
After a car accident caused by someone else, consult a lawyer to learn about your compensation options.
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If you're thinking: “Uh-oh, I didn’t do all those things”…don’t worry.

You still have a case.

And no matter how thorough you were gathering information immediately after the crash, your best bet to secure maximum compensation is teaming up with a personal injury attorney insurance companies fear.

As one of Wisconsin’s top personal injury attorneys, Steve Caya is better equipped than anyone to handle your case after an accident.

Contact Steve Caya to schedule a free case consultation. Our law firm represents accident victims living anywhere in Wisconsin. We’ll discuss your situation and how YOU can become whole again.

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1. Put safety first

Immediately after the crash:

Check yourself and any passengers in your vehicle for injury. Call an ambulance if necessary.

What to do after a car accident injury
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If it’s safe to do so, check to see if the driver (and passengers) in other vehicles involved in the crash require medical attention. Be aware of potential risks in your environment, including fire, sharp objects and surrounding traffic.

If your car is a road hazard and you’re able to safely move it, pull off to the side, out of the way of traffic. Turn off the engine, turn on your hazard lights, and put out road flares or reflective signage if you have them.

Soon after the crash:

Many people do not get an exam after an accident because they don’t realize they're hurt or they think their injuries are minor. Adrenaline in your system after an accident can actually mask pain and make it harder to realize how badly you're hurt. Once the adrenaline wears off and you begin to feel pain, you’ll eventually be correctly diagnosed — but it's harder to prove the injuries were caused by the crash if you don’t go to the doctor right away.

While receiving medical treatment, share all symptoms with as much detail as possible. Tell the doctor that you’ve been in a car accident. Follow all instructions from medical professionals, including follow-up treatments.

Feeling prolonged neck or back pain after your collision?

It's NOT normal. Your pain is a direct result of the accident, and you are entitled to monetary compensation for your pain. 

Car crash related whiplash requires medical treatment to get better—and medical bills pile up fast. Take action, file a claim and get a settlement you deserve to get your life back on track. 

2. Call the police

Immediately after the crash:

You should always call the authorities, even if you initially believe it's a minor accident. You want a law enforcement officer to come to the crash scene, assess what occurred, make a crash report, and write a ticket if the other driver engaged in unsafe driving. All the evidence from the accident report can be used to make your case and prove how the crash happened.

The police report of the accident (including each driver’s account of the collision) will be used in the insurance claims process. Make sure to get the officer’s name and badge number for your own records.

Soon after the crash:

Request a copy of the police report and review it to make sure the facts are complete and accurate.

See also: Everything you need to know about reporting a car accident in Wisconsin

3. Gather evidence

Immediately after the crash:

The immediate aftermath of a car accident is a critical time. Assuming it’s safe, you want to collect two types of evidence: information about the accident scene and property damage, and information from other people.

Law enforcement will take notes to contribute to the accident report, but you should not depend on this as the only source of information. If your injuries allow it, you’re better off collecting your own evidence as well.

How to prove you are not at fault after a car accident
If anyone is injured, make sure you have access to the police report of the accident.
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Vehicle & location details to document:

  • Make, model, year, license plate, VIN, and registration details for other vehicles involved in the crash
  • Exterior and interior damage to your own vehicle, including airbag deployment
  • The scene of the accident, including as much context as possible
  • Relative position of each vehicle after the collision
  • Road conditions in the area (including ice, potholes, or obstructions)
  • Weather and visibility
  • Road signs, construction signs and other markings

Photos shedding light on the cause of the crash can be used as evidence to prove liability. Photos showing the extent of the damage can help convince a jury how bad the accident was.

Information from the other driver to document:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Insurance company name & policy number

If it was a multi-vehicle accident, collect this information from all other drivers involved.

Witnesses to the accident:

Witnesses to the accident aren’t obligated to participate, but it’s worth asking any witnesses for their name, contact information and a brief statement of what they saw.

Ideally you should get the contact details of everyone who saw the accident take place. You can get these witnesses to testify in case there's a dispute over the cause of the collision. This can be invaluable evidence you need to prove another driver was responsible for hurting you.

Soon after the crash:

Write down everything you remember about the car accident, including events leading up to the collision and what happened after. Try and remember:

  • Your approximate speed and direction before the accident
  • The other vehicle’s approximate speed and direction
  • Any other details you recall seeing or hearing before, during, and right after the accident

Make copies of everything related to the accident: photos, video, the accident report, medical bills, and any other documents. Keep it all organized in a safe location. If these materials are lost, they may be impossible to replace. This type of evidence can be essential to the success of your case.

