Seven Great Tips for After a Bad Car Accident
Take Care Of Your Car Accident Insurance Company Claims By Following These Seven Steps
[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?
- Step 1: Call 9-1-1 And Get an Ambulance Too.
- Step 2: Watch What You Say.
- Step 3: Exchange Information
- Step 4: Gather Evidence.
- Step 5: Stop Posting Stuff On Social Media!
- Step 6: Speak to a Car Crash Lawyer Today!
- Step 7: Start Journaling.
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."
- Take an Ambulance to the Emergency Room - Receive proper medical attention at a local hospital near you by taking an ambulance.
- Turn on your auto accident hazard lights and render aid, if you can.
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.
- What Exactly Must Be Turned Over to the Other Drivers?
(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.
- Get pictures of debris patterns, skid marks, and try to videotape any faulty traffic signal phasing or road construction projects that may have played a role in the crash. Photograph street signs and vehicle license plates. And even try and get pictures of the witnesses.
- Make a good faith attempt to document their phone numbers and names in your smart device's notepad or address book.
- Think like Perry Mason. Try and do the same with the other parties. At least when someone flees the scene without exchanging mandatory proof, the police will have your evidence, and they can run the license plate.
- Sometimes drunk or impaired drivers will stumble back into their car or run away from accident scenes.
- Later, they may blame the victims, lie, and say someone tole their vehicle that day.
- But what if you have a video showing them drunk, running off that shows their face, or records their slurred speech as they stumble and stammer drunk? Any documentation of bloodshot eyes or a person's lack of balance can help prove that the other person was likely impaired and, thus, reckless or negligent.
- Hopefully, law enforcement or the California DMV can locate the person who fled the scene later if necessary.
- Police may wish to use this accident report evidence later on in the defendant's criminal prosecution. (jot down the police officer's badge number)
- Stop posting pictures of property damage or incriminating statements on Facebook*. Other social media like Instagram* - The liability insurance company and the insurance defense attorney's goal is to pay the personal injury victim ("plaintiff") as little as possible. These auto accident insurers will seek to call it a minor whiplash fender bender. Your posting things about the scene of an accident, even if you are the victim's find, will play into the liability insurer's "good hands." (keep in mind, Allstate, Mercury, Infinity, and State Farm employ equally ruthless insurance adjusters).
- It's common for us to post things on Facebook, Instagram, etc., about all manner of things we do in life, past, present, and future. Insurance adjusters know this, and they exploit it to gain leverage in case of settlement negotiations. They will immediately gather a dossier on your social media accounts using programs like myreputation.com, seeking other reasons causing your injuries besides your car accident. Or they will try and see if you are making up or exaggerating your injuries, which is insurance fraud. As a result, insurance investigators use social media as a favored method of convincing personal injury lawyers to withdraw from a seemingly fraudulent case like a hot potato. What are the steps in investigating a car accident victim online?
- One, do a background investigation on the plaintiff's name and address.
- Two, look at the publicly known emails and phone numbers connected to the plaintiff. (remember, many people use social media alias associated with a real person using a publicly known phone number or email associated with the plaintiff). Three, after identifying the plaintiff's social media accounts. Most of all, if you have your social media profiles set to "public," it is not private information. In other words, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy from an investigator accessing your posts, comments, likes, pluses, images, memes, videos, mpegs, or other pictures.
*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.
- They will seek photos of you walking around the collision scene because now you claim you can't walk, have a limp, etc.
- They want to compare what you said online to statements you gave the adjuster during a recorded call. This conversation will test your veracity, seeing if you lied about facts relevant to proving injury or fault. At the least social media evidence can be used to argue that the victims were exaggerating their injuries or made them worse later, such as going on a ski trip or a trip to the gym instead of following the doctor’s bedrest restrictions example.
- Anything you post online can and will be used against you. And insurance companies will not hesitate to use information from social media against you in any way they can.
- The other party's goal is to discredit the plaintiff and reduce your tort claim's case value. Although some lawyers recommend that clients delete or take down their social media before establishing a claim, some legal beagles suggest this could be construed later as destruction or withholding of evidence. The safest bet is not to let your life be on public display and to stay away from social media during the pendency of your car accident insurance claims.
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.
- First of all, neither your insurance company nor the other person's insurer is your friend. These people are your adversaries. Because of this, you must retain your injury lawyer right away. Most of all, the longer you delay, the less chance of damage control to your claims. A lawyer is essential to protecting you and the statute of limitations. The power of this newfound legal shield is telling because once your adversary knows you have a lawyer, no other attorney or adjuster is allowed to talk to you without your lawyer present. So now you have started to tip the scales in your favor, and you can focus on healing.
- Keep your lawyer in the loop. You decided to hire an attorney. Make sure they are involved in every step of your recovery. Having them know how you feel is smart. Also, they must-see if you’ve moved. And what if you’ve lost or changed your job? You must keep your lawyer abreast. So if you are unable to work or go to doctor’s visits, tell your legal team. All this and other data will remain essential for a compelling, winning personal injury case.
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.
Ehline Law Maintains locations and meeting places in Long Beach, Torrance, Marina del Rey, Santa Monica, San Bernardino, and Riverside. We can come to your home or bedside anywhere in Northern, Central, or Southern California.