If involved in a collision, there are specific actions to take to protect your interests. The following information while not complete are the top ten suggestions:
1. STOP. Never drive away from the scene of a collision, even a minor one. Always investigate, obtain names, take pictures, etc [see below].
2. PROTECT THE SCENE OF THE ACCIDENT. You may prevent further accidents with flares or keeping your flashers on.
3. CALL THE POLICE. Even if there are no serious injuries, call the police. You may need a police report to file a claim with your insurance company. The vehicles involved in the accident should not be moved, unless they interfere with traffic.
4. MAKE AN ACCURATE RECORD. When the police arrive, be sure to tell the investigating officer(s) exactly what happened. If you do not know certain facts, be sure to reply accordingly. Do not speculate, exaggerate or misstate facts. If you are asked if you are injured and not sure, say you are not sure, because pain and injuries from collisions often develop hours and days later. Do not feel self-conscious to request an ambulance if you feel the need; do not “tough it out”. Never ever argue with a police officer, even if you believe they are wrong; it will never help your case.
5. TAKE PICTURES. Try to have a camera in your vehicle, or a cell phone equipped with a camera. Take pictures of the vehicles. If you have visible injuries, take photos. If you cannot take pictures at the scene of the collision, take them as soon as possible even if at home. ** [Here is a true account], my office was retained to represent a client who was injured in a collision [not his fault]. After the client reached a medical plateau, settlement negotiations began with the insurance company. The client said he forgot to tell us his son had taken pictures in the ER with glass shards in his arm; even though we asked before if there were any pictures. When the pictures were presented as part of our settlement demand, the final offer was more than triple from before.
6. EXCHANGE INFORMATION. Typically, the investigating police officer obtains this information. However, if the police do not arrive after your telephone call, you should try to obtain the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all persons involved in the accident, drivers and passengers alike. You should also try to obtain information about the other party’s insurance by asking to see the insurance cards. If there are witnesses, try to get information from them so they can be contacted in the future. If police do arrive, the investigating officer will provide all drivers with a police report number to obtain the police report.
7. REPORT THE ACCIDENT. Notify your insurance company as soon as possible. Many policies require immediate reporting and full cooperation. Find out if you have medical benefits as part of your insurance coverage also known as “med-pay”.
8. SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION. As previously mentioned, often, injuries are not immediately apparent. Many of our clients report feeling the most pain a day or two after the collision. Therefore, you should seek medical attention or see your family physician. Even in accidents involving minor impact, you can sustain a serious and permanent injury to your spine. If you lost consciousness or were dazed even for a short period of time following the collision, you may have suffered a concussion or closed head injury.
9. KEEP A FILE. Keep all your accident-related documents and information together; including claim number, claim adjuster’s name, names/phone numbers of all contacts, receipts for rental car and all expenses incurred as a result of the accident.
10. PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS. Perhaps the most important thing you should do after an accident is to consult your attorney. Your attorney can protect your rights and make sure valuable evidence is not destroyed. Often, insurance companies want to take statements immediately after an accident. It is important that you receive legal advice before providing any statements. Your attorney can advise you on issues including getting medical treatment on a lien and/or if you have med-pay.
Please note by reading the information above & herein, no attorney-client relationship has been created. Moreover, the information provided herein is not to be relied upon as legal advice for your specific legal needs. Should you have legal questions feel free to contact The Law Offices Morton J. Grabel in Temecula at (951) 695- 7700. Mort, originally from Philadelphia PA, attended an ABA Law School, has an MBA, a Real Estate Broker’s License, a California Nursing Home Administrator’s License and is a member in good standing of various local Chambers of Commerce.