You’ve had a long day at work. You’re driving home in rush hour traffic thinking about dinner, kids’ homework, walking the dog, and whatever else you have in mind of the evening. Then all of the sudden…WHAM! You are in a car accident. A very unfortunate situation.
In the United States, there are close to 6 million car accidents per year. Fortunately many of these involve only damage to the vehicles. But often these accidents result in injury, some minor and some severe. In some cases, death even occurs. Approximately 50% of 3 million car accidents result in injury and of these 43,000 deaths result.
In the event you or a loved one is injured, you need to know how to protect your rights. Doing so will help you recover physically and emotionally from the injuries you sustained and also compensate you for your damages, medical treatment and your pain and suffering.
Protect your rights with the following 10 Point Accident Checklist:
1. Make sure everyone is okay.
Check on all passengers and everyone involved in the accident is okay. If anyone is hurt, immediately seek medical attention. DO NOT MOVE anyone unconscious or complaining of neck or back pain, and wait until qualified medical help arrives.
2. Stop and Protect the scene.
NEVER leave the scene of an accident, especially one that involves injury. Leaving an accident site before police arrives can result in criminal prosecution. Also make sure the accident scene is protected from causing further accidents. Set up flares or cones or turn on hazard blinkers. Alert oncoming traffic of the accident if possible with a flashlight, brightly colored cloth, or hand flares.
3. Call the Police or 911 and wait.
With or without injuries, it’s still wise to call the police to report the accident. An officer may take statements and issue citations for any moving violations, and you may need a police report to file an insurance claim. Be sure to take the name and badge numbers of the officers responding to the scene. Get an accident report number if possible and remember to get a copy of the accident report once officially filed. Also if your car is inoperable and needs to be towed away, get the information of the wrecker and the lot to which your car is being towed.
4. Exchange information.
Exchange your driver’s license and insurance information with all parties to the accident. Make sure to get the names, phone (mobile and home) numbers, addresses, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers from all drivers and passengers involved in the accident. Also make sure to get the names, phone numbers and addresses of any witnesses that may need to be contacted later. In NO INSTANCE should you admit to fault, even if you believe you are at fault. Fault should be determined by the police and insurance companies. Never say “I’m sorry”.
5. Take pictures.
Take pictures of your vehicle and all other vehicles involved in the accident. Be sure to include interior as well as exterior photos. Also take pictures of the scene, intersection and surrounding areas where the accident occurred. If there are any bodily injuries like cuts, scrapes or bruises, take photos of those as well. Accurate photos can help in the assessment of bodily or property damages and can do well in court to prove your case if necessary.
6. Make an accurate record.
When issuing a statement to the police, describe exactly what happened to the best of your knowledge. Do not speculate or guess. If you are not sure about something, state that you are not sure. When asked if you are injured, state that you are not sure. Do not definitely state that you are not injured. Sometimes pain and injuries do not show until hours or even days after the accident due to the adrenaline flowing through your body at the time of the accident. Ensure that statements from witnesses or other passengers are accurate as well.
7. Report the accident.
As soon as possible report the accident to your insurance company. Cooperate and describe exactly what happened. Fabricating statements can result in denial of coverage and other consequences. Let them know that a police report will be made available as soon as you get it. Also let them know of any pain or injuries you are suffering as a result of the accident. If your car is inoperable or towed away, see if you have rental car coverage. Also, if you have PIP, some of your medical expenses can be covered in that manner.
8. Seek medical attention ASAP.
Because of the adrenaline flowing through your body from the excitement of the accident, pain and injuries from the accident may not present until hours or days after the accident. As soon as any pain or injury is felt, immediately seek medical treatment at an emergency room or with a medical professional. Even if you are not sure if you have been injured or not, it is wise to be examined in case. Even low impact accidents can result in spine or head injuries that can be permanent and result in a lot of long-term pain. Concussions are also common if you feel headache or lose consciousness. If left untreated permanent injury can result.
9. Keep accurate files and records.
Immediately create a file for your records from the accident. Note any appointments and treatments from doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, pain specialists, imaging facilities or other medical professionals. Make sure to go to every appointment in the care plan. Keep detailed accounts of all treatment and medications. Constantly request copy of medical records and bills. Also document how the accident has negatively impacted your daily living, missed work days from pain or treatment, and describe how the injuries have affected your enjoyment of life and the lives of people around you like family and friends. This will help prove the medical damages and any pain and suffering you incur as a result of the accident.
10. Protect your rights with an attorney.
Insurance companies like to try and settle cases early to avoid the costs of helping you get through your treatment and recovery of damages resulting from the accident. Perhaps the most important step in this checklist is to engage an attorney like our law firm to protect your rights and ensure you are compensated for your injuries and pain and suffering. Avoid providing any formal statements to insurance companies without consulting an attorney like our law firm first. A quality attorney can help protect your rights and maximize your recovery from your injury, including medical costs and pain and suffering. Because we work on a contingency fee basis, there is no cost to you. We are compensated ONLY when you are awarded damages. Because we are trained medical and legal professionals we can protect your medical AND legal rights. We have worked with hundreds of clients and settled millions of dollars in damages for them.