Car Accident Do’s:
1.Take Pictures. Take pictures of all cars involved in the accident as soon as possible after the collision. Take pictures from multiple angles and multiple distances. Take pictures of the roadway, any skid marks and any debris on the roadway. Take pictures of applicable street signs such as stop signs, no-turn signs, traffic lights etc. If you have bruising, cuts, scrapes, or abrasions, take pictures of them every day until they go away.
2. Get the Names of Witnesses.Independent witnesses could be your only way of proving who was at fault for the car accident. The insurance company will almost always claim that you were at fault, or at least partially at fault. Get the witnesses’ name, address, and telephone number at the scene if possible.
3. Hire the Right Lawyer, Right Away. “Choosing the right lawyer is no accident.” Just because a law firm has lots of billboards and television commercials, does not mean they are the right lawyer for your claim. You have the right to know your lawyer’s education, training and experience. You have the right to have a lawyer acting for your best interests. Remember, as soon as an accident happens, insurance companies start working on the claim. You should too! More importantly, lawyers have the ability to serve notices on insurance companies and their clients to preserve evidence from the vehicles involved in an accident. Many vehicles today have computers that record speed and other data which can be crucial evidence in car accident cases. If you retain a lawyer right away, the chances of securing this evidence is increased. Do not get behind the eight ball because the insurance company will not be.
4.Go to the Right Doctor, Right Away. Don’t delay. Timely documentation of your injuries is critical. Not all doctors are created equal. Most doctors are excellent clinicians and do wonderful work for their patients. However, not all doctors know how to properly handle and document treatment arising from a car accident. Many primary care physicians who routinely handle colds, checkups, cholesterol monitoring, and other general medical treatment, in my experience, are often ill-equipped to handle car accident injuries. There are many doctors who specialize in treating people who have been injured in car accidents. Those doctors include chiropractors, orthopedics, neurologists, and pain management specialists. It is preferable if you have suffered injuries as a result of a car accident that you have a doctor whose practice is a blend of car accident injuries and managed care.
5. File a Police Report. Sometimes the at-fault driver will ask you not to call the police. They will encourage you to try to deal with the collision without getting the authorities involved. Do not listen to them; always call the police! Insurance companies treat car accidents without a police report as minor and thus not worthy of a reasonable settlement. Protect yourself not the person who hit you. What seems like a minor fender bender may turn out to be more serious as whiplash type injuries take hours and sometimes even days to manifest. If you have not reported the accident, its very occurrence can become a case of he said/she said.
6.Take Notes. As a lawyer I love note takers. Time causes everyone’s memory to fade, if you keep notes as things happen it will be easier to refer to those later, when it is necessary to recall important events and circumstances. Take notes often and regularly starting from the very beginning. If the person who caused the car accident apologizes or admits his wrongdoing to you in the moments after the crash, if possible write down their words there and then. A person’s apology or admission of fault can be used against him or her in the future. Write it down as close to the event as possible. In addition, document your injury and how it affects you. Note the things you cannot do or that you have to do differently because of your injury. Note the medications you are taking for pain and how often. Keep a diary and track your injuries as they progress.
Car Accident Don’ts:
1. Don’t Give a Recorded Statement to the Insurance Company. Many insurance companies will try to get you to give them a recorded statement about the facts surrounding the car accident. Do not do it! Do not do it ever! They will initially appear genuinely concerned for your well being. They are not! What you say in a recorded statement in the days and weeks after a car accident will be forever written down and available for the insurance company to use against you in the future. Insurance adjusters are highly skilled and trained to ask questions that will benefit them, not you. My best advice when you get that call is to be polite, refrain from giving a statement and refer them to your lawyer. Once you have a lawyer, insurance companies are not allowed to contact you directly.
2.Don’t Settle without Consulting a Lawyer.Many insurance companies will offer you a few hundred dollars for the “inconvenience” you were caused by their insured. They will try to do this early. Often times before your injury has even been treated fully. Do not take it! If you agree to take such an offer – the insurance company will require you to sign a release that will prevent you from recovering money for your injuries in the future- even if those injuries worsen or turn out to be something other than was initially thought. What if you settle and three months later your doctor tells you, your injury is going to necessitate a surgery and three months off work. You’ve already settled your claim and you cannot now go back to the insurance company asking for compensation for this unexpected surgery and lost wages. Releases are worded carefully by trained lawyers acting for the insurance companies. They will never benefit you. Insurance companies have lawyers working to protect them – you should too!
3. Don’t Stop Going to the Doctor. You should continue going to the doctor as long as your doctor recommends that you continue treating. Significant gaps in treatment, missing doctor’s appointments, failing to undergo recommended procedures, and failing to take prescribed medications will reduce the value of your claim. Life gets in the way and we all have responsibilities and obligations and going to physical therapy three times a week, is certainly frustrating and a burden, but it is necessary to follow all of your doctor’s recommendations to the very best of your abilities. A negligent defendant is not obligated to pay damages to you, if the damages were caused or made worse by your failure to follow your doctor’s recommendations.
4. Don’t use Social Media. Do not post details about your car accident on your Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter feed. Also, do not post pictures of yourself in the days and weeks after a car accident until you have consulted with a lawyer. I have seen relatively innocent pictures come back to haunt my clients’ claims. For example, I once had a client signed off work by her doctor for a knee injury. During her time off work – she posted a photo of her beautiful garden filled with colorful flowers. The picture was accompanied by her post claiming that this “masterpiece” – took her “hours of hard work on my knees to perfect”. My best advice for social media and your car accident is that their paths should never cross!
Navigating the waters of a car accident claim can be very stressful and difficult, especially when you are dealing with an unexpected injury. Insurance companies are not and never will be your friend. They are not there to protect you. They have specialists working the claim from the very moment it happens. You should too! If you have or any of your loved ones have been hurt in a car accident, call the experienced lawyers at Coogan Gallagher to help you navigate the storm.