WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE IN A CAR ACCIDENT?
Oct 29, 2016 - FAQ
By: Peter M. Hileman, Esq.
It is likely that you will be involved in a car accident some day. You need to be prepared before that happens, so that you will say and do the right things.
If you are in an accident, and later bring a claim for injuries you sustained, you may have to make a statement under oath. You will be asked to describe everything you said and did immediately after the accident. So will the driver who hit you.
Some accident victims say or do things at the scene that harm their case. Some become belligerent with the other party or the police officer. They may say they feel fine, even if they are badly shaken or in a state of shock. Some have been known to jump out of their car and direct traffic! They may refuse medical assistance or an ambulance (even when they really need such help). Many accident victims realize they are hurt but act as if they are not. The problem is, such behavior at the scene of the accident may seriously jeopardize any later recovery. Insurance companies and jurors expect people who claim that they were seriously injured in an accident, to have reported their injuries at the scene and to have sought immediate trauma care.
Here are our nine rules for what to do if you are in a car accident:
- Stay at the scene. By law all parties to an accident must stay at the scene and exchange insurance information.
- Stay in your car until help arrives unless it would be dangerous to do so especially if you are hurt or if the impact was severe. You may need to pull your car over to the side of the road, if possible. Safety always comes first.
- Get help. If you or anyone else is injured, make sure someone calls 911 immediately. Then allow emergency personnel do their job. Don’t needlessly try to be a hero.
- Don’t worry about property damage. Resist the natural desire all accident victims have to check the damage to their vehicle. Whatever the damage is, it can be taken care of later.
- Be a good patient if you are injured. If an ambulance crew is called, allow them to take you to the emergency room. Fully report all of your complaints to emergency personnel. Be cooperative with the police, but if you are hurt, they understand that your medical care must take priority over their investigation.
- Report the accident. Make sure the police officer accurately records your version of the accident. The police report becomes gospel and it is hard to change once it is completed. The officer should give you an accident report form at the scene with basic information about the accident and the other party. Report the claim to your insurance company and get a claim number.
- Be careful what you say to the other driver. He or she may wind up in court as your adversary. It amazes us how even seriously injured people supposedly tell the driver that injured them that they are okay. Avoid admitting fault or saying I’m sorry. Don’t be rude. If the other driver asks how you are feeling, or whether you were injured, you may want to limit your comments to the fact that you are feeling shook up. Many people with serious spinal injuries do not have symptoms right away. We won a $1.5 million verdict for a client who did not report any symptoms at the scene of the accident, but later that day developed back pain that ended up being a disabling injury.
- See your family doctor (or go to the hospital) as soon as you experience any symptoms. A delay in reporting your symptoms will hurt your valid claim. Many people don’t like to go to the doctor, or think their symptoms will simply go away. Unfortunately, if your injury is not documented soon after the accident, it will be hard to prove it is accident-related.
- Don’t give a recorded statement until you have spoken to your attorney. A seemingly kind adjuster from the other driver’s insurance company will call you, offering to help. However, that adjuster will be writing down every word you say. What you tell that adjuster may be used against you later.
If you have been injured in a car accident, you need an experienced attorney to guide you through the many pitfalls facing injury victims. We have been winning motor vehicle accident cases for your neighbors for more than 25 years. Please contact us for a free copy of our Report, What To Do If You are in a Car Accident for your cars glove box.