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What To Do If You Are In A Car Accident

HandelontheLaw.com Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 29, 2013



What To Do If You Are In A Car Accident
Car Accident

While it is true that you will probably be venturing onto someone else’s turf, this is still your case and you – not the lawyers; not the judge; not the jury - will enjoy the rewards or suffer the losses. Resolve from the beginning that you are taking personal responsibility for your case.

There’s nothing quite like the cruelly abrupt POW! of a car accident, which usually comes at a bad time anyway (as though there’s a “good” time). Fortunately, some measures can make your next collision more bearable and manageable.

Let’s start with steps you can take before your next accident (because the odds are that you will have a next accident). First, find out what your insurance policy specifically covers in case of an accident. Who/what is covered and in what amounts? Does it cover towing? Does it cover car rental? Your car accident will be surprising enough; you won’t need additional unpleasant surprises after the accident, so get the specifics about your policy now and make your insurance process far easier after the accident. Secondly, keep certain items in your car at all times. Your glove compartment should have: a copy of your insurance card; a copy of your car registration; a copy of your medical insurance card with coverage information and ID number; pen and paper to take information; a disposable camera to take pictures; a card with emergency contact names and phone numbers; copies of information about any allergies or other medical conditions you have, in case you’re unconscious after the accident; a flashlight. In addition, your trunk should have at least: a set of cones; emergency flares or warning triangles. Happily, several companies are way ahead of me here and offer emergency kits containing many of these generic items and more. Third, keep certain items on or near your person: a cell phone with a clearly labeled, stored list of emergency contacts (including their stored phone numbers, of course), so others can quickly dial them if you are unconscious; your driver’s license; a copy of your car insurance card; a copy of your medical insurance card with coverage information and ID number; a card with emergency contact names and phone numbers; a card with information about your allergies or other medical conditions that would be important for medical personnel to know if you’re unconscious.

OK, BAM! The accident just happened. I’ll continue numbering from the prior paragraph. Fourth, don’t run away. Many states, including California, have tough penalties for “hit and run.”

Fifth, get your car out of traffic if you can: if you’re in a minor accident with minor/no injuries and can move your car, then move it out of traffic and: turn on your car’s hazard lights; and set out the flares, cones or warning triangles, if possible. If you cannot move your car: turn on your car’s hazard lights; and set out the flares, cones or warning triangles, if possible. This is where opinions diverge: some experts say to stay in your car with your seatbelts fastened until help arrives; others maintain that you should get your precious body out of traffic; I say it’s a judgment call on whether it appears safer to stay in the car or safer to move yourself to the side of the road without getting clobbered by an oncoming car.

Sixth, call any needed emergency services. If you’re injured, you should immediately seek medical attention. This, of course, will affect your ability to carry out any other post-accident step.

Seventh, call the police. If the police show up (sometimes they don’t), answer their questions but DO NOT SAY IT WAS YOUR FAULT OR OTHERWISE ADMIT GUILT, EVEN IF IT WAS YOUR FAULT. Ask the officer to file a report, ask him/her how you can get a copy of that report and make sure that you get a copy of it as soon as possible.

Eighth, exchange pertinent information with the other driver(s). Now, aren’t you glad that you were nerdy enough to keep that pen and paper in your glove compartment? Get the other driver(s)’: driver’s license information; car insurance information, including policy number and policy period; name; address, home phone number; work phone number; cell phone number; email address; license plate number; if the driver is not also the insured, the relationship between the driver and insured; write down any comments from the other driver(s). However, DO NOT DISCUSS THE ACCIDENT ITSELF AND CERTAINLY DO NOT SAY IT WAS YOUR FAULT, EVEN IF IT WAS!

Ninth, don’t rely on the other drivers’ assurances that this can be handled without involving insurance: he/she/they might agree to pay for your car’s damages but renege later; he/she/they might claim to be just fine, and then file a claim later for damages to the car and even physical injuries. Relying on assurances from the other driver(s) is too risky, so don’t do it.

Tenth, obtain information about other people at the scene of the accident. They are the witnesses, so you want information from each of them, such as: name; address, home phone number; work phone number; cell phone number; email address; write down any comments made by these individuals. However, DO NOT DISCUSS THE ACCIDENT ITSELF AND CERTAINLY DO NOT SAY IT WAS YOUR FAULT, EVEN IF IT WAS!

Eleventh, write down a description of each car’s: year; make; model; and color.

Twelfth, write down the exact location of the accident and how it happened. Also, write down as many details as possible about such things as: the weather; the traffic conditions; the road conditions. Details, details, details. Catch my drift? Details.

Thirteen, take photographs of: physical injuries; each driver; each witness; each car; every bit of damage to each car; the entire scene, including the street/intersection, skid marks, debris, each car’s location, each car’s position in relation to the other car(s); anything – anything - that will help show the entire context of the accident.

