I’ve been in an auto accident, what do I do next?

Being involved in an automobile accident can be traumatic and confusing.  But the first several days after being involved in an accident are critical to your final outcome.  Below are a few things to keep in mind in the first several days after an auto accident.

(1) Seek immediate medical treatment.  For those that are visibly injured after an accident, this will naturally occur because an ambulance will report to the scene and transport you to a hospital where a series of diagnostic tests will be completed.  However, people are often in pain after an accident, but they believe the pain will resolve with time and therefore they do not go to a doctor right away.  This can be harmful for multiple reasons.  One, there may be something producing your pain that is not visible to you, but needs immediate medical attention.  Second, it is important to document, through an immediate medical record,  that you suffered an injury in the accident and the areas of your body that were injured.  If you wait a month to see a doctor, the insurance company may argue later that either you were not that hurt; that the injury was the result of some pre-existing problem that you are now trying to attribute to the accident; or that some incident between the accident and when you reported for medical treatment actually caused your injury.

(2) Document the scene of the accident.  There is often critical physical evidence at the scene of an accident, such as skid marks or debris from the vehicles, that will help your lawyer and the experts he retains reconstruct how the accident occurred.  This evidence can dissipate with time and road conditions can change through road maintenance and/or road construction that occurs after your accident.

(3) Document the vehicles involved in the accident. It is important to have the vehicles photographed by someone who is knowledgeable about accident reconstruction and the areas of the vehicles that need to be documented.  These digital photographs will be used later by engineers to reconstruct multiple elements of the accident, including: the direction vehicles were traveling at the time of impact; the speed the vehicles were traveling at the time of impact; whether seat belts were actually being warn and by whom; and the areas within the vehicle that your body may have struck.  Insurance companies often sell vehicles and their parts for salvage after an accident and it is therefore important to have someone from your lawyer’s office out to inspect the vehicles before they disappear forever.

(4) Do not give a statement to the other driver’s insurance company without first consulting legal counsel.  Accidents are stressful and they happen very quickly.  At the time you give your statement, you may not have had time to think back on all of the details of the accident and you may, inadvertently, say something that will harm your case later.  The other driver’s insurance company is not on your side.  It may seem that they are just trying to find out what happened.  This is not the case.  Their only objective is to diminish the value of your case by getting you to say something they can use later to argue that you were at fault for the accident.

(5) Lastly, do not settle a case without first consulting a lawyer.  Insurance companies are trying to pay as little as they possibly can on a claim.  Their first offer does not often reflect the amount of money they will really pay on a claim.  Further, there are many things that you need to know before settling a case, like how much insurance coverage the other driver has, whether the other driver has more than one auto insurance policy that may increase your recovery, and whether the other driver may have been in the course and scope of their employment at the time they hit you.  All of these things can affect the value of your case and all of these things require research and investigation before you accept a final settlement on your case.

If you or someone you know was involved in an auto accident The Law Office of Justin H. King can help. We represent victims of auto accidents and you can learn more about your rights after an auto accident in California here.