[Page Updated March 22, 2021] So you were in a vehicle crash. Now what? True, your legal needs are of utmost importance. But did you know you can’t win an injury case with an insurer or a jury without evidence of your serious injury?
For example, if you never took an ambulance to the hospital, you already hamstrung your case with the insurance agent. And you thought you were friendly to the scared, shivering at-fault driver who hit your car. Did you get suckered into not calling the police, failing to obtain a documentary police report?
So you figured you’d be a good samaritan and “doing the right thing” by helping injured people at the scene and handling it out of court. Boy, were you wrong about avoiding the insurance claims process! The guy who caused the crash has done a complete 180-degree turn and now says “prove it” and “call my insurance company.” I bet you’re glad you wrote down his license plate number now, right?
So now, when you text or phone the wrongdoer, trying to get paid for your chiropractor’s bodily injury treatments and car rental bills covered, you are patronized and rebuffed. Don’t make this mistake after a car accident. When you are in a wreck, you can’t trust the other guy to cover your rental car or anything else. Period! The perp will lawyer up after they convince you not to call the police or preserve evidence. So now it’s time to think about you, your family, including others relying on you for their sustenance.
And from our legal perspective, getting needed medical care personal injury protection is your number one method of preserving your legal rights to maximum compensation. (You’ll be out of pocket for medical bills and deductible amounts from your own insurance) But if your physical health permits with reasonable conditions, you can do many other things after a collision your lawyer can use to help build your case. Below are the seven most important steps you should take after a car accident, written by lawyer Michael Ehline (Here are tips here to avoid accidents altogether).
Afterward, we will provide you contact and other information if you still need help. But you probably landed here because you need help dealing with casualty insurance after an unavoidable accident.
Take these steps after a car accident if safe conditions exist:
Hail the police to the accident scene – Calling 9-1-1 not only helps keep order, but it also allows the officer to document the statements of witnesses (See California Vehicle Code Sections 16028 (a),(b),(c),(d), et. seq). Officers can also help scared or cowardly accident victims have a voice at the car accident scene. That way, parties can exchange mandatory insurance policy info and other contact information of people and locations peacefully. Also, parties can be separated and questioned to investigate the collision’s primary cause and document these items of evidence into a “traffic collision investigation report.”
Watch what you say to the police, bystanders, and parties – The old TV show Dragnet said it best. “Anything you say can and will be used against you.” Officer Friday also said: “Just the facts, mam, only the facts,” even though he never actually said that. Of course, this is easier said than done. You are hurt. Adrenaline is pumping heavily inside your body, making you want to fight or take flight.
You are confused and injured. What you say right now can make or break your case with the car insurance company, so the first step is to be calm. Breathe and close your eyes. Prepare yourself. Don’t worry about paying your deductible right now. Don’t argue or get in a fight about auto insurance or who’s at fault for your serious injuries. Never say, “Sorry about that,” or “I feel terrible about all of this,” for example. All that does is create a subterfuge allowing the other driver’s insurance company to delay, deny, and place the blame on you, the victim, for the collision.
Exchange your driver’s license and insurance documentation with the other vehicle drivers in the crash if more than one. Sometimes tempers flare, and it takes the police to help gather insurance evidence and additional identifying information. (Read more here about civil case car accident evidence-gathering).
But California Vehicle Code Section 16025 mandates every driver in a motor vehicle crash to provide information back and forth to each other driver, no matter who caused the wreck. And this is a mandatory, not a permissive act, making this a reflexive duty under the Vehicle Code.
(1) Proof of compliance with California’s financial responsibility laws, as stated in California Vehicle Code Section 16020. (Typically, your insurance information, including your policy number).
(2) Name of the driver(s).
(3) The driver’s CURRENT address. (If the other person just moved, they must turn that address over).
(4) Your driver’s license number. (This appears on your license itself).
(5) Vehicle registration number.
(6) The correct physical address of the vehicle’s registered owner.
Having a smartphone comes in handy during the age of only a few pencils or ink pens. Now you can snap pictures of the other driver’s insurance card and license without stammering around trying to find an “ink stick.” Remember, it is always advisable for you to stabilize yourself after a nasty crash. Try and rely on a nearby family member, witness, or friend right after an accident to help you get the other guy’s information. But if you can gather evidence, including insurance coverage amounts, then don’t stop there; read below.
Use your smartphone to photograph the accident scene, witnesses, and parties – Use your smartphone to photograph the accident scene, witnesses, and parties – Again, assuming you are not disabled or don’t have a passenger who can help, use your phone cam. Take video and still shots of the crash’s entire vicinity—Snap photos of the locations where each vehicle came to rest. Make sure and get pictures of the damage to the cars. Snap photos and videos of paint transfer marks on wheels, curbs, and vehicle shells. Photograph road debris from as many angles as possible, always including a reference point.
*CAVEAT: Even if you have your privacy setting set to share with friends only, a sneaky investigator could easily set up a fake social account and try and trick you into sharing your life with them. Disproving your claims is the goal of the insurance company. And you can never underestimate the power in negotiations of Subrosa and other investigations adjusters conduct.
Again, their goal is to pay plaintiffs the least or nothing at all if possible. Their investigators are looking for any pictures showing the scene of the accident or images of an old injury caused somewhere else. Their goal is blaming for the accident or making you a liar.
Consult with a motoring accident attorney immediately. You should never give a recorded statement to a liability insurance adjuster other than an accident happened, and you will explain as soon as you retain counsel. That is what the smart person does. Unfortunately, most people call us after they already sabotaged their case by saying things like “I’m fine,” while they still have adrenaline masking a ruptured or bulging disc, for example. All the while, the insurance adjuster agreed with you that you were okay. And, as months went by, you didn’t see a doctor. And if your car is still in the repair shop, you’ll likely incur expensive storage fees. Getting legal advice helps ease these tensions.
Day in the life videos and pictures – Because proof of pain and suffering remains so crucial in the damages recovery element of your case and hard to demonstrate with words alone, we encourage our clients to put a dollar amount on their claims. How do you do this? Simple by documenting these new experiences since your accident in a written or digital journal. And we encourage you to go the extra mile and include images and motion pictures. One of the best ways to prove the ambiguities when seeking money for intangibles like grief, pain, suffering, and loss is merely recording it all for a jury’s own eyes to see. Keep track of driving time, expenses for drugs and medicine, time at the doctor’s office, who you treated with, and the conversations’ substance. Taking all of this down is incredibly essential because general damages awards are far higher when there is evidence that a jury can touch, see, hear, and smell in their mind’s eye.
There’s no time to waste. The records of your injuries can disappear. Memories can fade, and witnesses can die. Your lawyer can help you get them now and strike while the iron is hot. Also, deadlines in court or with the insurance company are approaching fast. Make sure you quickly respond to all letters from your attorneys. Send lawyer needed documents from doctors or those required for courts and insurance companies. Ensure anyone your attorney refers you to receives papers and documents signed only after consulting over them with your lawyer.
Don’t waste time – or time will leave you behind! We hope you share these seven vital steps to take after a car accident with all your friends and family. If you already have a lawyer and are unhappy with their attitude or service or don’t know what to do, we can help. If you were a pedestrian struck by a hit-and-run sidewalk driver, you might receive homeowner’s, un-insured (UM), or under-insured (UIM) motorist protection. So it would help if you did not give up. Reach out to a Los Angeles, California car accident attorney now at Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. We are available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, to take your essential call (213) 596-9642.
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