5 critical steps to take after surviving an auto accident in Georgia

It’s crucial for drivers involved in car accidents to move from the road, report the crash, gather evidence, exchange information and review legal options.

Each year, thousands of people in Georgia are involved in serious car crashes. In 2013, these accidents injured over 116,000 individuals, according to the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety. Sadly, even more serious crashes may have occurred and gone unreported.

Unfortunately, due to the shock that a car accident can cause, many people may make decisions immediately afterward that endanger their safety or limit their legal rights. This is especially a risk in serious or injurious auto accidents. Consequently, it is essential for drivers in Atlanta to understand what to do to protect their safety and future options after a serious accident.

1. Prevent secondary accidents

Many people believe it is critical to leave their vehicles at the scene of the accident to avoid disturbing evidence. However, this can put accident victims as well as other motorists at risk for secondary collisions. According to the Atlanta Police Department, state law requires the removal of all motor vehicles from the roadway after an accident. Once this is done, drivers should assess whether anyone involved in the accident requires immediate medical attention.

2. Swap information

The APD states that drivers should exchange various forms of information at the scene of the accident if they are physically able to do so. These include driver's license and vehicle identification numbers; addresses, phone numbers and other contact information; and insurance information. Failure to secure this information may limit a person's ability to make an insurance claim or seek recourse from the other driver later.

3. Involve authorities

If an accident has caused property damage or physical injuries, involved drivers should report the incident as soon as possible. The parties that drivers should alert include the following:

• Law enforcement authorities - state law requires the reporting of all accidents, regardless of their severity.

• Insurance providers - failure to promptly notify insurers may prevent drivers from making claims for property damage or injuries later.

• Employers - people who were driving for work purposes should additionally alert their employers, particularly if they have suffered work-related injuries.

In some cases, drivers may hesitate to report an accident because it seems minor or because another party offers to make a direct financial deal. However, drivers who refrain from reporting an accident may lose out if the other driver is dishonest. This approach may also leave drivers without recourse if certain consequences of the accident, such as soft tissue injuries, don't manifest immediately.

4. Secure evidence

Before leaving the scene, drivers should attempt to gather evidence that reflects the circumstances of the accident. Drivers can photograph the damage to each involved vehicle and other signs of the accident, such as tire marks or debris in the roadway. Drivers should collect contact information for anyone who witnessed the accident. Motorists should also make note of the time and location where the crash occurred, according to the APD.

5. Get legal advice

Finally, drivers who have survived severe accidents that resulted in personal injuries should consider speaking with an attorney. An attorney may be able to offer advice on determining and documenting liability. An attorney also may be able to aid a person in seeking appropriate recompense for his or her injuries, financial losses and other damages.