The United States sees about 6 million road accidents every year. These accidents leave 3 million people injured, with more than half of these sustaining permanent injuries.
A vehicle accident can be a minor inconvenience or a life-altering event. Either way, if handled improperly it can leave you with far-reaching financial and legal consequences.
If you are involved in a vehicle accident, you need to protect your legal interests irrespective of its severity. Here are some legal tips to guide you.
1. Mind What You Say
It might not be possible to remain completely mum. However say as little as possible, and be careful about exactly what you say.
It is perfectly okay to exchange your insurance information with the other people involved in the accident. Do this calmly and without saying too much.
Issuing an apology to the occupants of the car is just good manners, right? Wrong!
In an accident, while you could be apologizing for causing an inconvenience or out of politeness, it might be taken as an admission of guilt.
This exposes you to a myriad of unpleasant issues.
2. Get a Medical Check-Up
This is something you have to do even if you feel fine physically.
Sometimes, traumatic situations trigger the brain to release endorphins and adrenalin which delay your pain sensations.
Hours or days later, when you have calmed down, pain and discomfort settle in.
At times if you were alone in the car, you may momentarily black out and come to. This might be indicative of a concussion or a closed head injury. You can never be sure of what transpired and how it affected your body.
For this reason, it’s important to see a doctor immediately and have them check you out for possible injuries.
3. Make a Report with Your Insurer
Most insurers stipulate a time period when you should report an accident. Comply with your insurer’s stipulations by reporting your accident as soon as possible.
You can call them from the scene and have the police officer brief them on the accident. Depending on your emotional state and physical injuries, a police officer might be better equipped to give more accurate information than yourself.
As soon as you can, you can inquire about the benefits available to you from your insurer. Some common benefits are car repair, wage loss, medical bills, and car rentals.
If the accident was not your fault, redeeming these benefits should not raise your premiums.
4. Take Photos of the Vehicle Accident Scene
As soon as you are able to, take photos of the accident scene. Be sure to capture any damage to your car and injuries on your person.
If there are any skid marks, makes sure to capture these as well, in addition to the other driver’s plates.
You can even email and attach these photos to your insurer minutes after the accident. This is if they allow this mode of communication.
This evidence will come in handy if you are being sued, more so if the authorities fail to show up at the scene.
5. Call the Police
Whether it’s a fender bender or something more serious, you should call 911. If the other driver drives off from the scene, still call and wait for the police to arrive.
Whenever possible, remain in your car with the hazard lights on until the police arrive. If the accident was in the middle of the road, you can move your car off the road to give way to other motorists.
When the investigative office arrives at the scene, give them the information you have. If you are generally forgetful, use the time before an officer arrives to document the events leading up to the accident.
If you forget or are unsure about some details, that is okay. However, refrain from filling in what you have forgotten with estimations and assumptions.
While you might make assumptions in good faith, your insurer could use this information to deny paying your claim.
6. Avoid Signing Anything
Do not agree to sign anything from your insurer or any other parties without consulting a lawyer first.
If they offer any settlements, they are likely to be on the lower side of what you should likely get. Read more here.
You might be adding up the medical bills, piling utility bills and loss of wages and thinking that taking any offer is a good offer. This is not necessarily true.
Engaging a lawyer is your best bet of getting your rightful settlement.
7. Do Not Allow Recorded Statements
Lawyers across the board dissuade their clients from giving verbal recorded statements.
Therefore, do not issue one to your insurer or any other parties.
You might not be at fault, but such statements are open to interpretation. They also open up the possibility to be twisted and used against you.
8. Document Everything
Through this process, ensure to document everything relating to the car accident. File the photos you take at the crime scene, doctor’s report, test results, prescriptions and any other important pieces of information.
Similarly, document any time you have to take off work or from your business. If you decide to make a claim against the other driver, this information will come in handy.
9. Seek Legal Advice Early
As much as possible, look for an attorney as early on in this process as possible.
Considering that you might be still in shock after your ordeal, you might be lost on what to do after an accident.
For this reason, you need someone that can make decisions in your best interest. You also need someone to represent your interests.
Depending on its severity, the period after a vehicle accident will see you mostly focusing on getting back on your feet. This can be physically, mentally or financially.
If ever there is a time you need support, this is it.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by it all? Check out this post to learn the importance of asking and accepting help during such trying times.