Here are key measures to safeguard your rights after an auto collision.
1. Record the Incident:
Immediately following an automobile crash, several events occur. If you sustain severe injuries requiring immediate medical aid, dial 911 for prompt medical assistance. However, if you can stay at the accident site, the following steps are necessary:
2. Contact Law Enforcement:
In most places and under most circumstances, you are legally bound to inform the police after a car accident. In Georgia, for instance, any incident causing injuries or property damage exceeding $500 (OCGA §40-6-273) must be reported.
Reporting the incident is important as the officers generate an accident report detailing the sequence of events. This report constitutes the primary evidence of the collision and is required when submitting your claim for damages.
3. Avoid Confessing Fault:
While giving your statement to the police, remain truthful but avoid acknowledging responsibility. You might erroneously believe that the accident was your fault. Fault can only be decided by a court. Admitting fault prematurely may eliminate any chance of receiving a just settlement.
4. Beware of the At-Fault Driver:
The driver responsible for the accident may attempt to dissuade you from notifying the police, hoping to resolve the matter privately. This should raise suspicions.
Such drivers usually have a reason to evade the police, such as inadequate insurance, a revoked license, or a history of driving offenses. It is crucial to secure your rights by contacting law enforcement, regardless of the other driver's preferences.
5. Document the Site with Photographs:
Use your mobile or any other camera to document:
- The accident scene, including the positioning of all cars, surrounding landmarks, and all accident details.
- Injuries to yourself and any passengers.
- All vehicle damage.
Ensure the date on which the photos were taken is readily identifiable. If you lack a camera, request any bystanders to capture the images for you.
6. Engage with Eyewitnesses:
Often, other road users witness auto collisions. If there are any witnesses, engage with them and obtain their contact details. The more eyewitnesses supporting your claim, the stronger it becomes. Your auto collision attorney will later contact them for statements while processing your case.
7. Seek Medical Attention:
If you did not require immediate medical aid at the site, ensure to consult a doctor as soon as possible. Be completely open with your doctor about any discomfort or pain. Some auto collision injuries may take time to fully reveal themselves, and early intervention can help manage pain or prevent the condition from worsening.
In addition, your medical bills, records, and doctor notes are compelling evidence in your injury claim. It is necessary to provide clear proof of these to substantiate your physical damages.
8. Follow Medical Advice:
Adhere to all medical instructions related to treatment. Do not jeopardize your settlement by disregarding your treatment plan. Insurance adjusters are adept at identifying reasons to reject your claim. If they suspect you of exaggerating your injuries, it could have an adverse effect on your entire case.
9. Document the Accident:
Maintain a diary of all you can recall about the collision. Take note of:
- How your injuries progress.
- Any interactions with the other driver or their insurer.
- Dates and times of all significant accident-related events.
- Contact details of all involved parties.
- Any other relevant information.
10. Get Your Car Assessed:
Once you have attended to your medical needs, get quotes for your car repairs from 2-3 mechanics. This gives you an estimate of your property damage.
The other driver's insurer will likely want a third-party company to assess your damage officially. However, having preliminary estimates strengthens your negotiation when discussing the value of your damages.
11. Record Your Damages:
In addition to keeping a comprehensive record of the accident, maintain a folder with all relevant documents pertaining to your damages. The following should be kept together:
- Your claim number.
- The insurance adjuster's name handling your claim.
- Medical bills.
- Receipts for vehicle repairs, car rentals, etc.
- Full contact details of all involved parties.
12. Consult a Car Accident Lawyer:
Contacting a seasoned car accident attorney should be a priority after an accident. They ensure you're on the right track towards the best possible settlement. A competent lawyer protects your rights by preventing insurers from exploiting you.
Insurance companies prioritize minimizing their payouts on accident claims. They might attempt to refuse your payments or devalue your claim. However, a car accident lawyer works for you, representing your interests throughout.
13. Be Respectful, Patient, and Professional:
Even though having legal representation is invaluable, exhibiting politeness and professionalism helps during a car accident case. It also demands patience. Unless you proceed to file a lawsuit, the insurance adjuster has the initial say on your case's outcome.
Always remain calm, respectful, and professional when interacting with the insurance company or following up on your claim. If you feel you're being mistreated or that the insurance company is intentionally stalling your claim, consult your car accident attorney. They will recognize when further action is needed.
Finally, employing an attorney can assist in building a robust auto collision claim. Remember, there's no replacement for seasoned, professional legal counsel in safeguarding your rights post-accident.