You are driving through an intersection while on your way to child’s after-school event when, suddenly, a car or truck plows into the side of your car. What do you do? Shock, panic and confusion may be natural reactions after an automobile accident. However, if your injuries do not require immediate hospitalization, there are some immediate steps you can take to protect your rights and interests.
A Helpful Checklist
The following is a checklist to keep in your glove compartment and consult in the unfortunate event that you are involved in a motor vehicle accident. It contains basic steps that should be followed to help ensure your full recovery of damages for pain and suffering, car damage, medical expenses, lost wages or punitive damages.
If you have not been incapacitated by the auto accident, you want to collect as much information as possible at the scene. A police report will be filed and available at a later time, but you don’t want to have your claim for compensation dependent solely on that report.
- Get the other driver’s information. Write down the driver’s name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, license plate number as well as the name of the driver’s insurance company and policy number. If the driver admits fault, make an immediate note of it.
- Get contact information for all witnesses. The observations of neutral eyewitnesses could be crucial to your case. Jot down the witnesses’ names, phone numbers and a brief description of what they saw or heard, such as the other driver running through a stop sign or red light or the sound of screeching brakes. Often, there are eyewitnesses whose observations don’t make it into a police report, so this can be an important step.
- Take photographs of the scene. If you have a camera, or at least a cell phone camera, take as many pictures as you can of the accident scene, including any damage to your car or the other driver’s car, skid marks, stop signs, intersections, trees and other sites. You might even get shots of the other driver or eyewitnesses. An accident scene can be cleaned up quickly, so this may be your only opportunity to collect this evidence.
- Get treatment immediately. Even if you don’t feel sick or have any obvious injuries, such as cuts or scrapes, you should still seek emergency room treatment immediately and see a physician within a few days after the accident to learn of the full extent of your injuries. You may have serious internal or soft tissue injuries, for instance, that aren’t immediately apparent. This step is necessary for your health and safety as well as for legal reasons.
- Talk to your attorney, not an insurance claims adjuster. Automobile accident victims often are contacted by the other driver’s insurance claims adjuster within hours or days of an accident. The adjuster’s tone may be friendly, but their aim is usually adversarial. They will want to collect information that will protect their financial interests. For example, they may try to coax you into admitting a degree of fault or get an assessment of your injuries. They might even try to get you to agree to a quick settlement of your claim. The call is usually recorded.
The best thing to do in this situation is to thank the adjuster for calling but inform him or her that you do not wish to speak until you have talked to an auto accident lawyer. Don’t let a short phone call hurt your long-term ability to collect compensation that you will need for your future.
- Review your own insurance policy closely. You also want to review the extent of coverage your own insurance policy offers if the other driver is uninsured (UM) or underinsured (UIM). Often, a claims adjuster from your own insurer may become adversarial, looking for ways to cut down on payments to you under your UM/UIM policy. Again, before talking to a claims adjuster, speak to an attorney first.
At Michigan Injury Lawyers, our team of Michigan auto lawyers has extensive experience in representing car accident victims. We know what evidence you will need to prove your claim. We also know how insurance companies operate in an accident’s immediate aftermath. We want to make sure your rights and interests are protected. If there is no recovery in your case, there is no fee for our services.
We represent car, truck and motorcycle accident victims across Michigan. Call us at 313-438-4357 for an evaluation of your claim.