Let’s say that you have taken all of the precautions above, but you are still in a wreck. What do you do? Depending on the extent of your injuries and the nature of the accident, here is a list of things you should consider doing if you are in a wreck:
- First, check yourself for injury. Next, check your passengers for injury. Also, make sure no one in the other vehicle is hurt. Call 911. If someone is injured, do not move them unless they are in danger, i.e. the car is on fire or in danger of being struck by a passing vehicle, the person is not breathing, etc.
- Understand where you are and make sure others can see you and your car. Move your car if doing so would be safer.
- If you are injured, then you should seek medical care as soon as possible. You should do your best to follow your doctor’s advice. Your failure to seek medical care and follow your doctor’s advice could be very bad for your health and hurt your chances of being fairly reimbursed for your injuries and other losses.
- Do not admit fault at the scene. Statements made at the scene can be used as evidence against you. There will be time later to address who was at fault. However, if the accident was your fault, you must tell the truth.
- Take photographs of the accident scene and the other vehicles, provided you are 100% positive you are not hurt. Remember that the body reacts in different ways after an accident. You may be hurt and not realize it until several days afterward.
- Call the police. Most insurance companies require a police report before settling any property or medical claims. In addition, the police will make a diagram of the accident and get everyone’s important information.
- Call your insurance company. You don’t have to call them on the day of your accident, but it’s best to do so as soon as possible. Otherwise, they may refuse to pay. An attorney can help you by talking to your insurance company. An attorney can also help you by making sure that you get the full benefits that you are entitled to according to the insurance policy.
- Never sign any papers that someone other than your attorney or the police give you unless you are 100% sure you understand what they say, their purpose, and their effect.
- Never give a statement (recorded or written) to the other driver’s insurance company. If they are requesting one, see a lawyer as soon as possible. These statements are very rarely used for your benefit even if the wreck was not your fault.
- Make sure you keep a folder with all of the information concerning the accident (such as the accident report, insurance documents, police reports, medical bills, prescriptions, and mileage log for trips to and from your doctor).
- Don’t negotiate your claim with the insurance company until you speak to an attorney. Whether you believe it or not, you can’t educate yourself enough by reading on the internet about how to settle your own insurance claim. Attorneys spend years in law school and are required to take numerous hours of legal education classes each year in order to help others. You simply cannot learn enough to properly settle your claim. Negotiation is a skill that is learned over years and based on many case experiences. You may be good at arguing, but that is not the point. You are trying to be reimbursed for your expenses.
I do have clients who have tried to negotiate their case before coming to see me only to find out they do not understand all of the legal jargon or the process. Unfortunately, by the time I talk to these people, they have usually caused irreparable damage to their case, and they have cost themselves hundreds or thousands of dollars. Here is a simple test on whether you need an attorney. Do you know what subrogation is, how it works, and why it’s important? Do you understand stacking? If you answered “No” to any of these questions, you need an attorney if you are ever in a car wreck.