Suggestion – Keep a copy of these automobile accident steps in your car so you will be prepared
Involvement in an auto accident is a frightening, confusing experience for any person. Most people believe that after insurance and driver’s license information has been exchanged, evidence gathering and preservation has concluded. This, however, is not the case. Here are some tips that you can use to ensure that you have maximized your potential for recovery through evidence preservation. If you are in a truck and car accident safety comes first, but you must also keep in mind that you will need to resolve a claim after the accident so gathering basic information will be important. If you or a friend or family member has been in an accident, use the following checklist to organize important information and contact Ferguson & Ferguson immediately: 1-800-752-1998.
1. Stop your car, no matter how minor the accident. Alabama law requires that the driver of a motor vehicle involved in an accident resulting in personal injury, death, or property damage must stop his or her vehicle at the scene of the accident, even it if was not your fault. If you do not stop, you may be found guilty of a hit-and-run, or subject to some other criminal prosecution. Dial 911.
2. Assist any injured persons. Your first duty, after stopping your car, is to assist any injured persons. If someone is seriously injured in the accident, call an ambulance. Make the injured person comfortable, but do not move them unless you know what you are doing. Remember, moving someone who is injured can cause more harm than good. If someone is injured, give first aid if you are qualified and call for an ambulance. Remember to note the location of the accident before you call for an ambulance. Tell the ambulance dispatcher the name and number of the street as well as the direction in which the cars were traveling at the time of the accident. Remain calm. They can be on the way while you assess the situation. Attend to your injuries and your passengers’ injuries, and make sure that any responding parties such as the police or ambulance personnel know about all injuries.
3. Protect the scene. If it is safe to do so, you are best off to not move the motor vehicles until after law enforcement has arrived. If the car poses a safety threat to other traffic if not moved, however, you should move it. Use common sense. Leave the vehicles in the positions they come to rest in (if possible) if there is injury, death or extensive property damage; however, if you are on a busy highway or street, you may need to pull your vehicle over to the side of the road and out of the path of traffic. If your vehicles are obstructing the flow of traffic, try to move your vehicle the shortest distance possible from the place of impact without obstructing further traffic. Take all precautions necessary to avoid another accident, including flares, flags, etc. If you are injured, do not exit your vehicle unless your life is in danger. Protect the Scene of the accident to avoid additional collisions. Do not allow you car to obstruct the road if it can be moved. Warn approaching cars by raising the hood of your car and using the car’s hazard warning lights. In addition, for nighttime accidents, place flares or reflectors on the road. If your car is undriveable or there is no safe area nearby, you should put on your hazard lights and use flares (if you have them) in order to warn other motorists and prevent another accident.
4. Call the police or highway patrol. Alabama laws require that drivers of vehicles involved in auto accidents resulting in personal injury, death, or property damage, must immediately contact the local police department, highway patrol, sheriff’s department or other appropriate law enforcement agency by the quickest means available. Call the police, particularly if someone has been injured. When you have been the victim of someone else’s lack of care in operating their automobile, it is important that you contact the local police department immediately in order to preserve your rights. Do not allow the other operator to confidence you that this should be “handled among ourselves”.
Calling the police department is especially important step if you feel any pain or injury as a result of the accident. Remember, if there is a lawsuit latter on, your counterpart in the accident may have a completely different story when the matter reaches court than the one that he or she tells you at the scene of the accident. A police report of the accident will help your insurance claim and any liability claims. Ask the officer how to get a copy of the accident report and note the officer’s name and badge number. If possible, get the police report number from the officer. It is important to have the police create an accident report to document the facts of the accident. The police report should include all the relevant information, including the names, addresses, phone numbers and insurance companies of all parties involved in the accident. If you are physically able to do so, ask the reporting officer if they obtained the insurance information of the other driver(s). In the event that the police do not come to the accident scene and make a report, you should obtain the following information from the other drivers: Their name, address, driver’s license number, telephone number, insurance company and policy number, the name of the owner of the other vehicle, names and addresses of other passengers.
If you receive a traffic ticket, it does not mean you are guilty of a traffic offense or that you’re responsible for the accident. Be aware that you may hurt your claim for damages from the other driver if you plead guilty. Consult Ferguson & Ferguson and an insurance agent before pleading guilty to a traffic offense. Cooperate with the police at the scene. Provide them with the basic facts. You are not required to offer your opinion about who was at fault. Get the name and badge number of officers involved in the investigation of the accident. If serious personal injury is involved -call an attorney as soon as possible. You should report your accident to your insurance company.
