Wham! You didn't see it coming. Somebody hit you, or you them. You hear the thud of metal on metal, maybe broken glass or an airbag puff, and you're into it. A car accident.
You're stunned. What next?
Here is the time to get past your shocked state and remember some basics. It may be you can't move. It may be you're in pain. In that case, leave everything to the ambulance crew which will shortly arrive, get you gently onto the stretcher, into the ambulance, and away to the hospital.
What if you can move under your own power? Of course the usual common sense about getting insurance info applies, but are you really OK? Maybe....maybe not. Traumatic injuries to the intervertebral discs- the shock absorbers of the spine, or the ligaments of the knees and shoulders might not show up right away. They may take time to manifest themselves in the form of swelling, spasm, or pain.
So go to the emergency room, even if you think you've got someplace to be. Go to a follow up doctor. Go to an orthopedist. Get an MRI or a catscan.
Why? Firstly, for your health. Secondly, for the case you may or may not have. Yes, doctors know these injuries may turn up later. But laymen don't. Even though pain may not get you to a doctor until days later, defense counsel love to confound a jury with your so called "delay in treatment."
"What?" they ask you, "You didn't see a doctor for a week?" Yes, it can be very normal for symptoms to arise later. But the idea is counter-intuitive and a jury may not accept that a real injury did not require immediate attention. So don't let it become a debate. Go be seen.
Also, file your "no fault" application within 30 days. Your own auto insurance will pay your medical bills, but only if you file the "no fault" application within 30 days of the accident. It used to be 90 days, but politics changed that. I'll get into the politics in another post.
When time allows, go to the police station and get a copy of the police report. It will become the main information source to the insurance companies in any claim to follow. Don't wait too long, or the report gets filed in Albany and becomes harder to get.
Take good pictures of any damage to your car.
Keep your head, and if need be, see a lawyer when you are physically able.