Car accidents are, unfortunately, a fact of life. Traffic collisions are increasing each year, and fatalities from accidents numbered over 35,000 in 2015. With that reality, it is incredibly important to know both what to do and expect after you have been involved in a collision.
The experience of going through a car crash is frightening enough, but navigating your way through the complicated, and adversarial, process after the crash has ended can be equally daunting. It is imperative that the police are contacted and the accident is reported immediately. Neither you, nor the person who hit you, should leave the scene without the police having been notified. In those circumstances where the police coming to the scene is not an option, you should ask the other driver for his license and insurance information before he drives away. Use your phone to take pictures of his driver’s license, insurance card and information, physical damage to his car and yours, and of the scene where the accident occurred. In other words, document everything you can about the accident. Even if he is apologetic at the scene, do not assume that he will remain cooperative once his insurance company becomes involved.
When the officer arrives, tell him what happened in as much detail as you can provide. He will this information for the official report. Also, if you are feeling pain at the scene, immediately request medical assistance, including an ambulance.
If you were injured in an accident, there are important steps that you can follow to help your claim be successful. Obviously, the sooner you hire an attorney experienced in injury litigation the better. However, a number of people try to present a claim on their own first, and then turn to a lawyer when they are unsuccessful in receiving a fair settlement offer. In those case, it is important to not do or say anything to insurance company which would limit your recovery in the future, should the case proceed to litigation.
Once the accident has been reported, it is common that the insurance company for the driver that hit you to contact you. You will be assigned an adjustor and receive a claim number. Some adjustors present themselves as being sympathetic to your injuries and will be nice when speaking to you. Although some adjustors may be genuinely sympathetic, always remember that the other driver’s insurance company represents HIS interests, not yours. It is their goal to resolve your claim for as little money as possible. The insurance company may request that you give a recorded statement, and may tell you that it is necessary before a settlement can occur. We strongly advise our clients against providing a recorded statement. If your case were to proceed to litigation, the insurance company can use your recorded statement to compare to your deposition testimony, and look for any differences in your statements.
It is equally important to seek medical attention immediately and to be completely honest with your medical providers. Follow your doctors’ orders and recommendations and comply with their instructions. Remember that the insurance company, and in some cases the medical professionals hired by the insurance company to review your case, will examine your medical records to determine if you were non-compliant in any way. Again, their goal is to limit your recovery, or their exposure, on your case.
Insurance companies work with a team of lawyers, ready to be hired and consulted on any claim. Like the adjustor, these lawyers represent the interests of the person who hit you, not yours. The safest way to ensure that you have a representative dedicated solely to your interests is to hire your own experienced injury attorney.