Being prepared for a car accident is essential if you are injured and want to maximize your opportunity for a satisfactory settlement of your claim. Having all your insurance and identifying information readily available is important, but there are some other vital things you can do to maximize your opportunity to obtain full compensation for your injury.
Check on All Passengers and Drivers
Once the accident is over, check to see that your passengers, if any, are hurt. If you have a cell phone, immediately call 911 if you or anyone else has been injured, may be injured or is trapped. If you are bleeding or feel the effects of any injury, do not leave your car unless there is a risk of fire or of further collisions.
Do Not Leave the Scene
It is unlawful to leave the scene of any accident without exchanging information. This includes license, license plate and insurance information. If someone was injured, stay until the police arrive. You face serious criminal penalties, including possible felony charges, if you do leave without talking to police.
Do Not Refuse Medical Attention
Often, the effects of an accident injury may not appear for several hours or days. Your body is in shock and your injuries may not become evident until your body starts to recover. If you feel you may have suffered a neck or back injury or feel dazed, do not hesitate to ask for medical attention.
Insurance companies are skeptical enough about most car accident injuries and if you refuse medical attention at the scene or do not go to a physician immediately, they will seize on this fact to allege that you are exaggerating your injuries or are only submitting your claim for financial gain. Their skepticism increases if your first medical visit is a week or more following the accident or only after you first consulted with an attorney.
Do Not Apologize or Discuss the Accident
If you are able to exchange your insurance and license information with the other party, do not discuss how the accident occurred and certainly do not apologize or admit to anything, even if you feel the accident may have been your fault. In the immediate aftermath of an accident, it is often unclear how the accident happened. Other parties or factors may also be involved that are not readily apparent at this time.
If you are asked about your injuries, just state that you will wait for medical attention.
Take Photos and Find Witnesses
Most cell phones have cameras so if you are capable of doing so, take photographs of the accident site, the position of the cars and the damage to your car and to any other cars involved in the accident. Do not move your car from the scene until police arrive. If the other car is moved, point that out to police.
If there are witnesses to the accident, politely ask for their names and phone numbers and addresses. Sometimes, witnesses will approach you to say they saw the accident or that someone standing nearby may have seen what happened.
When asked about the accident by police, give your best estimates of your observations, times and speeds involved but do not guess. If you are not sure, tell the officer.
Call Your Insurance Company
Promptly report the accident and what injuries you suffered to your own insurance company. Be truthful about what happened in the accident and that you either received medical attention or will be seeing your physician. Your agent should explain to you what your policy will cover for this accident.
Get Prompt Medical Attention
We cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting immediate medical care after an accident. It protects you in case your injury was more serious or extensive than first believed and it eliminates an issue for the insurance company to assert that you are only now claiming an injury once you realized the potential financial gain.
Keep a Medical Diary
In some cases, you may be getting medical attention from more than one doctor who may prescribe different medications or diagnostic tests. Keeping track of which doctors you saw, the dates of your visits, procedures, various medications, and the pain you are experiencing each day can be an invaluable record. Also, describe what activities you are no longer able to perform and if you were forced to cancel vacations, sporting events or activities or other engagements because of pain or an inability to participate.
If you are an independent contractor, keep a separate detailed list, with names and addresses and dates, of any jobs you had to cancel or turn away and the compensation you would have earned.
If your case goes to litigation, your diary is subject to being produced to the other party’s attorney so the contents should be limited to your medical history only.
Do Not Talk to the Other Party’s Insurance Company
You will probably get a phone call or even a visit by a representative of the other party’s insurance company. Politely refuse to discuss the accident or to give any statement. If you have retained an attorney, give them the name and address of your lawyer. If you have not, ask them to speak to your insurance agent after you get their name and case number. You should call your agent if you are contacted and give them this information.
Also, be cautious of any settlement offer made shortly after your accident. At this point, you do not know the full extent of your injuries or how much medical care you may need or if you will be missing time from work or school. Many injuries, including head injuries, may not manifest any symptoms, physical or mental, for several weeks. A nagging pain in your knee may be a torn ligament or a headache may be symptomatic of a more serious head injury.
Retain The Law Offices of Alex G. Tovarian
If you or a loved one was injured in an automobile accident, call The Law Offices of Alex G. Tovarian. We will promptly investigate your accident and gather all relevant and supporting documents including police reports, photographs, medical records, bills, property damage estimates, employment and school records and medical reports. If there are insurance coverage issues, we will handle them as well. Our experience and resources are essential to getting you the compensation that your car accident injury case deserves.