After working for an insurance company for over 13 years as a defense lawyer, I opened my own practice, this time representing victims of car accidents.
One of the biggest questions I get all the time is this: “I’ve been involved in a car accident. What should I be doing?”
Here is a list of things to do after an auto accident.
1) If you are still at the scene of the accident, and if you believe that you’ve been injured (even in the slightest), insist on obtaining a police report. There are several reasons to ask for a police report from the investigating officer. First, it documents the event, making it less likely the other party will change their story later on. Second, a police report documents your injury (the officer will usually as if you are hurt. You must tell them if you are so they can document your injury in their report) which lends credibility to a subsequent injury claim. In my experience, when there is no police report, the other party changes their story in some way, sometimes drastically, about 50% of the time. If there are any witnesses who favor your version of the events, try to get their contact information.
2) Make sure you act quickly in getting medical attention for your injuries. Not only is it the smart thing to do for your health, but delays in treatment will be used against you by most insurance adjusters. They generally argue that delays in treatment are evidence that the injury wasn’t serious. In other words, if you had serious or appreciable injuries, you would have sought treatment. Therefore, by not getting treatment, you must not be injured!
3) Make sure you take extensive photographs of all vehicle damage, not only photos of your vehicle but also of the other vehicles involved in the accident. These days, most people have phones that are capable of taking photos. Therefore, you might even be able to take photos at the scene of the accident. Also, don’t just take one photos. Taking many photos of your car from several angles and distances will help document the extent of damage to your vehicle. Also, while your vehicle may not look so bad, the other vehicle might have extensive damage. A picture tells a thousand words. Describing the damage to your vehicle simply doesn’t have the same effect as showing someone. Remember, if you make a claim in the future, the insurance adjuster is going to make every effort to minimize your claim. Photos of extensive damage can help persuade an adjuster otherwise.
4) Take photos of any and all injuries you may have sustained (even if it is slight bruising, cuts or scrapes). Take them in different lighting situations and from different angles. Sometimes injuries don’t show up well in photographs, so you want to make sure the injury photos are decent.
5) Gather all insurance information, not only regarding the person who caused the accident, but also your policy. Get the other person’s policy number, insurance company, and vehicle information. Make sure you also get their address. Also, get your insurance information and a copy of your “Declarations Page” which has a summary of the coverage you have available. There is a 25% the party at fault either didn’t have insurance or didn’t have enough insurance. In that case, you want to make sure you have Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM Coverage).
6) Get a property damage estimate. An estimate will usually reveal all the parts of the care that were damages. Sometimes there can be extensive damage that isn’t easily visible, especially frame damage. When there isn’t a lot of cosmetic damage to a vehicle, a showing of frame damage can help persuade an insurance adjuster that an impact was relatively significant.
7) If you get treatment from any medical providers, mention every single thing that bothers you from the accident, even if it doesn’t bother you much anymore. Keep in mind insurance companies are using software to analyze your case. If something isn’t documented in your medical records (including any and all complaints), then it simply won’t be inputted into the computer by the insurance adjuster. Remember, if something isn’t in your medical records, it’s like it never happened. I tell clients to pretend the insurance adjuster is sitting on their shoulder like a parakeet during their doctor visits and therefore they need to be very aware of what they tell their health care providers.
Don't give recorded statements to insurance adjusters until you've spoken with a personal injury attorney. Make sure you know all your rights. A good personal injury lawyer can also educate you about your options. For example, while you might think you have a great case, the attorney may think differently. Also, in some cases, a good lawyer might explain that you are better off without an attorney’s help. A good lawyer will also tell you of strengths and weaknesses in your case. An initial consultation is usually free of charge. Call (661) 414-7100 to see if we can help with your case.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic and surrounding communities.