Getting into a car accident is stressful enough in normal times, but if you find yourself trying to navigate the aftermath of a crash in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, chances are you’ll be dealing with more than a few extra layers of stress and uncertainty.
With "social distancing" the new normal, and seemingly every area of the country subject to some version of a shelter-in-place order or other government-mandated effort at containing the COVID-19 outbreak, this is a unique time to find yourself at the scene of a car accident. You can still keep a safe distance from others. Remember that the exchange of critical information (including names of everyone involved in the crash, driver's license numbers, phone numbers, insurance policy information, and names and addresses of registered vehicle owners) doesn't require a hand-to-hand exchange of documents.
One strategy is to stand six or more feet apart from everyone else and verbally exchange all necessary information, or have everyone exchange cell numbers and text message the information to everyone else; that way you'll fulfill your legal obligations. (And never flee the scene of a car accident, even if you're worried about violating a shelter-in-place order or some other government restriction on movement.)
And it's still important to take a moment to get your phone out and take as many pictures as you can of the accident scene, vehicle debris on the road, vehicle damage, the location of stop signs and other traffic signage, and anything else that might be relevant to any car accident claim you end up making. Talk to any witnesses who may have seen what happened too (and get their contact information). Get more tips on what to do after a car accident.
If your car accident injuries don't seem to require immediate emergency medical attention, and you're in an area where hospitals and other medical offices are postponing or deprioritizing non-critical care in favor of treating coronavirus cases —and/or preparing their facilities for a surge in coronavirus cases—that doesn't mean you should delay seeking medical care.
Perhaps your best first step is to call or email your doctor to get a sense of the current treatment climate, restrictions on routine care, and your options. If an in-person appointment isn't viable, ask about setting up a telemedicine appointment or video call just to get the ball rolling.
Whatever method of outreach you choose, it's important to make sure you contact your doctor or another health care professional and get your course of post-car accident accident medical care started very soon after your car accident (even if the actual course of care is delayed). Doing so will help you legitimize your car accident injuries and start a paper trail of medical records in connection with your claim.
If you wait a few weeks or a few months (even for the seemingly noble reason that you don't want to add more strain to a local health care system that might already be stretched thin), chances are the other driver's insurance company or lawyer will argue that your car accident injuries couldn't be all that serious. Learn more about why it's important to get necessary medical care soon after a car accident and how insurance companies value a car accident claim.
As with every other facet of life pre-March 2020, the coronavirus has upended the norms of business and government operations. That means the insurance company's typical claim-processing timeline is probably going to be stretched out, and if you've filed a personal injury lawsuit in your state's civil court system, be prepared for delays and continuances.
One thing you'll likely find hasn't changed is the insurance company's willingness to pressure you into accepting an early (and insufficient) settlement offer. Even if you find yourself in a perilous financial situation (as many people have in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic), if you can afford to wait for a settlement that captures the fair value of your losses ("damages"), it's almost always in your best financial interest to do so.
Learn more about how the coronavirus outbreak could affect your personal injury case, and get more tips on steps to take after a car accident in our post-car accident checklist.