What should I do when involved in a car crash where people have been hurt?
We rely on our cars and spend a large amount of time behind the wheel, but unfortunately,accidents can and do happen. When they do, your heart rate increases and your nerves fray, but you need to stay calm because there are some things you shoulddo to preserve and protect your rights. This becomes even harder when you have been injured in the accident. When this unthinkable situation does occur, in the excitement you will likely ask:
Below are some answers to this tough question that you should know beforehand if you are ever presented with this difficult situation.
At the Accident Scene
The worst has happened and you are involved in a wreck and people are hurt. Glass is everywhere and you are disoriented. The anger and confusion bubble inside, but you must remain calm because you have tasks to. Yes, as hard as it may be, there are steps you need to take in order to protect yourself and any future claims you may have.
Just after the car wreck, there are some actions youneed to do instantly, and then there are additional tasks to do after the immediate steps are done.
At the Accident Scene– Immediate Actions
You should do three things immediately when you are involved in a car crash where people have sustained injuries:
Get medical attention for those injured, including yourself.
Do not say or do anything to imply or state your guilt.
1. Assist the Injured
When injuries result from a car wreck, it is important to get medical attention for all those who are hurt, including yourself. If the medics offer you care, take it. Your adrenaline is flowing and you may even be in shock, which means you may be hurt worse than you think. It is essential to get the first aid you need, but it is also important to document the injuries you suffered at the accident. If you file a future claim resulting from injuries suffered in the car crash, it is an unfortunate possibility that the insurance companies or defendants can claim your injuries were preexistent or you were not hurt in the car crash.
2. Call the Police
For minor accidents, it may not be necessary to call the police. But when injuries are involved, you are required to call the police out to the accident scene.
The police who come to the site will probably generate a report which can be valuable as insurance companies will review this document as part of assessing a claim. If another driver tries to talk you out of calling the police, ignore them as they may be trying to hide something.
By having the police on site, you can give them your version of events, while the details are still vivid in your mind. It is important to capture this information in detail and have it included as accurate as possible in the police report.
Also, there may be additional requirements, such as you filing your own accident report, and there may be a time limit to do so. The police can assist by letting you know what accident reports you need to file with them or the DMV, and how long you have to do it. Make sure you are aware of and understand all the paperwork/reports you are required to complete.
3. Watch What You Say
There is no doubt you are not at your best after a car crash, and that is a problem you must be aware of and address. This is because everything you say at the crash site can boomerang back at you at some later date. It is hard to stay calm and collected after a serious car crash, but others can misinterpret what you say, or misunderstand what you said. Theycan also twist things so that they claim you admitted guiltor implied partially causing the accident.
DO NOT say anything that can be seen as an admission of guilt, or anything that might be interpreted as a confession or admission of partial fault. Be polite to everyone, but be careful about relaying details or discussing the wreck. Remember, everything you say may be used against you.
At the Accident Scene– Secondary Actions
After caring for the injured, calling the police, and watching your words, your work is far from done. You now need to:
Write down the time and place of the accident, plus all other pertinent details.
Gather information on all drivers and passengers.
Collect witness names and contact information.
Take pictures (and look for security or traffic cameras).
Now, if you are injured and cannot conduct these steps, ask someone to do it for you. You will need the information later, so do not skip these steps.
4. Write Down the Basicsand the Details
There are some simple things to documentafter an accident, but a couple areoften overlooked. Two details that you might assume, and forget to write down, are the location and time of the accident. A basic description of the events is needed, but make sure you include when it happened and where. And do not forget road conditions, if it was snowing or raining for example.
Then write a brief description of what happened. Was one car speeding? Or did someone run a red-light? Write down the events as you recall them happening. If you wait, chances are you will forget something. So, do it now just after the accident when everything is still fresh in your memory.
Then, you need to pay attention to the details and write those down. Items like preexisting damage to other vehicles, company logos, badly worn tires, etc. can be important to a future claim you file. Now is the time to watch for and gather all the detailed information you can, because once you leave the crash site, it is gone.
5. Collect Driver and Passenger Information
Exchanging informationwith other drivers is the one step that is well understood and most drivers know to share information after an accident like:
License plate numbers,
Contact information, and
You should at a minimum collect this basic information from all drivers involved in the accident. It is not uncommon for more than two cars to be involved, so be sure to get every drivers’ information. But if there is anything else about another driver related to the accident, write that down as well. An obvious example would be a driver who had alcohol on their breath.
Also, for each driver you should write down their car:
One last thing, get information for all the passengers. At a minimum try to find out their names.
In many accidents, there will be witnesses. This could be a pedestrian, biker, or another driver that stopped. And many times, witnesses will stay to help. If there are any people who saw what happened and hung around, talk to them and get their names. Also, ask if they would be willing to testify to what they saw. A witness can be powerfulto corroborate your story of how the accident happened, or, they might have seen something you or the other drivers did not.
7. Take Lots of Pictures
Digital cameras are ubiquitous today, and chances are you have a decent camera in your phone. If you have a camera available, take pictures. Lots of them. A picture can capture detailsand be persuasive in establishing facts for your accident.
Photograph the damage to all the vehicles and other property (e.g. guardrails, fences, road signs, etc.). Snap shotsof any skid marks, potholes, missing road signs, or anything related to the wreck. Take more pictures than you think are necessary, from different angles. Once you leave, you will not have a chance to photographically document the accident again. Overdo itand shoot more pics than you think you need.It is not like the old days where you there was a cost to developing extra pictures, so there is no reason not to take excess pictures and you can delete all the unusable ones later.
