If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident, the following are some “do’s and don’ts” to help protect you or your love one’s right to a legal remedy for harm suffered. For the average young professional, when the monotonous 5-day working weeks are interspersed by a long weekend, the perfect opportunities to embark on a long drive surfaces. In our country, summer is synonymous with long trips via road. Summer is also a time when traffic is at its peak and there is greater chance of occurrence of accidents, be it minor or major. The thumb rule to stay safe on the roads is to drive in a defensive manner. However, there are certain incidents that cannot be avoided by even the most seasoned driver. In case you are involved in such an accident where you are not completely at fault, then there are certain things you should bear in mind to avoid making a potentially costly mistake.
Maybe it’s high time we re-evaluated what proper crash etiquette entails, and why as drivers, we all have a responsibility to watch out for our fellow travelers. Too many times have we watched the news only to hear of some poor soul being struck by an oncoming car at the scene of an accident. After a collision, most people go into fight or flight mode, and since they typically aren’t thinking clearly due to shock, common sense doesn’t always come into play right away. So in order to prevent a bad situation from turning worse, these things you should never do after an automobile accident.
While there are endless other considerations that can be factored into traffic incidents, there’s a lot to be said for keeping a level head. Remembering these things could make all the difference in the world. Car accidents can be traumatizing, throwing the people involved for a loop. No matter how long one has been driving or how old he/she is, the experience can cause a lot of anxiety. In the wake of an accident, it is important to know what you should be doing (and what you shouldn’t) so that you stay safe as far as your car insurance claim is concerned.
• Don’t leave your car in the road: There’s a reason there are road signs instructing drivers to pull over to the side of the road if no serious injuries occur after an accident. Putting it in park and hopping out into oncoming traffic to inspect the damage is about as foolhardy as it gets. So if you want to keep yourself off the fatality list, move your vehicle to an area that is out of the flow of traffic and call the cops.
• Forget fleeing the scene: Backing into parked cars, clipping quarter panels in parking lots, and swiping off side mirrors are collisions that often go unreported at least until someone returns to their vehicle and realizes that it’s been bludgeoned. Don’t run the risk of a camera or someone nearby recording your plate. You’ll probably end up being forced to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket, with the potential of community service and driver school looming in the foreground. Always take responsibility for your actions, and try to avoid being that guy.
• Attempting to clean up is foolhardy: Good intentions be damned. The cops or wrecking crew will come and clean up the mess regardless of what happens. Putting your life on the line in order to clear some debris out of the road will only make a rough situation worse.
• Never neglect to call 911: This goes hand-in-hand with fleeing the scene. Regardless of how small the incident may be, if there is noticeable damage or pieces of a vehicle lying in the road, the authorities need to be notified. Not reporting a collision in some states can also be counted as an offense. So unless you like the way handcuffs feel outside of the privacy of your motel room, we would suggest you phone the fuzz. Furthermore, an official police report helps establish clarity and accountability.
• Don’t assume aches and pains are just bruises: Playing it cool and acting like that neck injury is no big deal may save you a hospital visit and a healthy amount of paperwork right after an accident, but it’s still advisable to consult a physician and get checked out right away. You don’t want a little whiplash and a mild migraine to turn into a debilitating issue.
• Try not to ignore others: Sometimes common courtesy and watching out for your fellow man is all it takes to help turn a bad situation around. Once everyone is safely over to the side of the road, pick up your phone and call the cops. Then go check on the other driver, while staying as far away from traffic as possible in order to keep yourself safe and from ending up as just another statistic. Remember, we’re all in this mess together, and the ability to save another human’s life can often be determined by immediate action.
• Avoid being confrontational: Getting aggressive and confronting the other parties involved in an accident (whether it’s their fault or not) will only make matters worse. You already have a hell of a lot of red tape to comb over with your insurance agent after an accident. Don’t add assault and battery charges to the mix.
• Don’t claim responsibility: Admitting guilt, regardless of whether it is your fault or not, is a foolish thing to do. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration even urges drivers to refrain from claiming responsibility, and strongly suggests waiting for the authorities to sort things out instead.
• Take photos for proof: Taking pictures of an accident is crucial for guaranteeing that you can back up your side of the story if the other party involved decides to press charges or refuses to admit guilt. Once you know everyone is alright and you’re left waiting on the authorities, take some photos of the scene and be sure to focus on how the collision came to pass if possible.
