Many prospective clients who call my office have no idea what to provide to their lawyer when involved in a car accident. I try to explain to clients that I need all the “pieces of the puzzle” because I’m not a psychic. I’m not going to magically get copies of your hospital bill, and I’m not going to magically have photos of the damage to your vehicle or your injuries, etc. I need the client’s help in obtaining these materials.
Here is a list of what I encourage my clients to bring to the first meeting.
Here is a list of everything I need to help you with your case:
ALL Photographs depicting damage to your vehicle. If you don’t have any photos, please try your best to take some. Photos should capture the damage from several angles. Digital pictures are best and can be delivered to us by email and/or disc. If your insurance company took photos, please ask them to get you those pictures as well. If you are already our client, you can have your insurance company send the photos directly to our office. It’s your file, so you are entitled to the photos.
ALL photographs depicting damage to any other vehicles involved in the accident.
Your auto insurance information (name, address, policy numbers and claim numbers if available). If you have the “Declarations Page” showing evidence of insurance covering the date of the accident, that is best. This page outlines the important information including policy number, amount of coverage, etc. If you don’t have it, please call your insurance company and ask them to fax it to us.
Insurance information of all other parties. Including insurance name, policy numbers if known, claim number if known, adjuster, address, etc.
Property damage estimates (if available). Even if your car was a “total loss,” it is often helpful to obtain a good property damage estimate that outlines all the parts of your car that were damaged. Frame damage and other significant entries on your property damage estimate can affect your case.
Any and ALL doctors and facilities with whom you have treated. Please provide all contact information (names, phone numbers, addresses, etc). Make sure that whenever you initially go to a doctor for treatment related to this accident, you MUST tell the doctor’s office you are there because of the accident. If you don’t mention the accident, some insurance adjusters will doubt whether the treatment was accident-related.
Please let us know if you have ever been a Medicare recipient. Also, please provide us with your health insurance information.
Police report (if available). If you have the police report number, we can order the police report for you. If you already have the police report, please provide a copy. If there was no police report prepared, please let us know that as well.
Were there any witnesses? If yes, we will need their contact information.
Once you provide your lawyer with this information, he/she will be better able to represent you. They need all the pieces of the puzzle if they are going to paint a picture for an insurance adjuster.
If you don’t have any health insurance, you can still get medical treatment after a serious car accident. Some doctors are willing to work on something called a “lien” which means the doctor is willing to provide you with treatment so long as you promise to pay the doctor at the end of your case.
Usually, your attorney will be involved because most doctors aren’t willing to make this arrangement unless you have a lawyer representing you. You will have to sign something called a “lien form” and your lawyer will also sign. Keep in mind, usually your doctor’s bills will be paid out of the settlement proceeds from the accident. However, it’s important to be mindful of your expenses nevertheless because you don’t want to dig a hole that’s too deep to get out of. For example, if you incur $10,000 in medical bills but the other party wasn’t insured or only had the minimum required insurance policy, then you may be in trouble.
Also, keep in mind that in most cases, the doctors expect to be paid regardless of the outcome of your case. Therefore, if you lose the case or choose not to pursue it further for one reason or another, your doctor can technically force you to pay. Some doctors routinely take their personal injury patients to small claims court to recover on bills.
Don’t be fooled that personal injury case only have an upside…that you can’t lose. A good lawyer should be able to guide you when it comes to these kinds of decisions. If you need an experience personal injury lawyer in the Santa Clarita, CA area, please call my office for a free consultation. In most cases, it’s better to act sooner than later.
I used to work for the insurance companies as a defense attorney so I defended personal injury cases for many, many years all the way through trial, everything from soft tissue injuries to brain injury cases and everything in between. Now I spend my time representing victims of personal injury accidents. Sometimes clients call my office and they say, “Rob, I was involved in a personal injury accident. I really don’t know what to do.” The first thing to do is take photographs to document all the property damage.
First things first, make sure that you take photographs of every vehicle that was involved in the accident. If you have the energy at the scene of the accident, and you have a camera or perhaps a cell phone that has a camera, a camera in it, take picture…but not only of your vehicle. I have a lot of clients they bring me lots of pictures of their vehicle only, and that’s fine. However, if you can, take pictures of all the other vehicles that were involved in the accident as well.
