A wreck may cause you to lose consciousness and will certainly leave you stunned. But how you respond in the minutes following the crash and the days ahead can improve recovery of your health and greatly assist your legal claim.
Knowing ahead of time what steps you should take will help you act decisively, obtain important medical treatment, and preserve your rights to compensation.
During my 35 years of personal injury practice, I have handled hundreds of auto accident claims. And the Boy Scouts taught me to expect the unexpected and to be prepared. To help you, I’d like to share some useful tips on taking action following an automobile or truck accident:
1. Stay at the scene of the crash, taking steps to remain safe
Texas law requires you to remain at the scene of a car crash that results in property damage or personal injuries. If the accident is minor, move the vehicles out of traffic. Remain in your car with your seat belt fastened and your hazard lights on.
2. Check whether everyone is ok and seek medical care
Call 911 if you suspect anybody has sustained a serious injury.
If you are not treated at the scene, visit a doctor as soon as you can. Injuries may not be immediately obvious. For example, head injury symptoms may not manifest for several days. Likewise, you are unlikely to feel whiplash pain right away.
In addition to getting the medical care you need, your doctor’s visits provide crucial evidence of the cause and extent of your injuries. Keep track of your medical records, including hospital visits, doctors’ reports, diagnostic tests and medications.
3. Make sure the police file a report
Call the police, even for a minor wreck. Texas law requires a report to be written if property damage to any one vehicle is $1,000.00 — which is just about every collision. Insurance companies — yours and the other driver’s — require an accident report to process your claim. The officer collects insurance information and conducts an independent investigation of the crash. If your case goes into court, your lawyer will want to call the officer as a witness.
4. Cooperate, but don’t admit fault
Of course you want to remain polite and cooperative to the officer and the other driver, but don’t admit blame. You may think you caused the accident, but your actions may not have risen to the level of legal fault, which can affect your right to compensation.
5. Take photographs and talk to witnesses
A picture really is worth a thousand words in a court of law. In my injury cases, I use photographs of the scene to refute the other driver’s claims. Get your cell phone out and take pictures of the vehicles, skid marks, accident debris, obscured stop signs or any other relevant aspects of the crash scene. Talk to people who might have witnessed what happened and get their contact information.
6. Get an auto repair estimate
If you believe your insurance company has underestimated your automobile repairs, obtain your own independent repair estimates. You have the opportunity to negotiate the value of your totaled car or the repair costs to get the compensation you deserve.
7. Call a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible
The funds may be tempting, but consider talking to a personal injury lawyer before accepting an offer from your insurance company — usually $500.00. Your lawyer can investigate your case and negotiate with your insurance company to recover the maximum compensation possible. If the insurance company makes a lowball offer, your attorney can file a lawsuit, develop your case, and advocate for you at trial.