Don’t make any comments to anyone about the accident until the police arrive. When the police officer arrives, give the police officer the facts and answer his or her questions, but do not make admissions of guilt or give opinions of who was at fault. Do not leave the scene of the accident until the police officer either leaves or tells you to leave. The only exceptions to this should be if you are seriously injured or if you have to leave with someone who is seriously injured. When you exchange information with the other driver and give the facts to the police, do not feel obligated to admit responsibility for the accident. The things that you say immediately following an accident may be used against you during the course of litigation. You may think that you were responsible for the accident and later learn that the other driver caused it or the other driver was equally at fault for the accident. Do not guess at what might have caused accident.
5. Identify the other drivers. Be certain that you get the other driver’s address, telephone number (home and work) and insurance information. Also be sure to write down the license plate number of the other vehicle. You should ask to see and get the following information from the other driver: his or/her driver’s license number, registration, name of insurance company and policy number. Passengers–name, address, and phone number. Owner (if not the driver)–name, address, phone number, insurance, and policy number. If you hit a parked car and can’t find the owner, leave a note with your name, address, and a summary of the accident. Write down the make and model of the cars involved. This is not the time to win verbal battles. Remember, anything you say will be repeated and will probably be admissable in Court. Make sure you provide the police officer and the other driver with your name, address, vehicle registration number, driver’s license number, address, phone number and insurance information.
6. Identify witnesses. As soon as possible, get the names, addresses and telephone numbers from all witnesses, and a brief description of what they saw. Although they should stay around until the police arrive, surprisingly often they leave beforehand. These witnesses may be critical to your claim, so get this information as soon as possible. Many times people involved in accidents see or even talk to witnesses but fail to get their name, and if they leave before the police arrive at the accident scene, you may never be able to locate them. Obtain the name, address and home/work phone numbers of any witnesses that you believe observed any part of the accident. If possible, have witnesses agree to stay until they have given the police officer their statement. As soon as practical, you should write down everything you remember about the accident. Independent witnesses are often crucial to determining fault for an accident. (Independent witnesses often make the difference in how a case comes out); If witnesses are not willing to give you that information, write down their license plate number and car model, make and color.
7. Gather other information. As soon as possible, write down a description of how the accident occurred, including the day, time, place, weather and road conditions, traffic signals, street lights, length of skid marks, and a detailed explanation of how the accident occurred. (especially those that are temporary). Draw diagrams of the road(s) and the positions of the vehicles before and after the impact, cross walks, stop signs, and traffic signals. Do not give these to anyone other than your attorney. Be sure to keep the information exchange slip that the law enforcement officer will provide. Several days after the accident, you will also want to get a copy of the accident report. Look around. Try to assess if any drinking was involved. Look for empty bottles or cans. Take a look at the condition of the other car’s tires. Try to note if there were any malfunctioning lights or fluid leakage. Look in the car to see if anything possibly distracted the driver.(animals, cell phone, children) Call anything you think important to the attention of the investigating officer. If possible, you should personally look at and write down the license plate information of all the other vehicles involved in the accident, make, model, and year of car. If you have a camera with you and you are physically able, it is extremely important to take Photographs of the vehicles at the accident scene, preferably in the position that they came to rest after impact (if it is safe to do so). Names of passengers, including their address and phone number;
8. Take photos of the accident scene. As soon as practical, go back to the accident scene and take photographs. Be sure to include landmarks such as signs or buildings so that it will be easy to describe what the pictures show later. Try to include any skid marks, damage to the grass, trees or shrubbery, and look for any small car parts that might still be on the ground. Don’t skimp on the film here. You may want to shoot an entire roll of film, getting every angle and direction. If there are any photographers from local newspapers or television stations it is important to arrange to get a copy of their photos. Look on the ground for skid marks. Measure them as best you can (at least pace them off). Note where the cars collided and where they stopped. Use cell phone camera if necessary. Many people at the scene may have their cell phones, and can take pictures for you if your camera is not available.
9. Take photos of damage to the vehicle. Don’t skimp on the film here either. Shoot all angles, both close up and farther back. Take photos of all parts and all sides of the vehicle. Again, you may want to shoot another entire roll of film. Get the names and address and work/home phone numbers of any other persons who were in the vicinity who took photos or videotaped any portion of the accident or its aftermath. Have someone photograph the scene of the accident as soon as possible. Get photographs or video tapes from any person in the area.
