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Now what? How you can take charge after a car accident

With daylight savings time now only days away, our thoughts are naturally turning to warmer days and, by extension, hassle-free commutes. It's important to remember, however, that March is a notoriously fickle month when it comes to the weather here in Illinois, meaning that the danger posed by snowy and/or icy roads remains very real.

As such, now would be a good time to remind motorists of the need to remain aware of conditions, practice defense driving and, of course, what steps to take if they find themselves involved in any sort of late winter collision.

The first thing for motorists to do after a car crash is assess whether they have suffered any sort of personal injuries and, if so, wait for emergency responders to arrive. However, if they believe they are unhurt, they should take a brief moment to compose themselves, activate their emergency lights and walk a safe distance away from the wreckage before calling the police.

Then, parties involved in the car crash typically share basic information while waiting for the police to arrive, including names, phone numbers, license plate numbers and insurance cards, as well as the names and phone numbers of any witnesses. Experts agree, however, that motorists should abstain from discussing blame or certain financial data (i.e., insurance limits).   

Once the police arrive, motorists are advised to secure a copy of the crash report from the responding officer along with their name, badge number and department.

Finally, motorists are advised to contact their insurance company as soon as possible to report the accident. It should be noted that motorists should not panic if they later discover that the person who caused the wreck has no insurance or not enough insurance, as Illinois law mandates what it known as uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist coverage, which is designed to protect them against just this kind of scenario.

Remember, pain from the accident may not set in for several hours or days, so seek medical attention if you need it.  Do not give a statement to the insurance company representative for the other driver.  

Above all else, victims of car accidents with serious and even life-changing personal injuries, should speak with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to ensure their rights are protected.

Source: Consumer Reports, "What to do after an accident," Feb. 2014    

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