It’s an adrenaline rush. You have just been in an auto accident. Some of your immediate thoughts might be: Am I injured? Is anyone else injured? What about my vehicle? Should I move off the roadway? Should I call 911 or just exchange information with the other driver?
Knowing what to do when you have been involved in an auto accident is important. Our office provides anyone, upon request, with a small guide to keep in your vehicle’s glove box that can guide you in knowing what to do immediately after an accident has occurred. This guide booklet also has a handy compartment for your insurance card, which is very important to have close by after an accident.
First, if you are involved in an auto accident where there are any injuries, call 911. The health and safety of everyone involved in the accident should be first and foremost the most important concern. If the accident obstructs other traffic, try to warn oncoming vehicles by turning on your emergency flashers. You may need to move your vehicle if traffic is obstructed and the vehicle is drivable. Gather your Driver’s License and valid Insurance card for law enforcement. Do not leave the scene of the accident as doing so could result in you being charged with a criminal offense.
You will likely be asked to give a statement to law enforcement about the accident. This can be difficult for many reasons. Any injury you may have sustained could affect the accuracy of your statement. You may be so shook up that you give inaccurate facts. You may just not remember or did not see exactly what happened. It’s important to give the most accurate information to law enforcement and if you cannot do that for any reason, do not offer speculation. Do not admit fault even if you believe you may have been at fault. You would not want to accept fault and later determine that perhaps the other driver may have caused the accident. It is really difficult to go back and change your statement once a statement has been given to law enforcement.
Regardless of fault, you will need to contact your auto insurance company as soon as possible and inform them of the accident. They, too, will ask for a statement. You should follow the same rules while giving a statement to them as you did when you gave the statement to law enforcement. Make sure you do not sign any release or accept any payment of settlement from an insurance company without first seeking advice from an attorney and fully understanding what you are agreeing too. Too often, insurance companies will try to get you to enter into a quick settlement, releasing them from any further obligation to pay out on a claim. This can result in you ending up with unpaid medical bills, unpaid property damage costs, and uncompensated pain and suffering. Even in cases where you are dealing with your own insurance company, as opposed to the carrier of the other driver, you need to be careful. You want to make sure you understand what benefits are available to you through your own auto insurance as well as understanding if you may have a claim against the other driver.
Finally, the most important advice I give to my clients who have been injured in an auto accident is to maintain focus on their health and wellness as well as following the advice of their physicians. An accident can be extremely stressful on many aspects of your life including health, work, family and finances. One of the reasons you hire an attorney is to help relieve some of the stress you are feeling and to help you through this process while looking out for your best interests. Having an attorney on your side should make you feel at ease and allow you to concentrate on the treatment you are receiving for your injuries and getting back to feeling good again. That is how I want every client to feel.
As always, if you have any questions about your auto accident, please contact me.
© 2014 Rinke Noonan