If you or someone close to you has suffered injury in an auto accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation. But before you think about that, your first priority should be your physical well-being. Be sure to get the medical attention you need, so your injuries will be promptly treated, and you can get on the road to recovery. Once your medical condition has been addressed, it is very important to protect your legal rights.
There are several steps that you should take at the scene of a car accident and shortly thereafter in order to help ensure that you recover full and fair compensation:
Call the Police
The police should be summoned whenever there is a vehicle accident with injuries. The police will help secure the accident scene, and they will produce an official accident report, which will be relied upon heavily during any subsequent legal claim for damages. Sometimes, the 911 operator who you have called to bring an ambulance will also contact the police for you. Otherwise, call them directly and get them to the scene.
Obtain Visual Evidence
Take multiple photos of the accident scene from various angles, showing how the collision occurred. If you are not physically able to do this, have someone else who is with you take the pictures (if possible). Also, if you have a dashboard camera, remember to capture any video footage of the accident as well.
Create your Own Report
Although there will be a police report, it is also a good idea to make your own report as well. If you have a pen and paper handy, right down in as much detail as possible everything that happened while it is still fresh in your mind. If you are unable to write, use the voice recorder on your smartphone to create an audible report.
Obtain Witness Statements
If there are any individuals nearby who saw the car accident, make sure to get statements from them at the scene if possible. Memories fade over time, and witnesses can be difficult to get a hold of later on. Try to get the witnesses to provide a statement right away if you can either by video or again by using the audio recorder on your smartphone.
Be Careful What you say About the Accident
When you are interacting with the other parties involved in the accident, the police, witnesses, and later when you talk to the insurance company, be polite, but NEVER admit any kind of fault for the accident. It can be tempting to apologize even when something happened that you did not cause, but if you imply any kind of fault, this could be used against you later on to reduce the amount of compensation you are entitled to.
Along these same lines, it is a very good idea to refrain from using social media after an auto accident. Insurance company investigators spend a lot of time looking through social media profiles for any kind of information they can use against an injury claimant. This could be things you say, photos you post, or even things other people say about the accident. Even if you have strict privacy settings, all of this information is discoverable, and it could be used against you if it is uncovered or subpoenaed. The best thing to do after a car accident is suspend social media activity for a while until your legal case is over.
The Importance of Retaining Strong Legal Counsel after an Auto Accident
Following the steps mentioned above will help put you in a strong position to recover full and fair compensation from your car accident, but there is one other step that is crucial; hiring an experienced vehicle accident attorney. You may be hesitant to go down this road, because in most situations, attorneys work on a contingency basis and they will receive a percentage of the compensation recover for their fee.
This is an understandable concern, but research indicates that the average car accident settlement is 3.5 times larger with an attorney than without one. The reason for this is simple; attorneys who have extensive experience with personal injury cases know how to negotiate successfully with insurance companies and present the strongest possible arguments on behalf of their clients.
Insurance companies also know that when a claimant is working with a lawyer who has a proven track record litigating cases like these, there is a credible threat that the case might go to trial if the insurer does not make a reasonable offer. Trials are costly and time-consuming, and damage awards are unpredictable. The last thing an insurance company wants is to lose a case in litigation and pay out significantly more in damages than if they had settled the case.
Finally, working with an attorney also provides peace of mind knowing that you have an experienced advocate by your side who is looking out for your best interests. Your attorney deals directly with the other side, and they take care of all the complicated legal tasks so you can keep the focus where it belongs; on your recovery.