Steps to Take If You Have Been Injured in an Auto Accident
Being involved in an accident is scary, however, it is important to remain calm and take the proper measures to be able to protect yourself and your loss. More often than not, the actions you take may affect the reimbursement that you are entitled to from the insurance company.
If you have been involved in a car accident that has resulted in physical or bodily injury, you should take the following steps:
(1) Do NOT admit fault.
While you are at the scene, you may be inclined to apologize for the accident or to make any type of admission as to being at fault. Please refrain from doing so!!
While politeness is a virtue, such statements can seriously harm or jeopardize your case. Even though you may believe that you are fully or partially to blame for the accident, do not say to the other party, any witnesses, responding law enforcement (police or ambulance), and even your own fellow passengers that you are fully or partially at fault. Quite often you may believe that you are at fault and then subsequently learn that the other driver is as much or more at fault than you are. You are not in a position to assume the blame for the accident; instead leave it up to your competent attorney or insurance representative to decide who was at fault.
(2) Obtain the other party or driver’s information.
It is important that you obtain the other party or driver’s name, address, contact, and insurance information while you are at the scene of the accident. Be sure that the other driver’s insurance information includes the company name, the name of the person that is insured, and the party or driver’s policy number.
Additionally, be aware of other passengers in the other vehicle. You may always want to obtain their names, addresses, contacts, and driver license numbers as well; especially if they decide to make a claim against you.
Although the driver who caused the accident is responsible for reporting the accident to his or her own car insurance company, quite often, the driver-at-fault will fail or be reluctant to report the accident to his/her own insurance. If this is the case, you or your attorney will already have the other party’s insurance information and contact them when appropriate.
Then there’s the question of what to do if the other party or driver does not have insurance or only has minimal insurance coverage?
If the other party or driver does not have car insurance, then you must look to your own insurance policy to see whether you have Uninsured and/or Underinsured Motorist Coverage.
Under uninsured motorist coverage, if the other party is at fault and does not have any insurance coverage, your own insurance company will pay you the difference between what the other uninsured driver can pay and what you would be entitled to. Generally, your insurance will pay for your medical expenses, lost earnings, and other accident-related expenses up to your uninsured policy limit.
Under underinsured motorist coverage, if the other party is at fault but has an insurance coverage that covers less than the amount of your injuries and damage, then your own insurance will pay the difference on your medical expenses, lost earnings, and other accident-related expenses, as well as the other party’s coverage up to your underinsured policy limit.
(3) Make a police report, seek witnesses and take photos of the accident.
Please be aware that generally law enforcement (police) do not respond unless you report to the 911 operator that you have been injured. If possible, seek to obtain witnesses who can support your claim to the police once they arrive at the scene of the accident. Be sure to give a detailed description of the accident to the police officer only.
You should try to obtain the names, addresses, and contact information of any witnesses to the accident. If practical, ask the witness(es) to stay and provide a statement to the police.
Furthermore, take your own photos of the accident and the accident location, including traffic lights, signs, and traffic lanes. If the vehicles involved in the accident remain in their current position, it is critical to take pictures of the vehicles. Additionally, take several photos of your car’s damage, including photographs from every angle with close-ups and long distant shots.
(4) Seek immediate medical attention.
This should be your first priority on this checklist. Obviously, your health matters and you must take care of yourself. From a legal perspective, seeking the proper medical attention will also strengthen your personal injury claim.
Although your injuries may not seem very serious in the immediate moments after your collision, experience has shown that in the days following the accident an accident victim may feel pain, discomfort, numbness, and dizziness among other things. Even minor collisions involving minimal property damage to you vehicle can result in serious bodily injuries.
It will be harder to prove that your injuries are a direct result of your accident if you wait several days or weeks prior to seeking medical attention. Moreover, if you are injured as a direct result of a car accident, the law requires you to minimize your injuries by seeking medical attention and not allowing your injuries to be further aggravated because you have not sought medical treatment.
Important Note for Pregnant Women and Children Involved in the Auto Accident
Unfortunately, car accidents, as traumatic and frightful as they are, can involve pregnant women and children, who are susceptible to greater harm.
If you are pregnant, it is very important that you are medically evaluated by a health professional, including your Obstetrics and Gynecologist physician (OBGYN). You should especially be alert and aware of any symptoms such as abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding, not being able to feel the baby to move, faintness, dizziness, vomiting, and/or loss of consciousness among other symptoms. Depending on the term of your pregnancy and the severity of the accident, your doctor or physician will best be able to advise your course of action.
Also of crucial importance, if you have a child passenger it is extremely important that you have the child examined by a medical professional after the accident. Quite often younger children and toddlers cannot communicate their feelings and physical pain, so relying on the child’s feelings or statements is not the wisest choice.
Please note: If the child passenger was riding in a safety seat, booster seat, or any other type of child car seat, you should have the seat or safety device replaced regardless of whether or not there are signs of visible damage. The force of the accident’s impact may have caused cracks and damages to the child safety seat, which is only recognizable to a professional, and would further endanger a child’s life.
(5) Take photos of your bodily injury.
If you have suffered from bruises, cuts, scrapes, scratches, or any other visible injuries as a direct result of the accident, it would be wise to have photos taken of your injuries. Quite often, photos of fresh, visible injuries in the immediate aftermath of an accident can prove to be valuable evidence for your case. Often times, the hospital or treating doctors fail to take photos of these visible injuries, even though they may serve as strong indicators of your bodily injuries, and they substantiate your physical pain and discomfort.
(6) Obtain the advice or counsel of a competent attorney who handles personal injury claims.
It can be stressful dealing with your injury claim, even against your own insurance. Generally speaking, you may have several hurdles to prove, including liability (which party is at fault), and damages (your injuries as a direct result of this accident). Therefore, it is important to seek the consultation of an attorney who handles personal injury claims to assist you in your claim.
A competent personal injury attorney has the knowledge and experience in dealing with these types of claims, and is in a better position to assert your rights. Once you’ve hired an attorney to represent you, your attorney will help you understand your rights and will handle your claim in obtaining the highest possible monetary award to compensate you for your losses.
At Saidian & Saidian, we have the knowledge, experience and expertise in representing clients in their auto accidents. If you have been injured in an auto accident, our firm will passionately and effectively represent you to compensate you for your injuries and losses. We are dedicated, and take pride in obtaining effective results on behalf of accident victims. Please call our office for a free consultation today.