10 STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS AFTER AN ACCIDENT
There are millions of car accidents and motorcycle accidents each year in the United States. Fortunately, most involve only property damage – damage to the vehicle as opposed to the occupants. About a third of all accidents involve personal injury to the driver or passengers.
If you are involved in an automobile accident, there are certain steps you can take to protect yourself and your legal rights. The following is a list of the top ten things you should do if you are in an automobile accident:
1. STOP AT THE SCENE: California law requires that you immediately stop at nearest safe location and take steps to identify yourself and the others persons involved. See California Vehicle Code Sections 20001 and 20002 . Make sure that you and your passengers are safe and out of the way of traffic on the roadway.
2. CALL THE POLICE: Even if there are no serious injuries you should call the police to come to the scene and prepare a Traffic Collision Report. This report will be extremely helpful in making an insurance claim whether it is for damage to your vehicle or injuries to you or your passengers. Beware that many police agencies are reluctant to prepare a Traffic Collision Report unless there is major property damage or serious injuries. You should request a report even if the officer seems reluctant.
3. MAKE A GOOD RECORD: When the police take your statement, make sure you tell the investigating officer how the accident happened. You should not speculate or guess, but be sure to tell your side of the story. Also, if you or a passenger are hurt in any way make sure the officer notes this in the Traffic Collision Report, even if you think the injuries are minor. It is not unusual for injuries to become more painful hours after the collision.
4. TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES: If you are able to do so, take lots of picture with your camera or cell phone. Include the damage to the vehicles (include a photo of each license plate), the position of the vehicles after the collision, any debris or fluid on the ground, and any relevant signs or traffic signals. If you or a passenger have any visible injuries, take photographs as soon after the collision as you can and continue to take pictures as the injuries fade over time.
5. EXCHANGE INFORMATION: Typically, the investigating police officer obtains all identifying information from the parties at the scene. If the police do not respond or refuse to take a report, be sure to get the name, address and telephone number of all persons involved in the accident, including drivers, passengers, and witnesses. You should get insurance information for each vehicle involved. It is often helpful to take picture with your camera or cell phone of the identification and insurance cards.
6. SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION: Unless you are absolutely certain you were not injured, you should seek medical attention at your local emergency room or by seeing your family physician as soon as possible. Even minor impacts can cause serious, even permanent injury, and many injuries are not apparent for many hours after a collision.
7. REPORT THE CLAIM: You should promptly report the fact of the accident to your insurance company through your agent or the company’s claim telephone number. If your car is towed and not driveable, it is important that you alert your insurer to the location of the vehicle so they can make arrangements to begin repairs or to tow the vehicle to their own yard for storage. Failure to alert your insurer may result in you being responsible for towing or storage fees that would otherwise be the responsibility of your insurer. You should delay giving a statement to your insurer before consulting with a personal injury attorney.
8. CONSULT A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY: Whenever you have been in an accident, you should consult with a local personal injury attorney. Your attorney can help you with arrangements to get your car repaired, secure a rental car while repairs take place, negotiate with the insurance company if your car is totaled. If you are injured, your attorney can assist with identifying and using all benefits that are available. Many policies have coverage for medical costs, loss of income, and other benefits that need to be claimed and are not automatic. You should definitely consult your attorney before giving any statements to any insurance company whether it is yours or the other driver’s insurer.
9. DON’T NEGOTIATE WITH INSURANCE COMPANIES WITHOUT HELP: Remember that insurance companies are in the business of saving money, not taking care of injuries and damages. They rarely do the right thing unless made to do so by your attorney. If you injured in an auto accident, you should be represented by a local personal injury attorney who can advise you on issues ranging from how to make sure you are fully compensated for your vehicle to how to make sure you are getting the best medical treatment available. Personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means there is no legal fee unless the attorney recovers compensation for your injuries.
10. KEEP A COMPLETE FILE: Make sure you retain all accident-related documents, photographs, and information in a file for later reference. Your file should include all rental car receipts, medical bills and records, and any correspondence or e-mails to or from insurance adjusters.
Accidents happen, even to careful drivers. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, a motorcycle accident, a bicycle accident, or any other injury accident, you should be represented by an experienced personal injury attorney to protect your rights and secure the maximum compensation and benefits for your injury.
Contact the Law Offices of Kevin McConnell to speak with a Santa Rosa personal injury attorney today. We provide a free, confidential, no-obligation consolation in every case. We handle every personal injury case on a contingent fee basis–you pay nothing until and unless we win your case. We will advance all necessary costs to pursue your case. We can arrange for complete medical care even if you have no medical insurance.
Call the Law Offices of Kevin McConnell at (707) 696-8800 or visit our website for your free consultation today. We are a Santa Rosa law firm serving the people of Sonoma County for more than three decades.