Note any Injuries: It is critical to determine whether any drivers or passengers suffered any injuries after the accident. If so, immediately seek emergency help. If you need to seek medical care, you will need your medical records to provide support for the injuries you claim.
Investigate the Incident: Gather information from the other driver such as his or her name, address, telephone number, the make and model of the driver’s vehicle, license plate, insurance information, and type of vehicle. If possible, take a photo of his or her license and insurance card, your damages and damage to the other driver and/or his or her vehicle, and the scene of the accident with your smart phone. If the driver will not stop, try to get his or her license plate number and a description of the vehicle so you can include it in your police report. Get the contact information for any witnesses as well. Try to determine whether there are any surveillance cameras nearby that could have captured the accident.
Keep Quiet: When it comes to talking at the scene of the accident, less is best. Aside from telling the police officer what happened and getting the other driver and witnesses’ information, don’t divulge too much, as anything you say could possibly be used against you. Don’t take blame for the accident or make any statements suggesting that you are or may be responsible. For example, saying that you are sorry, were not paying complete attention, or should have seen the other driver may imply that you are at fault.
File an Insurance Claim: In California, the driver who is at fault for the accident uses his or her insurance to pay for the property damage and medical bills of the other driver. You should therefore report the accident to the other driver’s insurance company as quickly as possible. When you report the accident to insurance, you will likely be asked to provide a recorded statement. As this statement could be used against you, you may wish to consult an attorney for assistance in reporting the incident.
Insurance companies often want to settle the matter quickly, and this may be before you know the full extent of your injuries. If you make a settlement agreement with an insurance company, and then discover later that you have additional medical bills or time off work for which you were not compensated, you probably will not be able to get more money later.
Drivers who are at fault for accidents sometimes suggest that the situation be resolved without the insurance company’s involvement. Don’t agree. If you try to avoid going through insurance, you may be setting yourself up for a hassle. While the other driver may promise that he or she will repair your vehicle or pay for the repairs, there is nothing to guarantee that he or she will follow through. Going through insurance will also provide you with far more assurance that you are receiving quality repairs. If you have repairs made without involving insurance and the repairs are inadequate, you may no longer have any rights to repairs through insurance.
When you speak with the insurance company, make sure to ask for a claims adjuster or an approved repair shop that is authorized to repair your vehicle. Insurance companies often rely on the police report to determine who is at fault. To this end, while the insurance company obtains and reviews the report, there could be some delay between the day of the accident and the time your vehicle can be repaired. If the insurance company does accept liability, ask that it provide you with written authorization for the repairs.
Notify Your Insurance Company: Insurance companies often require you to report accidents even if you were not at fault. Review your policy to determine whether you need to notify your insurance company. Notifying your insurance company is also critical in the event that the other driver was not insured or did not have sufficient coverage to pay for all of your damages and injuries.
Consult a Lawyer: The other driver’s insurance company may refuse to accept fault. You may have suffered personal injuries, such as soft tissue damage or bone fractures, which require continuing medical treatment. You’re entitled to be compensated for all of your bills due to the accident plus your pain and suffering. If you missed time from work, you may also be entitled to compensation for lost wages or loss of earnings capacity. You may be entitled to recover for emotional distress as well. Contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss these matters. A lawyer can negotiate with the insurance company and help you maximize your compensation for your damages and injuries. If you settle with the insurance company on your own before knowing the full extent of your injuries and without a lawyer’s assistance, you are unlikely to be able to obtain all of the compensation to which you’re entitled.
The Law Offices of Sara B. Poster is dedicated to protecting the rights of injured persons and their families in West Hollywood and the Greater Los Angeles region. If you or someone you know has suffered injury in a car accident caused by someone else, contact us today at (323) 380-8342 for a free consultation.