10. Do not make any comments. Many states require you to give your name, address, drivers license number, insurance information, and vehicle registration number to the driver or occupants of the other vehicle.(states vary rules) Other than this, do not make any comments, as what you say will be used against you. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER APOLOGIZE OR ADMIT THAT THE ACCIDENT WAS IN ANY WAY YOUR FAULT. NEVER SAY YOU DIDN’T SEE THEM. NEVER SPECULATE ABOUT ANYTHING THAT YOU AREN’T SURE OF. For example, your estimate of speeds at the scene will almost without fail, be wrong. Be very careful about what you say. When you exchange information with the other driver and give facts to the police, don’t admit responsibility for the accident. Things that you say can be used against you if there is litigation. You may think that you were responsible for the accident and later learn that the other driver caused it or was equally at fault. Do not discuss the details of the accident with anyone other than the police and medical personnel. Answer questions by the police, you do not have to talk to anyone else. Do not take blame for the accident unless you are absolutely sure, consult with us to be sure you are responsible for the accident. Avoid discussing the accident with anyone other than the reporting officer. What you say can and probably will be used against you in a court of law. For instance, even if the other driver is completely at fault, you may say “I’m sorry” for the fact that they were also injured. The defense attorney for the other driver may try to twist this around and say that you meant you were sorry for causing the accident, and that your statement means you feel that you were at fault.
11. Listen carefully. Listen to everything that the other driver says. What they say can be used to help your claim. If, for example, they apologize and say that they did not see you, remember it and write it down. A simple apology is basically an admission of fault.
12. Go to the Emergency Room or to your family physician immediately. Even though you might not think you are hurt after an accident, you may actually be. The adrenalin rush and stress caused by an accident often hide the full extent of the injuries. There may be internal injuries that you are not aware of. Be certain to tell the doctors that you were in an auto accident and describe anything that you are feeling that is unusual, no matter how minor, as the doctor may recognize it as a symptom of a more serious problem. Be sure also to let them know of any older injuries that might have been aggravated. Both you and your passengers should consider seeing a doctor after an accident. The doctor may recognize injuries, sometimes serious, that are not apparent to you. The charges for a doctor visit and medical treatment may be covered by your insurance. Don’t settle claims from the accident until your doctor has advised you about the extent of your injuries. Serious medical injuries are not always visible at the time of the accident. Too often accident victims awake to severe pain. Seek medical treatment immediately and continue treatment. Make sure you select the appropriate doctor for your case. The way an insurance company evaluates your case is often decided by if you go to the appropriate doctor. Understand Doctors and Chiropractors are trained differently, and do not provide the same medical care and/or treatment. Use the appropriate doctor, or you may be destroying your case.
If you were treated at the scene of the accident for any injuries, continue with the treatment prescribed by the health care provider. Any delay or breaks in treatment can negatively affect your physical recovery as well as the settlement value of your case. If you did not require medical treatment at the scene of the accident or are feeling sore shortly after you get home, try to take some hot showers or baths. This would tend to eliminate or reduce any soft tissue injuries. See your family doctor as soon as possible. Remember, there really is not an adequate amount of money to compensate you for your pain, so you should do everything possible to immediately reduce any possibility of pain or long term injuries.
Your medical bills should be turned into and paid by your medical hospitalization insurance provider, unless the law requires otherwise. This will ensure prompt payment to those who are giving you medical assistance. In most cases your medical insurance provider will be repaid at the time of settlement of your claim.
Get medical attention for your injuries as soon as possible. Sometimes the severity of injuries are not immediately known, and what appears to be a minor or moderate injury can eventually become more serious. This is especially true with head injuries or possible internal bleeding that may not be evident to you. Sometimes herniated discs in your spine do not cause pain immediately, or the pain fluctuates greatly over time, getting better but then getting worse. Thus, it is important to go an emergency room as soon as possible, and then follow up with your own personal physician or any specialist to whom you are referred. If you have a serious injury and do not see a health care provider for a long period of time, not only may it be detrimental to your health, but the opposing insurance company may also attempt to use this fact to argue that your injury is not as serious as you claim. Of course, you do not want to incur unnecessary medical treatment, but undertreating may be extremely hazardous to your health. Insurance companies often LOVE to point out missed appointments to disparage a claimant’s case, so if you have to cancel an appointment, call ahead of time and re-schedule.
