What Steps Should You Take after a Car Accident?
The author discusses what steps you should take after a car accident to preserve your rights whether you are going to bring a personal injury lawsuit or not.
1. Probably the most import thing you can do after a car accident is to call the police. Often people after an accident are too nice. If the other party says "oh no lets not get the police involved" or "We can handle this without the police." This should be an immediate red flag that the other driver might not have insurance, has a criminal record and doesn't want to involve the police, or is a deadbeat who is going to change his story and say it's your fault when he calls his insurance company.
Getting the police involved establishes a clear record of the events that the insurance company use as strong evidence to determine who is at fault. Many times People admit fault at the scene, promise to pay for the damage, exchange information, and then leave and change their story when they are interviewed by their insurance and say its your fault. While the damage of the car can help insurance adjusters determine fault the police report is probably the most important piece of independent evidence a driver has.
So remember call the police they are your friends in this situation. Sometimes the police will come and not take a report because they are lazy or don't want to bother filling it out. Its their job so be sure to ask them fill out a police report.
If you don't call the police you can always go down to the police station and fill out an operators report. While an operators report is not as powerful as a police report. The at fault party will rarely go through this effort, so by filling out an operators report at the police station the indicia of truth goes to you and not the other driver.
2. Take pictures. With the advent of cell phone cameras taking pictures at the scene of an accident is becoming easier and easier these days. I was recently in a fender bender and I took pictures of the other car, my damage, their damage, the license plate, etc etc. Its too easy to lose scraps of paper with info. If you take a picture of the license plate you know you can always track the other driver down.
4. Call your insurance company right away and set up a claim while the information is still fresh in your mind. Be sure to tell the agent any of the comments the other driver made to about fault so they are recorded. If you decide mutually not to go through insurance call up the other driver within a few days. If they give you a hard time call your insurance company and go through them. If its not your fault you don't have to pay so its in your interest to go through your insurance because your insurance company will pay you and fight the other company to get repaid.
3. If you are injured seek medical attention right away. Insurance companies value cases on how soon treatment is given. Its true that some injuries don't manifest till later, the sooner you see a doctor the better. If you need an ambulance take it. It is also perfectly reasonable to drive yourself to the ER.
4. Follow up with your PCP or primary care doctor. Basically the job of the ER is to patch you up and send you on your way. For more serious injuries you may be admitted overnight however often times patients are released after a few hours. Following up with your PCP is the preferred course of conduct if you know you want to pursue a claim for negligence. Be sure to tell the doctor about the car accident as it relates to your injuries. This will become the evidence your lawyers need later to establish your damages.
5. If you need further treatment from a rehab facility or chiropractor it is advisable to do so after you get a referral from your PCP. When you choose a chiropractor or rehab specialist on your own insurance adjusters will use this against you as they feel you are not a doctor and your PCP should direct your medical treatment.
6. You are much better off contacting a personal injury attorney then trying to establish a claim on your own. Most personal injury attorneys charge 1/3 contingent fee which means you dont pay the attorney unless your attorney settles your case or prevails at trial and then the attorneys fees are deducted from the proceeds of settlement or judgment from the court.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Morgan Hargrove
Massachusetts Personal Injury Lawyer
Copyright Hargrove & Associates
More information about Hargrove & Associates
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.