Hopefully neither you nor your loved ones are ever involved in a car accident—especially one entailing injuries. However, in the unfortunate event somebody is involved in an accident, I’ve composed a short list of do’s and don’t that may benefit you:
1. Don’t say, “I’m sorry!”
In other words, don’t admit words that may be construed as fault. If you get out of your car and apologize to another driver or person, your statements can be deemed admissions of fault that could potentially hurt your case with both your insurance carrier and the other driver’s insurance carrier—or even at trial. If any other witnesses are present, be it inside the other vehicle, your own vehicle, or other bystanders, and they hear you admit fault, or make another statement that could construed as fault, your statements could all be used against you in the future. Just as importantly, in the event you speak to your insurance carrier or the other driver’s insurance, the same rule applies. Insurance carriers will do whatever they can in their power to relieve them from paying out a claim, even if that entails tricking you into admitting that an accident was your fault. Before speaking to an insurance carrier, it is advisable that you retain an attorney to assist you and do your talking for you. However, In the event you choose to handle a claim on your own, be careful with what you say—insurance personnel are highly trained to limit their exposure in paying out claims by getting you to admit fault and make costly mistakes.
2. Look for Witnesses
In the event of an accident, try and locate as many witnesses as possible. Many cases are left either unsettled, or entail low settlement payouts, due to the fact that each driver claims the other driver was at fault and there are no witnesses to help corroborate either driver’s claim. Take down the name, telephone number, and address of every person who may have witnessed the accident. Furthermore, keep an eye out for commercial vehicles with business logos on them. Often time you can call that company up and find out who the driver in that commercial vehicle was that may have seen the accident occur. Lastly, look for cameras (street light, traffic, department store, security, etc.). Sending out an early letter to the person in charge of video footage gives you the best chance of obtaining video footage of the accident before the footage is deleted.
3. Call the Police
I don’t care what anybody says. Call the police. It doesn’t matter if the other driver admits to everything, gives you all of his insurance information, starts crying, tells you he’s late for his kid’s soccer game—it doesn’t matter. Call the police and make sure there’s a police report accounting for the event.
4. Get Everyone’s Information
Make sure to get the other driver’s insurance information. Take a picture of it with your phone camera and write down the other driver’s contact information if you can. Often time there are other people involved with the accident and you want to make sure you get their insurance information as well, if possible.
5. Take Photographs
Pull your iPhone out, or whatever camera you can get a hold of, and take pictures of everything. Take as many pictures as you can of the accident scene from different angles. Take pictures of the intersection and the location of the vehicles in relation to the intersection from as many angles as you can. Take as many pictures of all the involved vehicles as you can. Take pictures of your injuries and continue to take pictures of your injuries and physical condition as time progresses after the accident. A good demand letter sent to the other driver’s insurance carrier with pictures of the accident and your injuries are often times invaluable to your case and getting a fair settlement. Furthermore, accident reconstructionists can be hired in your case to help establish fault and good photographs can assist with their expert analysis.
6. Get Medical Assistance
In the event of a soft-tissue case (i.e. no broken bones or obvious injuries) make sure to go see a doctor as soon as possible. The longer you wait to see a medical provider, the less likely you are to recover money in the event of a settlement. Whether you see your primary care physician or the emergency room doctor, make sure to explain the accident to the doctor and detail each and every pain and symptom you are feeling. Whenever possible, you will also want a detailed medical report related to your injuries. Your ability to settle a claim for its true value will often time come down to your medical records.
7. Contact Your Insurance Carrier
Make sure to make a claim with your insurance carrier in relation to the accident as soon as possible. Even if you ultimately end up settling with the other driver’s insurance carrier, it is important that your insurance carrier be notified as soon as possible.
8. Call the Other Driver’s Insurance Carrier
Even if both drivers are covered by the same insurance company, a separate claim needs to be opened through the other driver’s insurance policy. Open up the claim but don’t discuss the merits of your case just yet.
9. Don’t Settle Your Claim Too Early
You do not want to prematurely settle a claim without first assessing the gravity and/or longevity of your injuries. If the other driver’s fault is obvious, their insurance company will want to settle with you as soon as possible and for as little as possible. Some insurance carriers will even try to send out an adjuster to the scene of the accident in hopes of issuing you an immediate check. You may think that the other driver’s insurance carrier is being extremely generous and helpful when they offer you a check for a few thousand dollars; however, your case may be much more serious than that. In fact, if the insurance carrier is trying to settle with you early on, it’s generally because your case in fact is far more serious than that and they want you to avoid getting a lawyer. At first, you don’t know what the severity of your injuries are. You don’t know whether you’ll need continuous care, future medical visits, future medical costs, rehabilitation, future surgeries, what potential complications may exist, etc. Once you settle with the insurance company, they will make you sign a release which will prevent you from later seeking more money. For example, if the other driver’s insurance carrier offers you $5,000 and you accept it and you later discover that you have a herniated disk that will required future surgeries costing tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars, rehabilitation, loss of employment during those down times, future inability to work long hours, etc., then you will lose the opportunity to be compensated for any future grief you may suffer through.
10. Contact an Attorney
Many people are skeptical of retaining an attorney due to the common knowledge that an attorney will keep about 1/3 of the settlement money. However, keep in mind that even after deducting an attorney’s 33.3% or 40% fee, that recovery will often time be far greater than any recovery you could have achieved on your own. Insurances companies are trained to pay out as little as possible whenever possible and will take advantage of you whenever they can. If you decide to handle your own claim, you will more than likely make costly mistakes that will affect your ability to recover money in the long run. Furthermore, by handling your own claim you generally lose the leverage available to you involving the threat of filing a lawsuit. Insurance companies know which attorneys file suit and which attorneys don’t. Filing suit against an insured (i.e. the other driver) means that the insurance company will have to shell out tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars simply to defend the lawsuit—often time, that is incentive enough to encourage the insurance company to settle.
If you have any questions related to the above material, or related to any legal matter, feel free to contact me for a free consultation at (305) 200-8748 or firstname.lastname@example.org