• Never hand out personal information: The only people who should be permitted to jot down your personal information are the authorities. The other party only needs to know your insurance agency’s credential and that’s it! Phone numbers, personal addresses, email accounts, and any other information that could turn a minor accident into a series of scary stalking experiences should be avoided at all costs.
• Lose your cool: A car accident can be a very upsetting experience. After a car accident, your emotions are likely running high. Do not lose your cool and become angry or upset with the other parties involved, even if the accident was their fault. Try to remain calm and see to it that you and others get help.
• Forget to document the car accident: Before leaving the scene of a car accident, you should take down as much information about the accident as possible. If you have a camera available, take pictures of the scene of the accident. Take down the names and contact information of all of the parties involved in the accident, as well as information about their insurance providers. If there were witnesses to the accident, ask them to write down a short statement about what they saw. Ask for their names and contact information. You should also take down details about the time and date the accident occurred, as well as conditions (such as rain or snow) that were present. Record license plate numbers and other important information. If you forget to document a car accident, it can be difficult to prove what happened in court should you or another party file a lawsuit. Your insurance provider will also want to know this information.
• Admit fault: You should not admit fault at the scene of a car accident or in conversation with an insurance provider afterwards. Be honest about what happened, but avoid saying things like, “It was my entire fault.” These types of statements can be used against you later by insurance companies, which will likely try to avoid paying for damage caused in the accident, or by the other parties involved in the accident, who may file a lawsuit against you.
• Neglect the aftermath: Being involved in a car accident is difficult enough, but the hard part often comes afterwards. You may have to seek medical treatment if you were hurt. You will need to contact your insurance provider, and may have to field calls from the insurance providers of the other parties involved. You may even be served with legal papers. If you neglect to follow up on these sometimes pesky tasks, things will only get worse. An experienced car accident lawyer can help you deal with the consequences and aftermath of a car accident.
• Speak to the other party’s insurance company without a lawyer: Insurance companies will try to get you to settle your claims for as little as possible. It is risky to speak with the other party’s insurance company without a lawyer. They will ask you to record a statement about what happened in the accident and may try to use your statements against you during the claims settlement process or in a subsequent lawsuit. A lawyer with experience handling car accident lawsuits can communicate directly with insurance company representatives on your behalf.
• Enter into an unfair settlement agreement: If you believe that an insurance company is trying to lowball you during the claims settlement process, do not enter into a settlement agreement. A car accident lawyer can help you better understand whether the settlement you are being offered is fair. A settlement offer may also arise in the context of a lawsuit. Do not enter into settlement negotiations, which are complicated legal discussions, without the assistance of a car accident lawyer.
• File a lawsuit on your own: You may be tempted to file a lawsuit after a car accident on your own. But this can be a risky decision, and end up costing you money in the long run. It might also result in having your suit dismissed. Most lawsuits that are brought after a car accident involve complicated legal claims. A lawyer can help you understand the legal process and will represent your interests in court.
• Decline to hire a lawyer: If you were involved in an accident where anyone was injured or serious property damage occurred, you should hire a lawyer. To learn more about the signs you should seek advice from an attorney after a car accident. Call Ascent Law LLC for this.
• Don’t Place Yourself in Danger: Do not stay in a vehicle that is burning or in a vehicle that is likely to get hit again if you can avoid it. Remove yourself from the dangerous area first to avoid further injury.
• Don’t Dispose of Evidence: When an accident victim takes his or her vehicle in for repairs, it is important for him or her not to have evidence thrown away during the process. Vehicle parts may be needed to show that a part was defective or how the vehicles collided.
• Don’t Admit Fault: When exiting your vehicle, do not apologize for the accident. Do not admit fault in any way. Also, do not tell anyone that you believe you caused the accident as such information could be used as an admission against you.
• Don’t Agree to a Recorded Statement without Counsel: Before you agree to make a recorded statement to your insurer, contact a personal injury lawyer. Once your statement is recorded by the insurance company, you are often stuck with it. A lawyer can help review your insurance policy before you make a recorded statement to help protect your legal interests.
• Don’t Agree to Settlement without Legal Representation: An attorney should review any settlement offer to assess whether it is fair and just compensation.
Some of the things you should do after an accident include;
• informing the insurance company,
• getting medical treatment, and
• reporting the incident to the police.
Filing a Car Accident Claim? An Attorney Can Help
While these tips will get you started in the right direction, it’s always a good idea to meet with an experienced attorney, especially if a serious injury is involved. Car accident cases are often complicated, and will typically require witnesses, medical evidence, and a detailed knowledge of negligence law to succeed. Get started today and contact an experienced injury attorney near you.
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It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
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