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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 5,687,000 motor vehicle traffic crashes occurred in the United States in 2013. The NHTSA also estimates that 10,000,000 or more auto collisions go unreported each year.

The average American will be involved in 1-2 automobile collisions in their lifetime. If you are ever involved in an automobile collision, there are certain steps you can take to protect your financial and health interests.

First, report the collision immediately to 911. Even if no one is injured, you are required to report the collision to law enforcement as the Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 40-6-273 requires drivers of vehicles involved in collisions to report said collision immediately. Failure to report a collision may result in criminal charges. Another benefit to reporting your collision if you are not at fault is that law enforcement makes an immediate record of the collision and the statements given to law enforcement at the scene is often the most truthful account from all parties involved. Calling 911 is also necessary as injuries from auto collisions may not be visible at first and due to the shock and adrenaline of the situation, a person could be seriously injured and not know it right away.

Second, even if you only feel minor aches and pains, it is important to seek medical treatment in a timely manner. If you think you are injured in any way, seek immediate medical attention by requesting paramedics and an ambulance, or have someone drive you to a nearby emergency room. Alternatively make an appointment as soon as you can with your primary care physician or a local walk-in clinic physician. Some injuries may not feel painful until the next day or two. Proactively seeing a physician can reduce the cost of medical bills and also preserve evidence of your injury. Judges in Georgia courts often deny medical bills in personal injury cases when the first visit to the doctor is weeks or months after you were injured in an automobile collision.

Third, also contact your automobile insurer as well as the other driver’s automobile insurer. Each company will most likely need to examine your vehicle and hear your side of the story before making the decision to pay for repairs to your vehicle. Calling as soon as you can after the collision can speed up the process of getting your car repaired or declared as totaled.

Fourth, consult with an attorney if you think you have a claim, but do not know how to pursue it. Even if you have not done any of the actions described in this article, a good attorney will be able to provide a plan of action to preserve and pursue your personal injury claim. Bring something to take notes with while you speak to an attorney so you have a written record of what you said and what your attorney tells you.

Finally, once you have completed all the necessary steps above, you should know how much this collision has damaged you financially. Once you know how much it will cost to repair or replace your vehicle, and you know the full extent of your bodily injuries, you may submit your medical bills and repair bills to the at-fault driver’s insurance company to negotiate a settlement that includes not only your financial losses, but also compensation for your pain and suffering from the collision and any bodily injuries.

Renée Morgan is a litigation attorney who has recovered millions for persons injured on the roadway and continues to provide comprehensive representation in both Civil and Criminal cases.