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What to Do After a Car Accident in Dallas

Know your legal rights – and make the right decisions to protect them

There are tens of thousands of car accidents in Dallas and the surrounding communities every year, and too many of those wrecks leave people seriously injured. If you’ve been in a crash, you have every right to feel dazed, confused, and unsure of what to do next.

That’s why it’s important to know what to do. The decisions you make after an accident are important not only for your health but also for your legal rights.

Remember, the content of this article is intended for informational purposes only. It’s not legal advice on your specific situation. You should consult an experienced car accident attorney for advice on your specific situation before taking action after a car accident.

Call the police and remain at the scene until they arrive

Unless you need to seek emergency medical attention, leaving the scene of an accident that caused injury or significant property damage is a serious crime in Texas. Remain at the scene, call the police, and wait until they arrive. The responding officer will ultimately investigate what happened and generate an accident report, which is officially called a Texas Peace Officer's Crash Report (CR-3). Depending on the location, your accident may be investigated by the Dallas Police Department, the Texas Highway Patrol, or another agency.

While you’re at the scene, take pictures of the vehicles, any property damage, any visible injuries, and other evidence such as skid marks. Don’t move your vehicle unless it’s absolutely necessary for safety. Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver, and get contact information from any witnesses as well. Remember to keep your comments brief and stick to the facts of what happened. Anything you say to anyone at the scene, including the investigating officer, could be used against you.

When the police officer arrives to investigate, make sure you get their badge number and the name of the investigating agency.

Get medical attention as soon as possible

Even if you feel okay, it’s critical that you get checked out by a doctor just to be safe. Certain types of injuries, including whiplash and brain injuries, can have delayed-onset symptoms – but the underlying damage is there and can get worse if not treated. Moreover, after a wreck, your adrenaline is high and your body’s stress responses can mask pain. You are not in a position to diagnose yourself.

Go to your primary care provider (PCP), an urgent care clinic, or one of Dallas’ many great hospitals and tell the provider who sees you that you were in a car accident. Describe all your symptoms, no matter how minor. Follow your doctor’s instructions, go to your follow-up appointments, and keep copies of all medical records.

Start keeping a journal

Personal injury claims depend on the extent of your injuries and, crucially, the way they have affected your life. Start keeping a journal immediately after the accident where you can write down how you’re feeling and how your injuries are affecting your life. For example, if you’re unable to perform certain household tasks because of your injuries, write that down. If your pain gets worse, take a note of that as well. This documentation will become the foundation of your claim.

Notify your insurance company, but keep your comments brief

Most insurance companies require their customers to notify them promptly of an accident. It’s important to remember that even though your insurance company is ostensibly on your side, they still have a profit incentive to pay you as little as possible. As such, keep your comments brief. Stick to the facts of what happened, focusing on basic information like where, when, and how. Don’t say anything about fault for the accident.

In particular, if your insurance company asks about your injuries, you don’t have to answer in detail. Say that you are receiving medical care and leave it at that.

Don’t talk to the other driver’s insurance company, and don’t take a settlement

While you’re required to cooperate with your insurance company to some extent, you are not required to cooperate with the other driver’s insurance company. If they call you with questions, you can politely decline to answer. If they ask you for a recorded statement, you can withhold consent to be recorded. If you must give a statement, it’s best to do it in writing with an attorney’s assistance so you can make sure the statement accurately reflects your side of the story.

The insurance company may make you a settlement offer soon after the accident. Again, it’s in your interest to review any such offer with an attorney before you decide whether to accept or reject it. Insurance companies often “lowball” victims to pay them as little as possible, and accepting a settlement usually means your case is over. You can’t go back for more, even if your injuries turn out to be more severe than you thought. You get one shot at full compensation.

That’s why you should never accept an insurance company’s money without talking to an attorney first.

Talk to a Dallas car accident lawyer

Again, it’s not in your interest to go up against the insurance company on your own. The insurance companies and their attorneys deal with claims every day, and they are adept at protecting their bottom line – which means paying injured people as little as possible or nothing at all. The benefit of working with an attorney is a level playing field. Car accident lawyers who know the law and know how the system works can advocate for your interests while you focus on getting better.

The key is to act quickly before evidence disappears and important legal deadlines (statute of limitations) expire. There is no fee to talk to an attorney, and scheduling a free consultation isn’t an obligation to hire, just a chance to learn about your legal rights and options. The insurance industry’s own data says that people who hire a lawyer and even people who just talk to a lawyer recover substantially more than people who don’t. In short, you can always afford an attorney. What you can’t afford is to go it alone.

If you’ve been hurt in a car wreck in Dallas, make sure your legal rights are protected. Schedule your free consultation with an experienced Dallas car accident attorney today.

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