The most common personal injuries are caused by automobile accidents. Your actions immediately after the accident may determine if you are justly compensated for your injuries. The police should be called to the scene so that a report can be filed otherwise the insurance company could deny that the accident actually happened. Be sure to take photographs before your car is repaired as this will be strong evidence in proving your case.
The other driver’s information
In no circumstances should you leave the scene before you have collected the other driver’s information or the police have done so. This includes the registration plate number, the name, address and phone number of the other driver as well as their insurance company. If it appears that the other driver is ‘on the job’ it may be that their employer may be liable for the damages.
Ask the police to give you a copy of the police report and make note of any circumstances or conditions that may be related to the accident such as skid marks and debris. You should write this down as soon as possible as it may be forgotten due to the stress of the accident. This information should be given to your attorney should you decide to hire one.
Having eyewitnesses who are willing to testify in your behalf is extremely important and you should get the name, address, and phone number of anyone you can who was a witness. Often people are not willing to be involved but if you can appeal to their sense of justice and fair play they will usually cooperate. It may be difficult to be fairly compensated for your injuries without these witnesses.
Even though there is no question about who is at fault the insurance companies will deny a claim unless you can prove without a doubt that their insured was at fault. If the other driver does not admit that it was their fault your claim could be tied up for years before being settled, if it ever is.
One or more eyewitnesses are the most powerful weapons you have when trying to prove your claim to the insurance company particularly if they are strangers or independent witnesses.
Whether or not you think you have been injured in the accident you should immediately go to the emergency room to be checked out. You may not even realize that you have been injured if you are in shock. Often people will not feel any pain until the next morning when the effect of the accident really sets in. Going to the ER is recommended not only to determine the extent of your injuries but this report is important when convincing the insurance company that you did indeed suffer injuries.
It is extremely important that you describe you injuries thoroughly and accurately to the medical staff. These people are extremely busy and may not be very concerned about documenting the details of your accident. Neglecting this may cause you undue difficulty when presenting your case to the insurance company as they are likely to consider the ER report as accurate when, in fact, it is not.
Be wary of the insurance adjuster
Immediately after an accident the insurance companies that are connected to the case will contact you and attempt to get you to talk about the accident. If you are not represented by a lawyer, be extremely careful in any dealings with these representatives whether it is your company or that of the other person. Do not make any statements as to the fault of the accident and in no circumstances should you sign anything no matter how benign it may seem.
Contact your attorney immediately and they will notify your insurance company. If you submit a recorded statement or sign any documents without the advise of your attorney you may be risking the satisfactory outcome for your claim.
Insurance company representatives are trained to be on the alert for fraudulent or exaggerate claims and will be on the lookout for any reason to deny or reduce your claim.
You may get calls from attorneys or other representatives who offer their services on your behalf but
it is wise not to sign up with anyone until you have recovered from your injuries. In some states there are laws forbidding attorneys from contacting prospective clients until thirty days after the accident.
Most personal injury lawyers will give you a free consultation to see if your case is worth pursuing and if they can litigate a successful outcome. You should not feel under obligation to sign anything and that you will call when and if you are ready to proceed. As there is no fee for the consultation, you may be well advised to contact several attorneys and pick the one with whom you feel the most comfortable.
Be mindful of the passing time
Usually the greatest activity concerning your case will happen immediately after the accident, however,
due to the necessity of gathering reports and information, weeks or even months may pass before you file your claim. States have laws called the statute of limitations which determine how long you can wait before filing a claim. This varies according to the state and can be one year up to six years. If the time is close to running out the insurance company may attempt to delay the filing until the statute has expired.
In summary, do not delay seeking legal assistance as soon as you are able. Once you have selected your attorney be an active participant in working to file your claim.