What To Do After A Car Accident

Personal Injury AttorneyYou are driving to the store. You stop at a light. You are waiting for the light to turn green. Then you hear a loud screech and before you can look, you feel a major impact. You feel like you were thrown within the compounds of your vehicle like a rag doll. Your car and you were both propelled by the impact.

You are a bit in shock. You are not sure what happened and you feel a bit out of it. You finally realize…

You were in a car accident

So what do you do now?

First, take the time to get oriented. After a major impact, you may not be in any condition to get out of the vehicle and walk. Unless there is an emergency (car on fire), take the time to make sure you are okay. If you are, look around and make sure your passengers are also okay as well.

If you or anyone else is not feeling well or is injured, call or have anyone call 911 immediately and ask for medical assistance. If no one appears injured, you should also call 911 and ask for a patrol unit to come to the scene. The officer should assist in attaining information.

Turn on the hazard lights. If it is obvious how the car accident occurred (rear-ender) and it is safe to do such, you may want to move the side of the road and out of the way of oncoming traffic. If it is not obvious how the accident occurred or if anyone is injured or if the car does not appear safe to move (leaks under the car), you should wait for the police to arrive. If you have an emergency kit, you may want to set up cones, flares or whatever other warning devices you have. If you cannot move the car, but you can move yourself to a safe area, do such. If you have a camera (your phone) and it is safe to do such, take pictures of the collision area, all vehicles involved (get detail pictures showing the plates), and the at-fault driver (don’t make it too obvious, some people do not like having their pictures taken). Try to get pictures prior to moving the vehicles, if safe and possible to do such. If not, get pictures after. However, again, if you cannot get out of your vehicle safely (your injured or it is a very busy freeway), you should remain in your vehicle with your seatbelt on. Do not risk your life trying to get a picture!

If safe to move the vehicles discuss with all drivers your intention. Agree to move the vehicle to a safe area. Once you are in a safe area, you should work on attaining information. From the at-fault driver you will need his or her name, address, driver’s license number, and telephone number. If the driver is different from the owner of the car, establish the relationship between the owner and the driver and get similar information for the owner of the vehicle (address, telephone, etc.) From the at-fault vehicle you will need the vehicle’s insurance information (insurance company, policy number, telephone number for insurance company) plate information (license plate number and issuing state), the vehicle’s description (color, model, make, year).

From the location of the accident, you will need cross-streets, direction of travel for each vehicle, and make a note of weather conditions (rainy, dry, hot, etc.). From the event, you will need to remember the date and time of the event and a brief description of what occurred (e.g., was rear-ended). From other people, you will need names, numbers and address of witness and other occupants in the vehicle.

I recently had met an individual who was in an accident where both parties alleged they had a green light. However, there was a witness who saw the whole event and could testify as to who was at fault. The only problem, no one attained any information from the witness. No number, no name, no telephone number. By the time the police arrived, the witness left because she had things to do. The police could not determine who was at fault and it became a he-said she-said dispute. So make sure you get names, addresses and telephone numbers of any possible witnesses. If they were in a car, get a plate number and description of the vehicle. The officer may be able to identify the witness at a later time to determine what occurred.

Now, if your car can be driven, you can drive it home. If your care cannot be driven it will be towed and sometimes the police will give you a ride or help you contact a friend to provide a ride back home.

Usually, a few hours or even a day or two after, a person involved in a collision will begin to experience discomfort. Sometimes the pain is manageable with an over-the-counter medication.

However, if you are experiencing pounding headaches or severe pain, you need to seek medical attention.

I find a good personal injury attorney will have the knowhow to assist you in opening the insurance claim, filing the necessary paperwork, and attaining all the medical documentation to make a proper and fair demand for your injuries. Most attorneys will not begin to make a demand, until the full extent of your injury is known.

Some insurance companies make a “quick” settlement offer to try to persuade people to settle their case right away. For example, they may tell you that since you do not have an attorney, how about I offer you $500 for your personal injury claim. This sounds like a great idea.

However, it may take a few weeks for the full extent of your injury to be known. Sometimes, a neck pain that goes away with prescription medication turns out to be a herniated cervical disc requiring a future surgery. And you just settled for $500. Not smart.

DO NOT GIVE RECORDED STATEMENTS WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY PRESENT. I cannot tell you how many times, people say things in recorded statements that are misinterpreted by the insurance adjusters. One time, a client stated she was “rushing” to get her child to work and the adjuster argued she was speeding and thus the accident was partially her fault. Luckily for my client, she was rear-ended. Thus, if she was speeding (which she was not), the at-fault driver was speeding at a much faster rate. Adjusters are sometimes too busy looking for reasons not to pay, to take the time to make sure it is a valid reason.

I will be brief and try to explain what happens once a claim is established. It is the responsibility of the injured party to show proof of the injury. Thus, although sometimes people are hurting and they take a day or two off work and they take over-the-counter pills for pain for months, the insurance companies will not accept the injured persons’ statements as proof of injury. They want to see medical documentation. Thus, if you are injured, you must attain medical treatment. Sure, it would be cheaper for the insurance to consider your home-remedy and your self-treatment (massage therapy), but unfortunately, insurance adjusters want proof of injury from an independent source. Also, some insurance companies have undervalued the treatment received by a chiropractor (although in my opinion, this treatment should be welcomed in resolving automobile injuries. Thus, it is always a good idea to have an MD or a DO review your treatment.

Most people’s pains diminish after a few months of treatment. However, if you are not improving after a few months of chiropractic treatment, you should seek the assistance of a pain specialist and consider other forms of treatment. Your injuries may be more serious than you anticipated.

After you treatment is finished (whether it takes a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years, depending on the severity of your injuries), our office will work on attaining all the medical records and bills. Then a demand is made to the insurance company.

Negotiation begins usually 30 days after the demand is sent to the insurance carrier for the at- fault party. If an agreement is reached, the case will be settled and all the providers will be paid from the settlement funds. If a settlement cannot be reached, then the case is filed in court. I find some insurance companies, such as GEICO, give very small settlement offers (usually medicals plus $500) and thus the case will generally require filing. Other insurance companies are a bit more fair and the case resolves.

Either way, although our office always tries to resolve matters expeditiously, we also weigh other factors such as whether you are back to the same pre-accident condition and whether you have been fully and fair compensation for your injuries and pain/suffering as a result of the collision before agreeing to settle. Thus, this is not a fast process.

Automobile Accidents are horrible. Not only for the pain/suffering involved. But the process is not easy. You should consider hiring a personal injury attorney who will make this process easier for you.