10 Things to do Following a Car Accident
1) Stop as soon as you can and move your vehicle only if it is safe to do so. There's no need to unnecessarily hold up all the other traffic. If the positions of the vehicles involved in the accident are important to preserve, take photos of the scene then move if it's safe to do so.
2) If anyone is injured, call 911 and inform the police. If there are no injuries, or relatively minor complaints, the police probably won't come to the scene.
3) If the accident involves a "hit and run" situation, most car insurance policies require that you inform the police within a specified period of time and to also inform your insurance company. Call your company or broker to check on those details. Otherwise, you may not be covered for the hit and run.
4) Try to get the names and addresses of all the people who were involved in the accident. Also try to obtain their driver's licence numbers and vehicle license plate numbers. These days, having a cell phone will make things much easier as you can simply take photos of plates and licenses. If you can, also take photos of any registration information. Oftentimes, the person driving a car is not necessarily the registered owner of the car.
5) Obtain names, addresses, and phone numbers of any passengers involved and any witnesses to the accident.
6) Make sure to take plenty of photos of the accident scene. Also, take several pictures showing the damage to your car. Make sure the photos you take are from several different angles and distances. Also, try to take photos of all the other vehicles involved in the accident. Sometimes, your car may not look so bad, but that's only part of the story. That's why it's important to take photos of all vehicle involved. Also, take photos of any injuries you might have.
7) Notify your insurance company and/or insurance broker of the accident. Keeping the accident a secret from your company may not be wise as many auto insurance companies require you to report accidents to them. If you don't, you might be in violation of your policy in which case you might be denied coverage should you later decide to make a claim or if a claim is brought against you.
8) If anyone involved in the accident was hurt, or if the damage to your vehicle exceeds $750, you need to notify the DMV within 10 days of the accident. This is done by filing an SR1 form. This form can be downloaded from the DMV website. The more information you have, the easier it will be to fill out the form. Ask your insurance company and/or broker for help if you need assistance.
9) If you are injured, you should get medical attention as soon as possible. Your health and well being are very important. This is not the time to be brave and stoic.
10) Consult with an experienced personal injury attorney if you want to review your legal options.
The insurance companies do not want you to call the police after an accident. There are many reasons for this. Number one, it creates a record of the event so the insurance company cannot deny later on that the accident actually happened. Yes, they do that. Believe it or not, they will sometimes deny that an accident actually occurred, or their client will say, "Hey, I wasn’t there. I have no idea what you’re talking about." They’ll deny the accident even occurred. If you have a police report, that goes a long way to establishing that the accident actually happened and who was actually there at the scene.
Also, if you complain of pain at the accident scene, the police report will often have that complaint of pain which is very good because the insurance company can no longer later on say, "Hey, you never complained of this pain before" or "You didn’t complain of pain from the accident." Well, it’s right there in the police report: Day One, complaints of pain from the accident! In fact, sometimes it’s frustrating for me because my clients don’t complain of pain at the accident scene. They complain about the pain later on, and the insurance company will use the absence of complaints at the accident against you as well. So it’s always in your best interest to tell the officer if you have any pain, even if it’s minor. Also, the police report will have important witness information and other valuable info and it’s almost always a great idea to get a police report. The insurance companies don’t really like it though.
If you need help with your personal injury case, call Santa Clarita attorney Robert Mansour at (661) 414-7100 for a consultation.
Once you get your hands on the police report after a serious accident, you should review it carefully. If there are minor errors and typographical errors, you can let those slide. However, if you notice something significant that might affect an assessment of liability or an assessment of injuries, you should consider filing a supplement. Different police authorities have different procedures to filing a supplement so you should check with them for their procedure.
Here is WHY you should consider a supplement - if you don't, the insurance company for the party at fault will use it against you. For example, they will say, "Well, if you didn't agree with the report, how come you didn't call the police and/or file a supplemental report?" Your reluctance or failure to file a supplement will be viewed by some as implied consent to the contents of the report.
I recently had a case where my client got injured on a motorcycle when another vehicle entered his lane, causing a head-on collision. Well, the police report had the other vehicle crossing the double yellow line but not quite as my client remembered it. I encouraged him to file a supplement to the report, if only to demonstrate he didn't quite agree with the officer's recitation of the facts and the diagram drawn by the officer.
How to Handle a Hit and Run Accident
If you're involved in a hit and run accident, the best thing to do is try to obtain as much evidence of the incident as you can. Talk to witnesses who may have seen the accident and get their information. Call the police and make a police report. If they won't come to the scene, have a police report prepared on a subsequent date. It is important to document the fact that this hit-and-run accident occurred. Since it was a hit-and-run accident, you can't go after that party's insurance company. Therefore, your only option will be to pursue your own "uninsured motorist" policy (aka UM Coverage). Of course, that assumes you have UM coverage available.
If you want to pursue your own insurance company's uninsured motorist policy, you will have to prove that something actually happened. Sometimes, your insurance company might be suspicious of your claim if you cannot prove that someone else caused the accident and fled the scene. A hit and run accident is often treated as though it were an uninsured motorist case - even though the other driver may have actually had insurance. After all, you were injured by someone else who for all intents and purposes doesn't have insurance available for your claim. As a result, you will have to pursue your own insurance company's policy.
You want to make sure you gather as much evidence as you can about the hit and run because the insurance companies are trained to be suspicious when comes to hit and run accidents. Believe it or not, there are some people who fake claims against insurance companies in order to collect. You don't want to be lumped in with these people!
In my experience, it's always a tough decision whether or not to get the police involved at the scene of an accident. Typically speaking, you will call the police from the scene of the accident and they will ask you whether or not anyone was injured. If there are no serious injuries, most people say, "No." Truthfully, if no one has any immediate serious injuries, the inclination might be to say "No, there are no injuries." If that is the case, the police will generally advise you just exchange information and go on your way.
However, many insurance adjusters will use the lack of police report at the scene as evidence against you if you later claim injury from the car accident. That can backfire if you discover your injury at a later date. In fact, some serious injuries can manifest themselves later on, once all the adrenaline has passed etc. Of course, you don't want to mislead the police officers into thinking you have an injury when you don't. By the same token, you don't want to be extra brave and foolish by declining police assistance at the scene if you have some possible injury. In fact, this is not the time to be brave and "suck it up." It is however time to document the injury and the accident. Again, so many insurance adjusters will use the lack of the police report against you - as evidence you were not injured since the police did not take a report. Therefore, think long and hard before you decline assistance from a police officer at the scene of accident.
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.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic and surrounding communities.