You’re driving along when suddenly a car hits you. It’s hard to think clearly at this time, but the information you obtain right after an auto accident — and what you say — can have a big impact on the amount of compensation you recover.
Here are some important steps to follow if you are in a car accident. They will reduce the hassles and help you get the maximum recovery for your injuries and losses.
• Call 911 to summon medical help for anyone injured. It's generally advisable not to move anyone who is injured.
• Exchange information. After you make sure injuries are attended to, talk to the other driver to exchange information. Don’t discuss how the accident happened or blame anyone. You should exchange the following information with the other driver: name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, insurance company and policy number.
If the driver of the other car is not the owner, get the registered owner’s name, address, phone number and the name of his or her insurance company and policy number.
• Other car. Write down the other car’s make, model, year, license number and vehicle identification number.
• Witnesses. Get the name, address and home and work phone numbers of all witnesses (including passengers in both cars). If any witnesses were driving, write down their car’s make, model and license number. Don’t rely on the other party or the police to get witness information — obtain this information yourself.
• Police officer. Get the name, badge number and police department of the officer who responds to the accident scene.
• Make notes. As soon as you can, whether at the accident scene or right after, make notes of what happened. Write down the road and weather conditions as well as where and when the accident happened. Make a note of anything you saw, heard or sensed before, during and after the accident. Also make a diagram of the accident. Be sure your diagram includes traffic signals, street signs and crosswalks.
• Don’t admit fault. Whether at the scene or afterward, don’t admit fault, even if you think you caused the accident. Emotions can affect you at an accident scene, and the sense of being responsible may later turn out to be wrong. Also, things you did not know or see may indicate the other driver caused the accident or was partly at fault. Never admit fault or responsibility, at least not before consulting your lawyer. Remember that anything you say can be used against you later.
• Pictures. Take photos of the accident scene and cars involved. The photos can show damage better than a repair bill from an auto body shop.
Also have photos taken of your injuries. These can help show how much pain you suffered.
• See a doctor. You should see a doctor even if you think you have no serious injuries. Many injuries take time to develop, and a doctor can help prevent minor injuries from getting worse.
• Notify your insurance company. Even though you are required to notify your insurance company, it is strongly recommended that you consult your lawyer before giving a statement to your insurance company representative or filling out their accident documents.
• Never sign a "release" or accept a settlement offer before first consulting your lawyer. Once you accept a settlement, you usually cannot recover any more money, even if you later find out your injuries or losses are worse than you thought when you accepted the settlement.
• Legal help. Call us to discuss confidentially what happened. We will advise you about notifying other parties, your legal rights and duties, and how much money you may be entitled to receive. Call immediately after the accident, as there are time limits for making claims. Also, the longer you wait, the harder it can be to find evidence and witnesses.
Following these steps will help get assistance to injured people, create a good record of what happened, and help you receive the maximum compensation for your injuries and losses.
Contact an attorney at Triscaro & Associates today. Please call us for all your legal needs. We offer a full range of legal services to individuals, families and businesses, including personal injury, estate planning, real estate, family law and business matters. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality legal services at a reasonable cost.