The other thing that I would add is that you should take pictures from several different angles because a picture is a static, two dimensional image. Sometimes it’s very difficult to assess the damage just by looking at it from one angle.
So if you’re taking a photograph, make sure to take photographs from several different angles so that you better tell the story. If you don’t have photographs, it’s not terribly helpful when you’re trying to convince a jury or an adjuster or anybody else of the severity of the impact. So pictures really do tell a thousand words so, to the extent that you can, take photographs. If your vehicle has already been towed to a yard, see if you can get to that yard or have a friend or a family member go to that yard and take some pictures of your vehicle – the more the merrier. There really is no limit as to far, as far as how many pictures are good. Also, again, pictures of the other vehicle is very, very helpful.
Please make sure that you provide your lawyer with all of the auto insurance information if you’ve been involved in a car accident. Your attorney will need to know your policy number, what insurance company you had, whether your insurance was in force at the time of the accident (if not, your ability to ask for “pain and suffering” damages may be affected) and also what kind of coverage you had in your insurance policy. That information is very important because it provides us with a contact person.
Also, it’s very helpful to find out if you had something call Medical Payments Coverage. Sometimes your own insurance company will pay for your medical bills if you need to turn to them to do that. Of course you can use your own health insurance as well, and sometimes you can go to a doctor and see them on what’s called a “lien” basis. A lien basis means that the doctor will provide you with physical therapy and care, etc. if it’s appropriate, and that doctor will expect to be paid later on when you settle with the responsible party.
But anyhow, get all of your insurance information to your lawyer so when your attorney contacts your insurance company, they have all the information they need. Also, very important, make sure you have the insurance information for all the other parties involved to the extent that you can. Sometimes you’re unable to get that at the scene of the accident, and I understand that. The police report may be a helpful when searching for that information.
Many times, there will be a wealth of information about your car accident on the police report. Most of the time, the police will only come to an accident scene if there were reported injuries. If none, they will generally encourage the parties to “exchange information” and they won’t get involved. The lack of a police report may be used by the opposing insurance company as evidence there was no injury at the scene. After all, if the police did not show up, then perhaps no injuries were reported.
If the officer at the scene asks you if you were injured, you don’t want to be brave. The report, if any, will have no mention of injury. If you try to make a claim later on, then the lack of a reported injury will likely be used against you. If there is a police report, please provide it to your lawyer. It’s going to have a lot of important information in there, including insurance information, the officer’s opinion about the responsible party. Sometimes there is information regarding witnesses, the severity of the impact, how the accident occurred and much more.
The officer’s opinion regarding fault is not the gospel truth about liability, but it’s helpful, and it’s one of the pieces of the puzzle that will be very helpful to your lawyer. Sometimes you won’t have the police report. Instead you will have a police report card that the officers give you at the scene and it will have the police report number on it. Give that to your lawyer so they can secure the police report from the responsible agency. Also sometimes officers take photographs at the scene of the accident and your attorney can obtain those as well.
Remember the police report is only part of the puzzle your lawyer will use to form a complete picture regarding your automobile accident. If you have a car accident in the Santa Clarita area, including Valencia, Saugus, Newhall, Canyon Country, Castaic, Stevenson Ranch, Palmdale or Lancaster and beyond, call personal injury lawyer Robert Mansour for a candid appraisal of your injury case.
If you are involved in a car accident, you may have injuries that require attention. Make sure you seek medical care as soon as possible. When it comes to paying for that care, you have some options.
First, you could turn to your own health care insurance company to pay for that care. Second, you could ask the insurance company for the responsible party to pay. However, in most cases, they won’t pay until after you are finished with your treatment. In all likelihood, your doctor won’t be ok with that. After all, the doctor has a business to run.
Third, you may have Medical Payments Coverage (MPC) available under your own auto policy. If so, that usually covers your immediate medical bills fairly quickly. Usual coverage provides anywhere from $2000 to $5000 in coverage. In some cases, this is a great resource, especially if you don’t have health care coverage. If you do have health care coverage, your MPC may kick in after your health insurance runs out or in the event they won’t cover your medical care for some reason. Remember to discuss your situation with an attorney. There may be good reasons to choose one avenue over another.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic and surrounding communities.