Steps To Take Following An Auto Accident
By: Okie Whiteru
An auto accident can have catastrophic consequences on an individuals livelihood if they are seriously injured. To begin, auto accident victims who are injured often suffer financially because they are unable to work and/or have amassed medical bills which they cannot afford to pay. Secondly, auto accident victims tend to find that their familial relationships have been injured. For example, due to injury, spouses are often physically unable to be intimate. Further, as a result of injuries sustained in an auto accident, parents are often unable to physically interact with their children on a day to day basis. Additionally, auto accident victims who have suffered serious injuries tend to be unable to sleep, struggle to take care of themselves, discover that they are physically unable to sit or stand for prolonged periods of time, can become very reliant on pain medication and simply cannot regain the health and mobility that they had prior to their auto accident.
It is for the above reasons that all auto accident victims, regardless of whether a victim believes that they are injured at the time of the accident, should take the following steps to protect themselves. Further, adhering to the following steps after an auto accident will most likely increase the value of any settlement an auto accident victim receives from an insurance company.
Obtain the Names and Contact Information of All Witnesses. Immediately following any auto accident it is of the utmost importance to obtain the name, phone number, address and even e-mail of any individuals that saw the accident. These individuals will be able to serve as neutral witnesses that have nothing to gain or lose at any trial. Thus, these witnesses have no bias and are often very convincing to judges and juries.
Take Pictures of The Accident Scene. A picture is worth a thousand words. Your case will be far more compelling and you will fare better in negotiations and during any trial if you have pictures of the accident scene. This means take pictures of: 1) the damage to all cars that were involved in the auto accident; 2) all street signs, street lights, and street divider lines in the vicinity of the auto accident; 3) any and all physical injuries that you may have; 4) any damage to the interior of the vehicles involved in the auto accident; 5) any debris on the street or sidewalk from the auto accident; and 6) all other things which you think may be relevant to the cause of the auto accident.
Simply put, showing a picture of a mangled vehicle to a judge or jury is far more effective then attempting to describe the damage to a vehicle verbally. Furthermore, having pictures of where cars were positioned immediately after an accident may prove who and/or what caused an accident to occur. Additionally, if your vehicle is mangled or has a great amount of damage, the picture will often help a judge or jury determine or understand the force of the accident.
Go to the Doctor. Again, Go to the Doctor. Often, individuals involved in an auto accident shrug off going to the emergency room immediately after an accident and/or fail to regularly attend physical therapy because they believe the discomfort or pain they feel will go away on its own. This can be erroneous because pain arising from a serious auto accident can worsen in the weeks and months following an accident rather than get better.
If you fail to go to the doctor shortly after an auto accident the likelihood of obtaining a favorable settlement can be greatly diminished. An insurance company will simply argue that you obviously were not injured because you did not seek medical attention and/or missed numerous doctor appointments. In other words, if you are pursuing a claim for a personal injury but have little or no medical evidence establishing that you were injured then the likelihood of success as to obtaining a settlement or jury verdict is greatly reduced.
Do Not Minimize Your Injuries. When you go to the doctor be sure to tell him or her about any pain, bruising, swelling or discomfort that you have no matter how minor. Also, tell the doctor if any part of your body struck any object within the car (ie. head striking steering wheel, window, dashboard, etc.). In short, do not minimize your injuries under any circumstance. If you fail to tell a doctor about an injury then the doctor will not note it in his or her report. Thereafter, if you seek to assert that a previously unreported injury was caused by your auto accident the insurance company will dispute it based on the fact that the injury was not reported to your doctor immediately after the accident.
Do Not Give a Recorded Statement to an Insurance Company. The sole purpose of a recorded statement is for an insurance company to obtain evidence from you that it may be able to use against you in the future. Insurance companies train their adjusters to ask any and all questions which may tend to show or prove that the victim was the cause of an auto accident. This is important because auto accident victims who are found to be negligent, no matter how minor, in Maryland and the District of Columbia are barred from being compensated in most circumstances. Further, many accident victims have little or no training regarding the handling of an accident claim. Therefore, at the outset, the victim is usually at a disadvantage and is unprepared to give a recorded statement. I strongly suggest retaining an attorney prior to giving a statement to any insurance company.
Exchange Information. After the accident it is highly important for you to exchange the following information with the other driver: 1) name; 2) address; 3) phone number(s); 4) insurance company and policy number; 5) drivers license number; 6) make and model of vehicle; 7) vehicle registration and 8 ) license plate number. Further, if the drivers name differs from the individual who is named on the insurance card and/or car registration then inquire as to the drivers relationship with the insured and/or car owner.
The above information is highly necessary if you wish to proceed with a claim in an effective, and time efficient manner. In the event that you do not obtain this information you and/or your attorney will have to expend time, money and resources attempting to locate it. In the event that you are unable to locate this information then you may be unable to obtain compensation for your injuries.
File an Accident Report. The filing of an accident report helps to establish the fact that at an auto accident actually occurred. Further, police officers will often provide key information in their reports, including but not limited to, witnesses, diagrams, insurance information, whether anyone was taken to the hospital from the scene of an accident and the identities and contact information of all the drivers and their passengers. Further, the police officer can thereafter serve as a witness on your behalf should there be a trial. Its my practice to attach favorable accident reports to legal filings, such as Complaints, which I submit to courts. This allows a judge to see a police report which they ordinarily would be barred from reviewing due to the hearsay rule.
Keep all Receipts. The law provides that the victim of an auto accident shall be compensated for any and all expenses incurred by the victim due to the accident. Thus, an accident victim can receive compensation for lodging, medicine purchases, gas mileage, medical equipment purchased and a variety of other accident related expenses. However, you will only be compensated for those expenses that you can prove. Thus, it is important for you to hold onto your receipts and forward them to your attorney.
Do Not accept a check which is labeled final payment without first consulting an attorney. The acceptance of such a check, prior to discovering the full extent of your losses and being advised of your legal rights, can result in an auto accident victim receiving substantially less compensation than he or she is entitled to.
Do Not automatically agree to a vehicle damage appraisal conducted by the insurance company. Insurance companies may purposefully undervalue your repair estimate or base the repair estimate on the use of replacement, refurbished and/or used auto parts.
Do Not sign a release or waiver without first consulting an attorney. The signing of a release and/or waiver, prior to discovering the full extent of your losses and being advised of your legal rights, can result in an auto accident victim receiving substantially less compensation than he or she is entitled to.
I encourage all accident victims to retain an experienced, professional and aggressive personal injury attorney. Insurance companies have their attorneys and trained staff working for them. Therefore, in order to be fully knowledgeable regarding your rights and greatly increase your chances of receiving full compensation, I strongly urge you to contact The Whiteru Firm, PLLC at 202 558 6196 or email@example.com.
About the Author
Okie C. Whiteru The Whiteru Firm, PLLC 2300 M Street, NW 8th Floor Washington, D.C. 20037 P: 202 558 6196 F: 202 747 3997 http://www.whiteru-law.com
(ArticlesBase SC #2181236)