Steps to take after you have been in an Automobile Accident
Often when someone is in a car accident, they become scared, flustered and emotional, which is very understanding considering the circumstances. If at all possible, stay calm and stable so you can better help yourself in dealing with the situation.
Stay at the Scene. Never leave the accident scene until the law enforcement officer informs you it is OK to do so. If you leave, particularly when someone was injured or killed, you can face serious criminal penalties for being a hit-and-run driver.
Check on All Drivers and Passengers. Before assessing property damage, check if anyone is injured. Check your car first since you know how many people were riding with you. Then ask the other driver or passengers if they are hurt. Call 911 if anyone appears to be seriously injured. Be sure to encourage anyone to receive medical attention that has any injury, no matter how slight. If a person is unconscious or has neck or back pain, don’t move them until qualified medical help arrives, unless a hazard requires moving the person.
Call the Police. If there’s significant property damage to your car or other property, physical injury, or death, you need to call the police. Ask that a police report be filed in situations where cops do arrive at the scene, and obtain the name and badge numbers of the responding officers.
Exchange Information. Get the names, numbers, addresses, drivers’ license numbers, license plate numbers, and basic insurance information from all drivers involved. Make a note of passengers in each vehicle. In talking to other drivers, try to be cordial and cooperative.
Don’t admit fault. Don’t apologize for anything at the scene. You may be admitting legal liability for the accident without knowing all the facts and circumstances. Immediately after an accident, it might not be clear who was at fault or primarily at fault. Moreover, in many states, fault isn’t determinative of which insurer will pay for any loss. Therefore, don’t admit guilt; that is for your insurance company or attorney to determine later, after all the facts are known.
Talk to Witnesses. Ask every witness what they saw. Get their names, numbers, or addresses, if possible. Try to determine if other accidents have happened at that location.
Inform Your Insurance Company. Promptly tell your insurance company you’ve been in an accident. Cooperate with them and tell them the truth about what happened and the extent of your injuries. Explain the facts clearly. If the insurance company finds out that you’ve lied to them about anything, you can get into serious trouble, including possible denial of coverage for the accident or insurance fraud. Obtain and review any police report filed, so you can point out who broke what traffic laws or who was at fault or if you see something in the report with which you disagree.
Keep Track of Your Medical Treatment. Note any doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, or other medical professionals that you receive treatment from, and each medical provider that referred you to other caregivers. Keep a detailed account of the treatments and/or medications you receive. Also, request copies of all medical reports and bills as these help you prove your medical expenses later.
Medical expenses are relatively easy to document, but pain and suffering is hardre to prove. Keep a record of how your injuries have impacted your daily life. Include any missed workdays, list any routine activities you can’t undertake, and describe how the injuries have affected your family life.
Take Pictures. Take photographs of any damage to your vehicle as soon as possible after the accident. Photos help your insurance adjuster determine how much you should be compensated for the damage to your car and can help in court. Take pictures at the scene of the accident also if that is practical. Also, pictures of your car before the accident can offer a great “before and after” to show the extent of damage caused by the accident.
Get a Property Damage Valuation. Obtain your insurance company’s damage valuation. If you aren’t satisfied with how your insurance company has valued your vehicle, don’t give up. Get two independent repair estimates or replacement quotes. Assertively inform the adjuster of your concerns. If you can’t agree on your car’s value, consider mediation or consult an attorney.
Use Caution in Discussing the Incident. Don’t talk about the accident to anyone other than your lawyer, your insurance company, and the police. Don’t talk to a representative from another insurance company without the knowledge of your attorney or insurer. If called by the other insurance company, be polite, but ask them to call your attorney or insurer to arrange an interview. Also, tell your lawyer or insurer about the call.
Be Wary of Early Settlement Offers. Repeat, Be Wary of Early Settlement Offers. Insurance companies often make a quick settlement offer to entice you when you can use some money. But these offers sometimes are a small fraction of what you are entitled to if you hire a good injury attorney to develop your case. Be careful if you’re offered a settlement from an insurance company. Confirm all your physical injuries have been treated. Some injuries don’t show up or reach their greatest level of discomfort until many days, weeks, or months later. Don’t settle a claim until you know you’ll be compensated for all your injuries, and consult an attorney before signing any settlement documents.
Consider Hiring an Attorney. If you or anyone with you was injured in the accident, it’s best to consult an experienced injury attorney. An injury attorney at Birk Law Firm can help you maximize your recovery if you’re injured. For an injury case, we work on a contingency fee basis, which means that we only receive a fee if you’re awarded damages or receive a settlement. Contact Birk Law Firm today if you have been injured in an auto accident or if you are not obtaining payment for the damage to your car or other property.
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