I’ve Been in a Car Accident. What Should I Do?
If you’ve been involved in a car accident involving injuries to you or a passenger there are a few things that you should do to make sure that information and evidence is secured and protected to preserve your claim and maximize your recovery.
Contact law enforcement immediately
No matter how nice the person is that is responsible for the collision or how sympathetic they are, do not agree to exchange information and contact their insurance company later. After an accident, the at-fault driver will get a lot of advice from friends/relatives telling them not to accept responsibility for the accident and your injuries. Call the police from the scene or have witnesses call them if you are incapable.
Make sure that you/passenger receive medical care as soon as possible
Don’t hesitate to get medical care if someone is injured. Florida is a “no fault” state. This means that the auto insurance company of the injured person will pay medical bills and lost wages of that person even if they are not at fault. However, an injured person must be seen by a qualified medical practitioner within 14 days of the accident or his/her insurance company may deny or reduce payment of personal injury protection benefits. If you have any question of whether you’ve been injured or not, protect yourself and be seen by a medical professional right away. If you wait to get treatment, even for a few days, insurance companies will use the delay against you when negotiating a fair settlement.
Get names, addresses, and phone numbers of all witnesses to the accident
Often times witnesses will approach you and tell you “I saw everything and you were not at fault”. These witnesses are critical to establishing liability for a collision, especially in red light cases. Negligent drivers will often say that you were at fault. Witnesses who have no motive to fabricate a story are compelling to police officers and are usually relied upon by them to determine liability for a collision. Securing the names, addresses and phone numbers of witnesses can sometimes mean the difference between an insurance company accepting liability for an auto accident or not.
Take pictures of all vehicles involved and the accident scene
Insurance companies constantly argue that an injured person could not have suffered the extent of injuries that they are claiming because of the cost to repair his/her vehicle. This is often misleading because sometimes older vehicles are a total loss and the cash value of the auto is not a significant amount. Other times repairing the vehicle is not expensive but the impact was significant. Having pictures of BOTH vehicles can give adjustors and juries the information that is required to make a fair assessment of the impact, and resulting injuries, that you received in the collision. In most cases, if you have a cell phone, you have a camera. Use it or have someone else use it to take pictures, both far away , and up close, of the damaged areas of both vehicles. If you are unable to take pictures at the scene, have someone take pictures at the tow yard after the cars have been moved. Always take pictures of the crash scene. The existence or absence of skid marks, the traffic light configuration, road conditions, etc., are often used to establish fault in a case and pictures, at or near the time of the collision, are usually the best evidence to use to establish important issues in an auto collision.
Call an experienced auto accident law firm before you talk to an insurance company representative
Always remember that ALL INSURANCE COMPANIES (even your own) are concerned with their bottom-line profits ahead of everything else. At-fault party’s insurance companies will usually call you immediately to get information BEFORE YOU HIRE A LAWYER. They are trained to ask questions and get answers from you which will minimize the value of your claim. They will be as friendly as they can so you will drop your guard and say something that they can use against you at a later time. Insurance companies love to deal with people who are not represented by an attorney because they settle their cases much quicker and for substantially less money than people who are represented by experienced auto accident attorneys. Experienced injury attorneys deal directly with the insurance companies making sure that medical bills are paid, lost wages are reimbursed and fair compensation is received by their clients for their injuries. An experienced injury attorney understands the steps necessary to preserve your claim and maximize your recovery. Once an experienced injury attorney is hired, insurance companies can not contact the injured person directly. The attorney and staff will deal directly with the insurance companies, taking the stress off of the injured person and allowing him/her to focus on recovery and healing.