Seven Great Tips for After a Bad Car Accident
Take Care of Your Legal-Needs After a Car Accident By Following These Seven Steps.
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So you were in a vehicle crash, right? Now what? True, your legal needs are of utmost importance. But did you know you can't win an injury case without evidence that you were seriously injured? For example, if you never took an ambulance to the hospital, you already hamstrung your case. And you thought you were being nice to the scared, shivering person who hit your car.
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! The guy who caused the crash has done a complete 180-degree turn and now says "prove it" and "call my insurance company."
So now, when you call, trying to get paid for your chiropractor and car rental, 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. Period! The perp will lawyer up after they convince you not to call the police or do anything to preserve evidence. So now it's time to think about you, your family, and others who are relying on you for sustenance themselves.
And from a legal perspective, getting the medical care you need is the number one way to protect your legal rights to compensation, not just for physical health. But if it's safe and reasonable conditions exist after the collision, there are many other things you can do that can help later when your lawyer is building your case. Below are the seven most important steps to take after a car accident, written by lawyer Michael Ehline. Afterward, we will provide you contact and other information if you still need help. There are tips here to avoid accidents altogether. But you landed here because you need help dealing with an accident that was unavoidable.
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 police 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, mandatory insurance and other contact information of people and locations involved can be exchanged peacefully. Also, parties can be separated and questioned to investigate the primary cause of the collision and document these items of evidence into a "traffic collision investigation report."
2. 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, so the first step is to be calm. Breathe and close your eyes. Prepare yourself. Don't argue or get in a fight. Never say, “Sorry about that” or “I feel terrible about all of this,” for example. All that does is create a subterfuge. So now, the other driver’s insurance company can delay, deny, and place the blame on you, the victim, for the collision.
3. 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 and additional identifying information.
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 permissive act. Of particular interest, this remains 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.
(2) Name of the driver(s).
(3) The driver’s CURRENT address. (If the other person just moved, then that address must be turned 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 bad 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, then don't stop there, read below.
4. Use your smartphone to photograph the accident scene, witnesses, and parties - Again, assuming you are not disabled, or that you don't have a passenger who can help, use your phone cam. Take video and still shots of the entire vicinity of the crash—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 even try and blame the victims, or 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 evidence later on in the defendant's criminal prosecution.
5. Stop posting pictures or incriminating statements on Facebook*, and other social media like Instagram* - The goal of the liability insurance company and the insurance defense attorney is to pay the personal injury victim ("plaintiff") as little as possible. It's common for us to post things on Facebook, or 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 settlement negotiations. They will immediately gather a dossier on your social media accounts using programs like myreputation.com to find other reasons for your injuries than the 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 seeming 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 a 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 images.
*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 for 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 of an old injury caused somewhere else that you are now blaming for the accident.
- They are seeking photos of you walking around the collision scene because now you claim you can't walk, or have a limp, etc.
- They want to compare what you said online to statements you gave the adjuster during a recorded call. This is to 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, for 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 the 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.
6. 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.
- 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 own personal 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? Your lawyer must be kept abreast. So if you are unable to work or go to doctor’s visits, tell the legal team. All this and other data are all essential for a compelling case.
7. 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 to simply record 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 substance of the conversations. 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 minds own 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. And send in any documents your lawyers need from their doctors or required for the court and insurance companies. Make sure anyone your attorney refers you to, gets papers and documents signed after consulting over them with your lawyer.
Don’t waste time - or time will leave you behind! We hope these 7 vital steps to take after a car accident are shared with all your friends and family. If you already have a lawyer and are unhappy with their attitude, or service, or just don't know what to do, we can help. 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 important call at (213) 596-9642.