There are over 250 million registered passenger vehicles in the U.S. For most of us, driving our car or truck is an everyday occurrence. Unfortunately, it is likely that at some point you or someone you know will be involved in a motor vehicle accident.
If the accident is caused primarily by the fault of the other driver, you may have a claim against that driver and his or her insurance company. Your claim may include amounts not only for vehicle damage and medical bills, but also for any pain and suffering, disability, future medical bills, and lost or diminished earnings.
If you’re ever involved in an accident, here’s what you should do:
- STOP. Never drive away from the scene of an accident, even a minor one. The vehicles involved in the accident should remain where they are, unless they interfere with traffic.
- CALL THE POLICE. Even if no one is injured, it’s a good idea to call the police. You may need a police report to file a claim with your insurance company, even if it is just to make a claim for damage to your vehicle.
- TELL WHAT HAPPENED, BUT DON’T GUESS. When the police arrive, make sure you tell the investigating officer(s) exactly what happened, to the best of your ability. If you do not know certain facts, tell that to the officer. Do not speculate or guess as to what may have happened. If you are asked if you are injured and you are not sure, tell them you are not sure instead of just saying no. Sometimes the pain and injuries from motor vehicle accidents only become apparent hours after the actual collision.
- TAKE PICTURES. With the advent of smartphones, you may already have a camera with you. Use it!! Take pictures of the vehicles if there is visible damage. If you have visible injuries, photograph them as well. Also photograph the accident scene, the vehicles’ positions, and any debris if possible.
- GET INFORMATION REGARDING THE PARTIES, THEIR INSURANCE, AND THE WITNESSES. If police respond to the accident, they will typically obtain this information. However, if the police do not respond or are late in responding, you should obtain the name, address and telephone number of all drivers and passengers involved in the accident. You should also obtain insurance information by asking to see the insurance card for each vehicle involved in the accident, and copying the insurance company’s name and policy number. Finally, it is crucial to get witness information. Ask all witnesses for their names, addresses, and telephone numbers so that they can be contacted in the future.
- REPORT THE ACCIDENT TO YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY. Most policies require you to notify your insurance company as soon as possible after your accident. Find out if you have medical benefits (referred to as “medpay”) as part of your insurance coverage. You pay extra for medpay, so you should use it. If you have medpay coverage, you will be required to submit your accident-related medical bills to your insurance company. Medpay coverage is the first source of insurance funds that should be used for accident-related medical bills. If you have it, it is usually available to all vehicle occupants. Once medpay benefits are exhausted, your health insurance company becomes the primary source of insurance funds for payment of your medical bills.
- SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION IF YOU THINK YOU MAY NEED IT. Often, injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents are not immediately apparent. Most people injured in a car accident feel the most pain a day or two afterward. Unless you are absolutely certain you were not injured, you should seek medical attention at your local emergency room or by seeing your family physician.
- PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS. In order to protect your claim and maximize your recovery from the at-fault driver, you should consult an attorney who is experienced in representing vehicle accident victims. Your attorney can protect your rights, locate witnesses, and make sure valuable evidence is not destroyed.
Often, insurance companies want to take statements immediately after an accident. It is important that you have received legal advice before providing such a statement. Your attorney may want to be present with you when you give the statement.
You may have medical bills that are not covered by your insurance. Your attorney may be able to make arrangements with your medical providers so that payment can be delayed until after you recover from the at-fault party or their insurer.
Here at Kittelsen, Barry, Wellington, Thompson & Schluesche, S.C., we’ve been representing accident victims for over 50 years. We know how to deal with insurance companies, medical providers, and all of the other parties and issues that arise in the course of an accident claim. We protect our clients’ rights and fight to make sure our clients recover all the compensation that they are entitled to.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident because of someone else’s fault, please contact us. We offer a free, no obligation initial consultation and you won’t pay us any attorney’s fees unless we recover for you.