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.” A car accident occurred, T-bone, rear-end, whatever the case may be, and they really don’t know what to do so, and so I want to spend a few minutes here as I talk to you from my office giving you some ideas about what to do if you were injured in an automobile accident, and you have a claim that you’d like to bring. So there are a few things to keep in mind.
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 pictures 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, and that’s very helpful, but 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 take pictures from several different angles because a lot of times because a picture is a static image, and it’s a two-dimensional image, sometimes it’s very difficult to assess the damage just by looking at it in, from one angle. If you’re taking a look at a vehicle with your own eyes you have three-dimensional ability, and you can, you can kind of assess the damage a little bit better.
So if you’re taking a photograph, make sure to take photographs from several different angles so that you’d 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 and 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 are very, very helpful.
Also, you want to make sure that you provide your lawyer with all of the auto insurance information. We need, as your attorneys, we need to know your policy number, what insurance company you had, whether your insurance was in force at the time of the accident and also what kind of coverage you had in your insurance policy, and 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 called 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, and 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 that 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.
Many times that will be on the police report. Speaking of which, very important, if there is a police report, please provide it to your lawyer. It’s going to have a lot of important information in there, sometimes insurance information, also the officer’s opinion about the responsible party, sometimes there is information in there about witnesses, the severity of the impact, and how the accident occurred. So the police officer’s report, which by the way, is not the definitive answer, if you will, as to who is at fault, 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.
Another thing that you can think about is property damage estimates. If your car has been damaged, make sure you get a property damage estimate for your vehicle, maybe even two. Take it to a shop, a dealership, wherever you want to take it and make sure you get a detailed property damage estimate because sometimes people say, “Well it was a total loss.” Well, a total loss is fine that helps me a little bit, but a total loss doesn’t really mean much except that the value of the car was less than what it cost to fix the car. So if you have a $1,000.00 vehicle, and you have $1,500.00 worth of damage to that vehicle, which isn’t very difficult to do by the way, you might have a total loss. But that doesn’t really tell the attorney anything about what exactly was damaged in the automobile accident.
Your property damage estimate is very helpful because it’ll show whether there was a any frame damage, any damage to the doorframe, any damage to the axle of the vehicle, wheel alignment issues, etc., bumper support structures. Those kinds of things, those kinds of bits of information in a property damage estimate can be very helpful to the attorney when they’re advocating for you. So even if you’ve been told, “Oh, it’s a total loss,” see if you can get a property damage estimate nevertheless. Sometimes your own insurance company will provide with a detailed analysis of what was damaged in the accident, and of course, it’s unlikely, but if you have a property damage estimate from the other party, provide it to your lawyer as well.
Also, you should get medical care right away. Don’t wait around hoping that you’re going to feel better. Sometimes people try to tough it out, and all they’re doing is hurting their own case because the longer you wait from the date of the accident to when you first seek medical treatment, the longer you wait the more the responsible party, the insurance company for the responsible party, is going to doubt whether you had any injuries at all. So make a list of all the doctors that you go to and make sure that you seek medical care right away even if you just make sure you’re all right because if you wait too long, they will doubt whether or not you were injured. And also, every time you go to the doctor after an automobile accident, make sure you mention to the doctor why you’re there. I have many clients they go to the doctor and they say, “Oh, my back hurts or my neck hurts,” or something like this, and the doctor provides care, but they never mention to the doctor that it was because of an automobile accident, and as a result, the absence of that information, some insurance adjusters will take a look at that and say the absence means that it wasn’t related to the car accident. You were there for some other reason. So you want to make sure you always provide your healthcare providers with the information that is relevant to the matter so that it ends up in your medical file.
Also, when you go to the doctor, make sure that you mention everything that bothers you. Start from the head and make your way down even if you’re not terribly sure, make mention of it to the doctor because sometimes some people try to tough it out and they don’t mention their back because, “Oh, it, I don’t want to trouble the doctor or, or I don’t want to trouble the physical therapist,” but the problem is that all they’ve done is hurt their own case because once again, the absence of information in medical records, as far as some insurance adjusters are concerned, the absence of information means it never happened. So make sure that you always are very mindful of what you are telling your healthcare professionals, and plus the healthcare professional wants all the information so they can provide you with the best care.
Finally, if there were any witnesses to the accident, make sure that provide that information to your attorney. Sometimes the witness information is in the police report, but sometimes it’s not. Any passengers in your vehicle might also be witnesses to the accident. So once again, it’s very important to provide your lawyer with more information than less. Some people go to the lawyer and they sign up with the attorney and they think everything’s going to happy magically. Not quite. We still need assemble information because remember, insurance companies don’t pay out of the goodness of their heart. I mean of course there are always very nice adjusters and in many cases, they’re trying to do the best job they can, but they don’t write you a check just for fun. They need to have evidence. They need to have information, and so you need to provide that information to your lawyer so your lawyer can advocate for you.
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by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,