Automobile accidents can be a life changing occurrence. There are very easy things you can do to ensure you don’t compound the problem.
If you are involved in a car accident, there are things you absolutely must do in order to secure yourself and your right fair compensation. This is particularly true if you are injured in the accident.
1. Call the police and obtain a police report.
Because it is difficult to know exactly what physical damage was caused by an accident in the moments following it, people would do well to call the police and have them issue a report. Police presence can prevent confrontation and apply first aid when needed.
Also, on the day of the accident, you cannot know whether you will have to sue for injuries, property damage or both. The police have extensive experience in understanding the cause of the accident and can issue a report identifying who is at fault. This information will come in handy when it is time for you to negotiate a settlement with the other driver.
2. Leave the vehicles where they are.
It may be tempting to get the cars out of the way so that traffic can pass. If possible and if you can remain safe, try to leave your vehicles exactly at their place of rest after the accident. Although traffic will suffer, when the police arrive, they will be able to help you to safely move the damaged vehicles.
The police can also be witnesses as to the location of the vehicles after the accident. And the positioning of vehicles can be evidence of liability and can go a long way in to determining how an accident occurred. This can be useful at trial to determine which party was at fault.
3. Take pictures.
Along the same lines as #2 above, once you are safe use your smart phone to take pictures of the vehicles involved in the crash. Make sure you photograph not only the location of the vehicles but also where on each vehicle there was damage. Photographic evidence of the damaged location helps to establish not only how the accident occurred but also the severity of the crash. An “eggshell plaintiff” notwithstanding, significant injuries normally occur from significant impact.
4. Do not make ANY statements to anyone about how the accident happened.
Until you have the opportunity to speak to a lawyer, do not make any statements to anyone about how the accident happened. You may speak with the police at the scene, but do not converse with the other driver or other individuals involved.
Conversations regarding the cause of the accident, what you remember, etc. are evidentiary admissions and can be used by defense counsel to attack the truthfulness of your account and your credibility as a witness. Simply statements such as “I didn’t see you” or “I’m sorry” even though you may not be at fault, will be used against you and can sometimes have a significant impact on a lawsuit if one is pursued.
5. Call your insurance company.
You may not think of it this way, but your auto insurance company can be your advocate. You are paying them to mitigate your risk of loss. While we may often read of bad-faith insurance claims, most insurers will live up to their end of the bargain – particularly if you did not cause the accident.
Accordingly, contact your carrier as soon as possible. Many policies have a time requirement during which you must make a claim.
Also, insurers are concerned with recapturing property damage costs through subrogation from the other driver’s insurance policy. Also, in many “no-fault” insurance jurisdictions, your own auto insurance policy will pay for your medical treatment.
6. If injured, seek immediate medical attention.
Unless the accident is an extremely serious one, people injured in auto accidents rarely understand the extent of their injuries at the scene. That is understandable as being involved in a car wreck is a stressful event to say the least.
Many injured parties simply do not feel the effects of the trauma immediately. Doctors agree it could take up to several days before an injury is symptomatic. The safest route is to go to the emergency room right from the accident, via ambulance or on your own. You simply cannot know the extent of your injury without medical attention. And even then, symptoms can sometimes take weeks to surface.
7. Seek to understand all your options.
There are many options available to accident victims. Insurance coverage to pay for the damage to your vehicle is only one option accident victims have available to them. Access to medical treatment is also available as are actions in negligence for pain and suffering, wage loss and other damages.
If your claims do not yield immediate fruit, then you may seek legal duress through the court system. Of course, seeking a lawyer would be a good idea. The good news is that most accident attorneys can be retained on a contingency fee basis. That means they are not paid up-front but are compensated if you are successful in your claim.
While you wait for your case to resolve, other options may be available to secure relief prior to settlement. Often injured plaintiffs are unable to work because of their injuries. Many face financial strain because of the time it takes to pursue the claim. In these instances, plaintiffs may be able to sell a portion of their settlement to a lawsuit loan company who will advance cash now in anticipation of settlement. There are no restrictions on the use of the money and the advance is like the contingency fee arrangement in that it is not repaid if the case is not successful.
Automobile accidents can be a life changing occurrence. There are very easy things you can do to ensure you don’t compound the problem. Follow the above steps to protect yourself whether you are involved in a major car wreck or a seemingly minor fender bender.