There is no denying the fact that a motor vehicle accident is one of the most stressful situations you can ever face. Not only do you have injuries, but your car is damaged, you are shaken up, and you are not sure what to do next.
How you act immediately after your accident determines a great deal in how your claim will play out later. Therefore, it is imperative you know how to operate after the crash – and more importantly, how not to act.
What you do after the car accident plays a critical role. Everything you do and say might be scrutinized or used against you later. Furthermore, actions and minor rants can be detrimental to your case – even if you have legitimate injuries to nurse.
No matter how serious the accident, now is the time to monitor your conduct. Every step, word, and gesture you make from here on out are examined and scrutinized by insurance claims adjusters and defense attorneys.
Therefore, it is critical that you know what to do immediately following your accident because these steps involve preserving evidence, maintaining composure, and essential steps to protect your potential lawsuit.
No one denies how stressed you are. You are shaken, scared, and your adrenaline is pumping. However, you must remain calm at the scene of the accident. Take a moment and just breathe.
Assess the situation and look around you at the scene. Do what you can to collect your composure before talking to anyone at the scene; including emergency responders.
No matter what, do not go off on a rampage or become aggressive. First responders and witnesses will notice this behavior and recall it.
Law requires you to report any motor vehicle accident. Even if you are not seriously injured, it is in your best interest to contact the authorities and report it.
While police reports are generally considered “hearsay,” they start the chain of evidence and establish an accident occurred. Furthermore, if citations are tied to that police accident report, it helps establish the other party’s responsibility in the crash.
When police arrive on the scene, collect the officer’s name and badge number. Request an information card with the police report number and an estimate when it will be ready for pick up – sometimes they take as long as 72 hours.
Photos of the accident scene are the best evidence for your claim. Take as many pictures as you can, including the site, the vehicles, damage to each vehicle, any injuries present, and injuries on the other party too.
Use your smartphone camera to take photos. If you are severely injured, have a friend or family member return to the scene to get some photographs or ask if the police will be photographing the scene.
The sooner you file a claim for compensation, the better. The longer you wait, the more difficult it is for your attorney to gather evidence and establish the validity of your claim.
Review your own insurance policy to see what is covered, including health insurance, in the event you must pay out of pocket while waiting for a settlement from the other party.
Also, notify your insurance company immediately. Even if they are not paying out on the claim, you are obligated to notify them of the accident.
Auto accidents with serious injuries will encounter higher compensation values than accidents with minor injuries. To ensure you receive the compensation you deserve, you must contact a personal injury attorney.
Never exaggerate or lie.
While you might think a pre-existing injury, previous accident, or minor detail harms your case and omit it, the fact is anything you omit will make you worse off than telling the truth. Always be honest with insurance companies and your personal injury attorney too. Doing so can help your attorney plan more appropriately and secure compensation.
While there are plenty of things you must do, there are an equal number of items you must never do. Any of these could permanently bar you from seeking compensation. Worse, they may turn the tables against you – with the at-fault party trying to collect.
Even if the other party has left, do not leave the scene of the crash. Leaving is considered a hit-and-run. Regardless of whether you caused the accident or not, you have a legal obligation to stay at the scene and report it to the police.
The biggest mistake you can make at the scene is apologizing. It is human nature to feel bad, even when it is not your fault. However, apologizing for the incident can be misconstrued as an admission of guilt. It most certainly will arise if you later attempt to collect compensation for your injuries.
Avoid saying the words “I’m sorry,” “my apologies,” or anything that can be taken as an apology.
It doesn’t matter if you know the other party caused the accident. You might have seen them talking on the phone, or they were driving erratically down the highway. Regardless of these facts, you must keep your opinions to yourself.
Simply exchange information, report the incident to the local police station, and do your part. You can mention to the officer, calmly, why you suspect the other party was at-fault, but do not shout, yell, or make a scene.
Were you injured in a high school sport? Perhaps you have an automobile accident 12 years ago that broke your shoulder. Regardless, be upfront and never hide information about these issues. The insurance company will request your medical records. So, if you do not disclose that information, the insurers will use it to establish your dishonesty.
Once you lose your credibility with the judge or jury, your chances of receiving fair compensation dwindle dramatically.
Evidence in a personal injury case is different from a criminal trial. Therefore, you should keep anything related to your accident. This includes medical equipment, prescription bottles (even if empty), medical statements, receipts for out-of-pocket costs, lost wages, and so on.
Your attorney might give you a full list of what items to keep, and if you are ever unsure, contact your attorney to see what evidence you must keep.
You might notice that the insurer contacts you ready to offer a solution. The amount they offer might seem fair, but if you were to do the real math for past and long-term expenses associated with your injury, you would find it is nothing close to what you need.
Therefore, never accept a settlement without first consulting an attorney. Attorneys are experienced in calculating target compensation for an injury case. Furthermore, they are skilled negotiators. An attorney knows how to get you the compensation you deserve.
Even if the insurance company says that it is their final offer or that they are only authorized to that amount, do not let these tactics encourage you to take a settlement. Always speak with an attorney first.
The amount of paperwork you receive in a personal injury claim is overwhelming. However, insurers are notorious for sneaking in waivers and liability release forms in the small print. Read everything carefully and never sign a document without having your attorney approve it first.
You only have two years to file a personal injury claim. After the two years have passed, you forfeit your right to compensation. Known as the statute of limitations, this timeframe purposely limits how long you have so that both parties have access to evidence. Furthermore, it prevents someone from filing a lawsuit 10 years after the fact.
If you or a loved one was injured in a motor vehicle accident, speak with a personal injury attorney about your potential compensation. There is no obligation to meet with a personal injury lawyer, and because they work on contingency, you do not pay anything unless they recover.