This article is a top ten list of steps you should follow if you have been involved in a car accident. This legal checklist will help you understand and protect your legal rights and preserve your case in the event you need to file a lawsuit or negotiate a settlement for money damages.
Every day there are numerous car and automobile accidents that occur which result in serious injuries - even death. Regardless of whether you were the one at fault, it is critical to know your rights and how to conduct yourself after an accident occurs. Acting diligently can improve the chances of your receiving a better settlement or increase your chances of winning a personal injury lawsuit. If you are being accused of having been at fault, conducting yourself properly can decrease the chances of a plaintiff winning a case against you and also lowering the amount of money damages that may be awarded.
In the event you find yourself in an automobile accident, the following are prudent steps to take in order to protect your legal rights and preserve your ability to present the best case.
Pull over and park safely on the side of the road.
If you've been in an accident, even if it seems minor, always find a safe place to pull over and park your vehicle near the scene of the accident. You will probably want to have your rear blinkers on to visibly warn oncoming traffic that you have parked. Make sure that you are safely on the side of the road and far enough to avoid any oncoming traffic. Regardless of what the other driver chooses to do, you do not want to be accused of leaving the scene of an accident.
Notify the proper authorities
After you've made sure to pull over to the side of the road (not before), make a call to 911 or to the local police department if you can easily locate the phone number. It is possible that you can get a time estimate as to the arrival of the police at the scene of the car accident.
Obtain information from about the other car and driver
Obtain essential information about the other party's vehicle, the driver and any passengers. It's easy to write down the other car's license plate number and state of registration. You should also get the registration number for the vehicle and any related insurance information from the driver, such as seeing his or her insurance card. You should also ask the other driver for his or her driver's license and write down this information.
Stay calm and confirm the police report
When a police officer arrives at the scene, don't panic - stay calm. In addition to being more credible when your blood pressure is at even keel, you'll also be in more control of your senses and know what to say and what not to say. At the worst, err on the side of caution and say less rather than saying too much. Be assertive when the police officer asks questions and don't be afraid to stand up for yourself, especially if the other driver is insistent and aggressive. But be sure to remain polite at all times and remember that the officer is just trying to do his or her job. A good impression can help with perception. Check the police report to make sure it is correct and politely discuss any objections you may have with the police officer.
Collect peripheral information about the accident
Use your time wisely before police arrive on the scene to collect useful and relevant information concerning the accident. Write clear notes since you'll need to refer to them later. Were there any third party witnesses to the accident? Take down names, addresses and short statement of what they saw. Were there any special conditions (e.g. hazard on the road, weather conditions, etc.) that might have helped cause the accident? Do you notice anything unusual about the other car, for example, old and worn tires, broken lights or unsafe aspect of the vehicle?
Take pictures - keep a cheap camera in your car
Keeping a cheap camera in your car which costs just a few dollars could come in handy for both parking and moving violations and traffic accidents. Many people have mobile phones with cameras built in. These pictures might not be magazine ready but, as long as they are clear, they will be useful. Take as many pictures as you need so that you can review them later and select the clearest ones. You should also consider taking pictures of the road, your vehicle and of the other person's vehicle and from various angles to cover the entire area. Video of the scene can also prove helpful.
Do not refuse medical treatment
Even if you don't feel as though you are hurt severely, do not refuse medical treatment. If you feel even some type of potential pain or discomfort, don't dismiss the idea of going to a hospital. Whiplash injuries are the most common suffered in automobile accidents and their symptoms only begin to appear a few hours after the accident. At that time, you may wish you had been observed by a physician.
Don't talk, tweet or write social media posts about the accident
Whatever you say or post can be used against you in a court of law. No matter how harmless it may seem, posts on social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter can be dangerous to your case. If you want to share information about your accident, wait until after you speak to a lawyer. He or she can advise you what types of posts may be safe and will not harm your case. If you're hoping to get some quick free legal advice such as posting in The Law Forums, make sure that you use an anonymous name that does not have any identifying information. Don't post an email address in public and certainly don't give specific, personally identifying details about yourself or the other driver.
Don't talk to the insurance company alone
Unless you really know what you are doing, it is usually not advisable to try to settle your case with an insurance company without being represented by a lawyer. Insurance companies do not have your best interests in mind and their lawyers and employees will hope to pay out as little money as possible. Your lawyer will probably have taken your case on a contingency fee - he or she will get paid more by obtaining a larger cash award or settlement. Unlike the representative for the insurance company, your lawyer has a great incentive to obtain for you the largest award for money damages he or she can obtain.
Do not exert yourself physically after your accident
In addition to potentially making your injuries worse, performing physical work or exercise could also damage your case. In the digital era, cameras surround us everywhere. In addition, private investigators are sometimes hired to determine whether a personal injury plaintiff is truly as hurt as he or she claims. Even if you try to exert yourself physically without much success, such as working in your garden or trying to jog, a hidden photographer might capture pictures of your efforts. A jury will probably not have much sympathy for you or be convinced that you are really as injured as you may actually be since the pictures would seem to tell a different story.
In addition to taking prudent measures such as those listed in this checklist, it is usually advised to call a personal injury lawyer who is an expert at handling car accident cases. Many will provide you with a free legal consultation. You can always choose not to hire an attorney but at least you will be better informed of your legal rights.
- Accident & Injury Law:
- Car Accident
Car Accident What to do After a Car Accident Checklist
By Michael M. Wechsler |
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