Fourteenth, if you cannot drive your car away, make sure you know where it is being towed. Furthermore, use a trusted mechanic to examine the damage and give you a written estimate. Also, select your own body shop for car repairs so you can’t get “lowballed” by the insurance company.

Fifteenth, hire an experienced lawyer who handles car accidents/personal injury. Insurance companies will not want you to hire a lawyer (and we know why, don’t we? An experienced car accident/personal injury lawyer “knows the ropes” and you don’t). Personally, I would hire a lawyer before contacting my insurance company. You’ll have to do that quickly, of course, because your insurance company will require you to report the accident in a very short time. Tell your lawyer everything and give him/her all your documentation.

Sixteenth, even if you are not obviously injured and you feel fine, see a doctor. You could be overlooking an injury or simply not feeling the pain from an injury yet.

Seventeenth, open a claim with your insurance company, preferably with your lawyer’s assistance, so you will know what to say, how to say it, and what documents should be submitted. DO NOT TELL THE INSURANCE COMPANY THAT IT WAS YOUR FAULT OR OTHERWISE ADMIT GUILT, EVEN IF IT WAS YOUR FAULT.

Eighteenth, at some point you will probably be contacted by the other driver(s)’ insurance company(y)(ies). DO NOT TALK TO THEM. (They’re gathering information to use against you. Get it?!) This can get “dicey” if you both have the same insurance company. If you both have the same insurance company, be very careful about what you say and don’t agree to be recorded. Have your attorney talk to them as he/she sees fit.

Nineteenth, file an accident report if it is required by your state. Your lawyer will know whether one is required, where to get it and how it should be completed and submitted.

Twentieth, save all receipts and other documentation for anything connected to your accident, including but not limited to: doctor’s appointments; prescription costs; lost work time; car rentals; and insurance deductibles.

A LIST OF DO’S AND DON’TS

DON’T be intimidated by the process or the people.

DO find out what your insurance policy specifically covers in case of an accident.

DO keep the following in your glove compartment: a copy of your insurance card; a copy of your car registration; a copy of your medical insurance card with coverage information and ID number; pen and paper to take information; a disposable camera to take pictures; a card with emergency contact names and phone numbers; copies of information about any allergies or other medical conditions you have, in case you’re unconscious after the accident; a flashlight.

DO keep at least the following in your car trunk: a set of cones; emergency flares or warning triangles.

DO keep the following on or near your person: a cell phone with a clearly labeled, stored list of emergency contacts (including their stored phone numbers, of course), so others can quickly dial them if you are unconscious; your driver’s license; a copy of your car insurance card; a copy of your medical insurance card with coverage information and ID number; a card with emergency contact names and phone numbers; a card with information about your allergies or other medical conditions that would be important for medical personnel to know if you’re unconscious.

DON’T run away.

DO get your car out of traffic if you can.

If you cannot move your car, DO make a judgment call on whether it appears safer to stay in the car or safer to move yourself to the side of the road without getting clobbered by an oncoming car.

DO turn on your car’s hazard lights; and set out the flares, cones or warning triangles, if possible.

DO call any needed emergency services and immediately seek medical attention if you’re injured.

DO call the police.

DO answer the officer’s questions but DON’T say it was your fault or otherwise admit guilt, even if it was your fault.

DO ask the officer to file a report, ask him/her how you can get a copy of that report and make sure that you get a copy of it as soon as possible.

DO exchange pertinent information with the other driver(s).

DON’T discuss the accident itself with the other driver(s) and certainly do not say it was your fault, even if it was.

DON’T rely on the other drivers’ assurances that this can be handled without involving insurance.

DO obtain information about other people at the scene of the accident but DON’T discuss the accident itself and certainly do not say it was your fault, even if it was.

DO write down a description of each car’s: year; make; model; and color.

DO write down the exact location of the accident and how it happened. Details.

DO take photographs.

DO know where your car is being towed.

DO use a trusted mechanic to review the damages and give a written estimate.

DO use your preferred body shop for car repairs.

DO hire an experienced lawyer who handles car accidents/personal injury.

DO see a doctor, even if you are not obviously injured and you feel fine.

DO open a claim with your insurance company, preferably with your lawyer’s assistance.

DON’T tell the insurance company that it was your fault or admit guilt in any way, even if it was your fault.

DON’T talk to the other drivers’ insurance company(y)(ies). Have your lawyer deal with them.

DO file an accident report if it is required by your state, preferably with your lawyer’s assistance.

DO save all receipts and other documentation for anything connected to your accident.


Kathy Catanzarite

[Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither HandelontheLaw.com, or any of its affiliates, shall have any liability stemming from this article.]


Source: Kathy Catanzarite - Handelonthelaw.com Staff Writer

Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.





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