There are more than six million car accidents in the United States every year. One in three of these accidents involves personal injury.
Think about that for a second.
With such a high chance of being involved in an accident, it pays to make sure that you know exactly what to do if the worst happens.
It can be tough, with the shock, noise and people, to remember to do the right thing at the scene of the accident. If you remember the following basics you will always be sure of being in a position to fully protect your rights.
Things To Remember At The Scene Of An Automobile Accident
Firstly, always stop your vehicle. Never drive off. Then take a moment to maker sure you are OK. Get out of your vehicle slowly and remain calm. Don’t make a bad situation worse by shouting or threatening the other driver.
Exchange information and show care and concern, without discussing the details or admitting any liability for what has just happened.
Once you have exchanged information with the other driver, take some photos of the scene. If there is damage to vehicles, property or if people are hurt, take photo’s of these details. Also try to establish the context of the accident in a photo, by showing the situation from a wider angle that shows the approaches to the collision scene.
It is also good idea to call the Police, even if the accident is relatively minor. Your insurance company may require a Police report as part of any insurance claim you make. The Police will also obtain the required information and can run checks to verify information at the scene, something you cannot do.
It is vital you also cover the following points while at the scene of the accident:
- Never sign anything unless it is a Police document.
- Check who was driving the other vehicle and note who’s auto registration and other information you are actually given.
- Be polite, gather information but never admit liability.
- Take the names and addresses of any witnesses to the accident.
- If it’s possible, be the last to leave the accident scene, never the first.
What To Do As Soon As You Have Left The Accident Scene
The first, absolutely vital thing to do is contact your insurance company. A lot of insurance policies require immediate notification and full cooperation.
Also establish if you have medical coverage as part of your policy, known as “medpay”. You will need to know what coverage medpay and your private health insurance will give you.
If you have suffered injuries you will need to receive medical treatment. Even if you don’t think you have been inured, it is vital you get yourself checked out. Because many automobile accident injuries are not immediately obvious, it can be several days or weeks before physical symptoms are obvious to you.
Spinal compression or other impact injuries can have a delayed reaction, so don’t let yourself sleepwalk into a situation that is worse than it could have been if you had taken early action.
How To Protect Your Rights After An Automobile Accident.
Straight after the accident it also makes sense to speak to an attorney as soon as you possibly can. There are several key reasons why delaying in doing this can be detrimental to your chances of protecting yourself.
1. Time Limits.
In many states there is a statute of limitations for filing car accident claims of 1-2 years. So you only have a limited time in which to commence proceedings.
Some states also have conditions that must be met before you can sue the other party. For example, there may be a requirement to file a police report within a set period of time. As this varies from state to state, receiving accurate advice is essential.
2. Conflicting Agendas.
You may find that your insurance company has a very different agenda than the one you thought it had. Their primary goal is not to satisfy you, but to protect their profits and minimize their costs.
This means that your insurance company may not turn out to be on your side as much as you assumed they would be, and is well versed in minimizing their costs to your detriment. Receiving advice from an experienced attorney who is fighting your corner entirely is therefore an obvious necessity.
3. The Complexity Of State-By-State Laws.
There are 12 states in which you cannot sue someone after a car accident unless there are very special circumstances. These are the “no fault” states. Originally there were 24 no fault states, but over the past two decades half of those states repealed the law because insurance costs were going up much faster in those states.
In some states you can sue even if you were partially to blame for the collision. These are the “comparative negligence” states. Other states use a “contributory negligence” system which means you cannot sue if you are found to have been at fault.
It is these confusing variations in the state laws that make speaking to a local expert attorney vital.
As well as these three key reasons, there are almost unlimited other problems and hurdles you could face if you do not seek immediate expert legal guidance.
For example, added complexity can result from not taking immediate legal action. More complexity could cost you money, and delay the process of getting your life back.
As most cases are settled out of court, with the defendant or their insurance company making you a direct settlement offer. It is easy to feel pressured, or to think that the offer “will do”. A fast offer will usually happen to try and resolve the matter on unfavorable terms, before you take proper advice.
If you accept an out of court settlement you will lose the right to sue forever, so make sure you accept the right offer by getting solid legal assistance now.