Another “picture” related step you should take is to scan the area for security or traffic cameras. The number of cameras recording public places has exploded, and if there are any that may have recorded your accident, you will obviously want to get copies of the pictures or videos from these cameras. While at the site, note the location, or take a picture, of the security or traffic cameras. You can worryabouthow to access their contents later.
Hopefully, you were able to stay calm and you followed your accident checklist at the crash scene. But your work is not done and you still need to:
Hire the best car accident lawyer you can.
Confirm the police report is accurate.
File an accident report (if required).
See your doctor.
Assess your vehicle damage.
File a claim.
Establish your losses.
1. Hire the Best Car Accident Lawyer Available
The law is a vital part of our society and helps to keep day-to-day life civil and peaceful. But today, our laws and regulations have become complexto address the complicated culture that has evolved. The nuances of different insurance policies and the proper legal procedures are not something an average person would know, especially when dealing with personal injuries.
But a knowledge of the law, insurance companies, andpolicies arecrucial when you have been injured in a car crash. You must deal with paperwork and deadlines, as well as decisions and arguments, in order to stand up for your rights. However, you may be hampered by your injuries and odds are you are not an expert on insurance policies and personal injury law.
To make sure you preserve your rights and maximize your chances of a favorable settlement, you need to hire the best accident lawyer available. Joel J. Kofsky offers a free initial consultation so there is nothing to lose by discussing your case with one of their knowledgeable personal injury attorneys.
2. Check the Police Report for Accuracy
The police have a tough job, and they usually do it well. But it is possible for them to make mistakes from time to time. Get a copy of the police reportfor your accident and review it. If there are errors, supply documentation to the police and present your case for changing the report. It is important to get the police reportcorrect as it will be referred to by various parties multiple times as partof any claim you bring forth.
It the officer refuses to change the report, you can submit your own report to supplement the official police report. At least then, even though the report was not changed, you have your version reflected as part of the police record.
3. File an Accident Report
Depending on the accident, you may be required to file an accident reportwith the police. You need to keep in mind that in Pennsylvania you only have five days after the accident to submit it, so do not wait.
For accidents involving injuries, the police usually document the accident so you do not have to file a report. However, you should confirm this with the officers at the accident scene and they will let you know if they are writing the report and whether or not you need to file a report, too.
As just mentioned above, you may also have to file an accident report with the police to correct errors in the document.
4. Visit Your Doctor
You received first aid at the accident site, but that is not the end of your medical care. Your doctor should examine you to properly document all your injuries, some of which may not show up until days after the accident. He can also determine what else might be needed to make you whole, like corrective surgery or physical therapy, and determine if you need to see specialists.
Another important piece of information you should get from your doctor is the symptoms or red flags to watch for that would warn of more serious complications or problems.
You may also want to check to see if you are able to work with your injuries. These are important questions that your doctor should answer and you should not wait to be examined.
5. Get an Estimate of Your Car’s Damage
Avoid shady repair shops and “low ball” estimates. These tend to create problems and delay the process. And it is not unusual for these shops to conduct inferior repairs.
Also, do not let an insurance adjuster/inspector delay the process. If you get reasonable three estimates from reputable repair shops, the insurance company should respond within one week.
6. File a Claim
You havebeen injured in a car accident caused by the negligence of another driver. And the medical bills are mounting up. You may have missed work time, and pay. There is an obvious claim you can make against the driver who caused the accident, but how and with who? Do you file through your insurance company? Do you sue the driver, or the owner of the car if it is a different person? And the questions become even more complex as you proceed.
Then there isthe multitude of smaller tasks required to make your claim strong. Remember those security and traffic cameras you noted at the accident scene? Well, an example of one of these smaller assignments would be getting the contents of those cameras. Every claim is different, and the tasks may vary accordingly, but the need to perform a number of steps to build a strong claim is common to all personal injury claims.
It helps to have an experienced personal injury lawyer working for you, but with or without an attorney, you need to file a claim, usually with your insurance company, to have your expenses reimbursed.
However, Pennsylvania is unique in that drivers can buy two types of insurance, a no-fault policy or a traditional tort policy. What that means, if the other driver caused the accident by failing to meet a reasonable level of care, you may be able to suefor items like pain and suffering, depending on what insurance policy they have.
As already stated, things can get complicated. To ensure your claim, or claims, are properly filed on time, you should retain an experienced, knowledgeable personal injury attorney, like Joel F. Kofsky. If you do not, you risk making a mistake that could drastically reduce your settlement. Your injuries significantly impact your life, and the last thing you want is to be financially ruined because you did not know how to file or defend your claim.
7. Establish your losses
Part of your claim will involve the impact and losses to you caused by the car wreck. This will require that you keep detailed records and receipts for things like:
Time missed from work/lost wages and benefits
Damage to your car or other property
Theseare called economic losses and can be documented with invoices or receipts. And after the accident, you need to retain and organize every receipt, bill, invoice or other expense due to the accident.
Sometimes there are damages called non-economic lossesand these may be less obvious. But there are other losses incurred from a car accident like:
Pain and suffering
Psychologicaltrauma and strain
Inability to enjoy your usual quality of life
These are losses you have suffered, but it is harder to put a cost on these items. For example, there is no paperwork generated when you experience pain and suffering.
However, the best car accident lawyers know how to evaluate your situation, and determine the financial impact to you for items like pain and suffering. Your lawyer will also be aware of special rules or procedures involved for claiming these costs. Once monetized, they then can be included in the amount of a settlement.
As with the economic losses where you saved things like medical receipts, organizationwill be your friend when it comes to non-economic losses, too. Save and organize emails, travel logs, letters, or anything that will help show how your life has been changed by the accident. The more information you can provide your car accident lawyer, the better he can calculate your non-economic damages.