Many people, even when they feel pain, will refuse medical attention at the scene and travel home. Then, after several hours of increasing pain, they will finally go to the hospital and present themselves at the emergency room. When their case reaches court, this delay in seeking medical attention is often used against them as a weapon to prove that the accident did not cause the injury. If you feel pain at an accident scene and an ambulance is offered, utilize the ambulance services to go immediately to the closest emergency room. In many cases involving injury, it is important that you follow up your medical care on a consistent basis. In many medical circles today, it is important that proper follow-up medical care be obtained in order to keep a person from developing further pain which may become intractable in the future. A doctor may recognize injuries, sometimes serious, that are not readily apparent from the first Emergency Room visit nor to you, even at a later date.
Sometimes what initially appears to be a minor problem, turns out to be an injury with significant long term consequences. For example, if you have had numbness in your right arm and hand since an auto accident, but only first mention it to your doctor a month or two later, you can bet this will come back to haunt you. Along these same lines, statements to medical personnel that you are doing well or you are doing “ok” will inevitably be used against you. On the other hand, do not try to exaggerate or fake your injuries. Simply make sure the injuries that you do have are documented and not diminished by your own statements. Keep copies of all medical bills, Submit medical bills for prompt payment.
(Do not exaggerate, nor minimize your complaints.)
13. Call your insurance company. Call your insurance company or agent about the accident even if the other driver was at fault. Do not, however give them any recorded statements or written statements until after you have consulted with an attorney first and gotten his or her approval. Call your insurance agent as soon as possible after an accident, because your insurance company may have grounds to deny coverage if you fail to give prompt notice of the accident. Follow up the phone call with a written notice and save a copy for your files. The written notice should contain information about the date, time and place of the accident, with names and addresses of the other drivers, injured persons, passengers, and witnesses. Give your insurance agent and give them whatever information they need regarding the accident. This is especially important if the other driver does not have insurance, or if you are hit by a hit-and-run driver who flees the accident scene. You are required in some states to notify the police department within twenty-four hours of a hit-and-run accident in order to later make an uninsured motorist claim. In addition, you are responsible for filing a DMV accident report (SR13 Form) within ten days of an accident (even if you are not at fault), if the accident causes property damage over $500 or any injury or death.(varies by state) Ask your insurance company to file the SR13 on your behalf, and if they cannot do so, you need to go to the DMV department and fill out and file the SR13 form yourself. (mail in to the state or city) If you were at fault, your liability insurance should pay for any injuries or property damages. If the other driver is at fault but does not have insurance, your insurance may pay for damage to your car (collision coverage), your medical expenses (medical payment coverage) and even for your pain and suffering (if you have uninsured motorist). Find out if you have an Uninsured Motorist claim. If you were on the job you may have a workers compensation claim and a claim against the at fault party.
Your insurance company will open a file and assist with repair or replacement of your car. They can be of great assistance even if the other driver’s insurance company will be paying for the damage. You may receive a letter or telephone call from the insurance carrier advising you that you should not contact an attorney, that you should deal directly with them, that they will be fair. BEWARE OF THIS. They will not be fair. They are trying to reduce the amount of money to which you are entitled.
14. NEVER GIVE A RECORDED STATEMENT to the other driver’s insurance adjuster. No matter what you say, you will say something wrong and the insurance company will use it against you to try to keep from paying you what you are entitled to. If the adjuster wants a statement, have him or her call your attorney. Again, do not discuss the details of the accident with anyone. You may get phone calls from insurance companies asking for your “statement”. Their insurance company isn’t there to help you. They want to save money. In the event that their coverage is not enough to compensate you for your injuries you will be presenting what is called an “underinsured claim” to your own insurance company. Anything you say to anyone could be admissible in Court. Don’t speak to or write anything down for anyone until you consult an attorney. Do not talk to the other sides insurance company without first consulting us. You do not have to talk to them. Do not sign anything without consulting with us, especially a release of your claim. Do not, repeat do not, give a statement to an insurance representative from the other side. All they wish to do is to find some way to deny or diminish your claims. They are more experienced than you. Just tell them where the car is and that it is available for inspection.
15. Take photos of your injuries. Don’t skimp on the film here either. Take photos of all cuts, bruises, casts, bandages, seat belt marks, and abrasions. If you are hospitalized, have someone take photographs of you in the room, showing the various angles to include everything that you are hooked up to. (If you are actually admitted to the hospital, almost any attorney worth talking to will come to assist with this.). Again, don’t skimp on the film – a picture is worth a thousand words. Have someone photograph all of your injuries as soon as possible. Also document your case by taking pictures as your body starts to heal. The bruises may not show up for days, and scars for months. Take pictures of all stitches, staples and surgery marks. Take photos of any bruises or lacerations and any damage to your car, especially any damage to the interior such as seats, dashboard or steering wheel. Take videos if you have the capabilities.