4. Watch your words

It can be hard to keep a cool head after being injured in a motor vehicle collision, but it’s extremely important to think before you speak. The other driver could use what you say to try and put the blame on you for the accident.

After a car accident, the words you exchange with others should be limited to:

  • Checking if anyone needs medical attention
  • Exchanging contact information and other essential details (see step 3)

Things you should not say after a car accident include:

  • I’m sorry (can be interpreted as an admission of guilt)
  • I’m fine
  • I don’t know what happened

Avoid any type of apology, uncertainty, guilt or blame. Let an investigation of the accident determine fault. Be polite, but stick to the essential facts and do not let your emotions get the better of you.

5. Notify your insurer

Immediately after the crash:

No matter who was at fault for the accident, you should notify your own car insurance company that you’ve been involved in a collision.

Fill out the claims form provided by the insurer and send it back to them. Your insurance adjuster may ask for additional documentation of the accident, which you should provide if possible.

Important: if your insurance company asks you to give an official or a recorded statement about the car accident, politely refuse until after you’ve spoken to an attorney. You do NOT need to provide a statement to file your claim.

When speaking to the insurance agent, stay calm and keep the focus on completing the claims process. You need to be careful what you say to insurance companies, because any offhand comment you make could be used against you later on.

Soon after the crash:

You’ll need to arrange to have your vehicle towed to a repair shop. Your insurance agent can help you find a place.

Make sure you’ve documented all damage to your vehicle before taking it in for repairs.

You should also discuss your situation with a Wisconsin car accident lawyer to find out what type of compensation you may be eligible for, and how to protect your claim. It’s helpful to have the evidence you’ve gathered and other documentation available when speaking to an attorney.

Related: Wisconsin auto insurance claim laws

Should I get a lawyer for a car accident that wasn’t my fault?

Yes. After an accident where you weren’t fully at fault, you can’t act too soon. The longer you wait, the more opportunity everyone else has to build a case against you.

When to hire an attorney after a car accident
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Three reasons why consulting a car accident attorney is more than worth it:

  • In Wisconsin, you have a limited amount of time to seek compensation through a car accident lawsuit.
  • Involving an experienced attorney early on strengthens your case by getting an accident investigation underway before evidence disappears. Your attorney can investigate details like skid marks, the angle of the sun, trees at the crash scene and other potential contributing factors to the accident.
  • Knowing it wasn’t your fault isn’t good enough for an injury claim – it has to be proven. Proving fault and negligence are crucial aspects of your case because of Wisconsin’s comparative negligence law.

Learn more about proving fault after a car accident in Wisconsin.

Steve Caya is an award-winning trial attorney who has the experience and resources to face the big insurer’s legal teams – and win. You only have one opportunity to claim the compensation you’re entitled to. Make it count.

How car insurance works when you’re not at fault for the accident

Wisconsin law allows for third-party liability (§102.29). This means if you were injured by another driver, you can seek compensation by:

  • Filing a claim against their insurance company
  • Filing a claim against your own insurance company
  • Suing the negligent driver
How does car insurance work when you are not at fault
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If the at-fault party has no insurance coverage it could have a serious impact on your potential award in a lawsuit.

When your injuries are serious and the other person is clearly at fault, you’ll want to file a claim either way.

When your injuries are minor and the person at fault has little or no insurance, filing a lawsuit might be a waste of time. Your ability to collect on a claim could be very limited.

 

Understand the insurance company’s priorities

The insurance company representing the at-fault driver will be looking for ways to deny or limit the amount of money they pay out. They have a whole playbook of tactics they use to protect their bottom line.

Should I talk to the other driver’s insurance company?

You aren’t required to speak to them, and in general it’s a good idea to avoid talking to another driver’s insurer without guidance from an attorney. If they’re calling you, it’s most likely in hopes they’ll get you to say something they can use as evidence proving the accident was your fault.

How much money will I get from an insurance claim?

The only way to know for sure is to team up with a personal injury lawyer to walk you through the process step-by-step. We'll make sure you position yourself to get compensated justly when there's opportunity.

There's no obligation to get a free claim review. All cases are handled on a no-win, no-fee basis.

Don’t pay for another driver’s negligence. Contact Steve Caya to share your experience and learn about your best options for financial recovery.