Evening the Playing Field: What to Do in a Motor Vehicle Accident
You've been in an auto collision. The impact was bad. You are shaken up. The adrenaline is running through your system. What should I do now. Should I go with EMS? Should I ask that person over there that witnessed the wreck for their phone number? I am shaking. What do I do now?!
When you are involved in a car wreck there are several common sense things that people often forget to do because of the heat of the moment after an auto collision.
1. CHECK FOR INJURIES:
First, determine if you and then anyone else in your vehicle is injured. If you are able to do so with safety, check the people in the other vehicle(s). If you or anyone else may be injured, do not decline EMS assistance (health insurance usually covers EMS charges). Furthermore, it is better to be safe and have a medical doctor check you out after a motor vehicle accident. The forces involved can be tremendous, and the adrenaline that runs through your body after a wreck sometimes will not let you feel the brunt of your injury until much later. If in doubt, chose the smart safe approach-get checked out by a doctor.
2. CALL 911:
If you have a cell phone, call 911. It is better to have the authorities investigate a collision and document their findings on a report. Police Officers will also make sure that the scene is safe for you and for other drivers. All 911 calls are recorded so do not make statements about fault to the operator because you do not know what may have been happening in the other vehicle that may have caused the collision.
3. NO STATEMENTS!
Do not make any statements regarding the facts of the wreck to anyone except to police officers who are asking questions. Also if after the collision the insurance carrier for the other person contacts you, you are NOT obligated to give a statement to them, either recorded or otherwise.
Recorded statements to insurance carriers or adjusters are taken by very skilled and trained experts. These statements are often used against you later on down the road to either minimize your damage or to place blame for the accident on you instead of on the driver who was at fault. The other person's insurance carrier is NOT ON YOUR SIDE. They are there to try to limit their exposure, especially if their insured is at fault for the accident.
Sometimes the other person's insurance carrier will tell you that they cannot give you a rental vehicle until you have given them a recorded statement. If this happens, it is best if you ask an attorney what your rights are prior to giving a recorded statement to anyone, even to you own insurance carrier. Know your rights before you submit to an expert interrogation that can cause you harm.
4. OBTAIN WITNESS NAMES AND NUMBERS:
If you are able, be sure to get the names and telephone numbers of any eye-witnesses. Eye-witnesses can be the difference between a strong case and a weak case. Also, remember, some eye-witnesses can either have seen the wreck and can tell the officers what happened while other eye-witnesses may have stopped after the collision. These eye-witnesses may be very helpful in detailing evidence of your injuries and other damages later on down the road when the issue of your damages is front and center with the other side's insurance carrier.
5. CAMERAS AND PHOTOGRAPHS:
I advise my clients, friends, and family to keep a disposable camera in the glove box of their car. Insurance companies are afraid of well-told stories. Photographs of the scene of the collision or the position of the vehicles (if they can be taken safely!) help us tell your story and help us present your case much more effectively than if we did not have the photographs. Document and preserve evidence. You will be glad later on that you did.
6. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS:
More and more these days, insurance carriers are not going to tell you your rights when you call them to make a claim. They are going to try to pin you down with an expert interrogator in order to minimize your damages or to turn the tide of facts against you regarding fault for the collision. It is crucial that you know your rights and that you know what you are entitled to before you proceed with making a claim.
Common sense sometimes get thrown out the window in the heat and emotion of a motor vehicle accident. Your body's production of adrenaline helps protect you physically, but can skew your rational thinking process. If you remember the tips above, you will be well on your way to being able to relax and recover from any injuries that you have unfortunately received due to a car wreck.
© Leonard B. Gabbay, Attorney 2005