It is absolutely crucial that if you do not have a camera in the car at the time of the accident, you take PHOTOGRAPHS of the property damage to your vehicle and any injuries you suffered in the accident: Try to take the photographs outside in good light from as many different angles as possible. If you do not have good lighting or you are take photographs indoors, make sure that you use a flash when taking the photographs. Take your own photograph’s even if your insurance company has taken photographs, because insurance companies have been known to lose photographs they have taken. If you eventually have surgery, ask the doctor to take a VIDEOTAPE of the surgery. If your case goes to trial, this will be powerful visual evidence for the jury regarding the severity of your injury.
16. Call Ferguson & Ferguson Law Firm. At Ferguson & Ferguson Law Firm, we will do everything we can to help you following your injury. If you can’t come to us, we will be happy to accommodate your schedule and needs by coming to your home or to the hospital. When you call the Ferguson Law Firm, you can also rest assured that you will have direct contact with an actual attorney, not just support staff as many law firms now limit their clients to. Even if you do not call the Ferguson Law Firm, we encourage you to at least call some attorney. Whether its us or someone else, you need someone with experience on your side to protect your legal rights. If you are considering a lawsuit, or expect one to be brought against you, or if you received a traffic ticket, your lawyer can advise you about your rights and responsibilities. The sooner you call your lawyer the better since witnesses may forget the details of the accident. Your lawyer can counsel you on how to respond to questions from insurance adjusters and help you receive compensation for your personal injuries and damages to you car.
17. Start a diary. Start a daily record of all pains and inconveniences that you are suffering from as a result of the accident and your injuries. Write down everything. Give it to your attorney only. As much basic information as possible should be gathered immediately after the accident occurred. As time passes, memories tend to fade and new versions of the chain of events are created. Putting the basic information down on paper helps later when liability for the accident begins to be examined. Call us right away so we can get started investigating your car accident.
18. Keep records of missed time from work. You may be entitled to recover for your lost wages, so keep an accurate record of all time that you are away from your job.
19. Before you allow a tow truck driver to pick up your car, be sure to ask the driver how much it will cost and tell the driver where to take your car. Get the name, address and telephone number of the driver and the towing company. Secure the vehicle or product involved in the accident. Before you allow a truck driver to pick up your car, be sure to ask the driver how much it will cost and tell the driver where to take the car.
20. Obtain a copy of the policy report regarding the accident.
21. Do not settle or sign an agreement with the insurance company until a lawyer has reviewed the agreement.
Call Us Immediately For A Free Consultation. We will explain all of your rights and fight to obtain the maximum recovery for your injuries and losses and take your case on contingency. The assistance of a lawyer may be invaluable to the proper presentation of these forms. Obtain a free consultation from a qualified personal injury attorney, preferably before speaking to the other side’s insurance representative. Personal injury attorneys are more than happy to assist you, even if they don’t handle your case.
Immediately after you are injured in an auto accident, the insurance adjusters, investigators and defense attorneys begin working to limit how much money the insurance company will have to pay to you – the innocent victim. Although you were doing nothing wrong and the other driver was as fault, before you get back from the emergency room, the insurance company may have already sent an investigator to take photos of the accident scene and the damage to the vehicles. These insurance adjusters and investigators deal with auto accidents and injuries every day and their sole job is to look out after their employer – the insurance company. The adjusters accomplish this by doing everything in their power to pay you less than you are entitled to. They will often offer you some minimal amount of money within the twenty-four hours after the accident to entice you to sign a release waiving your legal rights, although they know that on many injuries, you may not even begin to feel the pain until twenty-four to seventy-two hours AFTER the accident.
Do not make the mistake of trying to deal with the insurance company when you do not know the rules of their game. Would you be willing to play a game with someone if you did not know the rules? Of course not. Then why would you consider dealing with an insurance adjuster when the stakes are even higher? Your future and your family’s future may be altered by what you do. What you say in the hours and days after an accident can and will be used against you.
In automobile collision cases, finding enough insurance coverage often becomes critically important. Not only the insurance policy covering the responsible driver is important, but any insurance policy that may provide uninsured motorist coverage or under insured motorist coverage for you is also important. The prosecution and interrelationship of these claims, some of which must be prosecuted in the court system and others that must be arbitrated can cause a host of problems for the inexperienced.In summary, these are some of the pitfalls involved even in a simple two car automobile collision. As you can see, particularly if you or a loved one is seriously injured, there is no substitute for competent legal advice and representation, and an attorney can provide you the greatest benefit if consulted early on.