1. What should I do (or not do) when I have been injured in a car accident?
2. What should I bring to my first meeting with my attorney?
What should I do (or not do) when I have been injured in a car accident?
1. At the scene of the accident, keep everyone safe.
Immediately after a car accident, it is quite common for those involved to become upset, angry, or scared. Try your best to stay calm and collected. Determine if you or others in your vehicle have sustained any injuries. If anyone needs medical attention, you should immediately contact emergency medical personnel. Check the surroundings to make sure that it is absolutely safe to step out of the vehicle. You may have to move your car off the road if it is not safe to remain where the vehicle came to rest following the collision.
2. Get the relevant information regarding the other cars involved in the accident.
It is very important to get the names, addresses, and insurance information for everyone involved in the accident. This information is typically obtained by the investigating police officer. However, you should immediately obtain descriptions of the vehicles involved and their license plate numbers just in case one of the other drivers flees the scene. After ascertaining your location, you should then call the police to the scene.
3. Wait for the police to arrive and discuss your car accident only with the police.
After an accident you will likely be upset and it may be difficult to accurately recount the details of the car accident. Be careful not to admit any fault or liability, because what you say can be used against you. Even if you initially believe the car accident is your fault, by waiting to learn more about the facts of the accident, you might realize the other party is more at fault than you are. Simply provide the facts to the investigating police officer. It is his job to make conclusions based upon his investigation – not yours. Make sure you tell the police officer if you are experiencing any pain. The police officer is supposed to note this in his report.
4. File an accident report with help from the police.
The police report is usually the most important document generated as a result of your car accident. The police report is a written record of the statements made by those involved in the accident, any statement made by other people who witnessed the collision and the police officer’s observations and opinions regarding who caused the accident. What the officer noted or documented in the official police report will be critical in determining fault for the accident. In New Jersey you are required to file a police report in the event of an injury or property damage in excess of $500.00. Leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it can result in charges being brought against you.
5. Determine the extent of car accident damage.
Take action to record the damages done to your vehicle by the collision. You should take pictures with a camera or create written details of the damages to your vehicle. If possible note the damage to any of the other vehicles involved in the accident and take photographs of them at the scene. The location of the vehicles on the road, assuming they were not moved after the collision, can also be a factor in determining fault.
6. Report the accident to your insurance company.
Call your insurance company after a car accident to report it. You should realize that your statements to your own insurance company are not necessarily confidential. New Jersey law provides severe penalties for anyone who provides false information to his insurance company for the purpose of committing fraud. Thus, make sure you provide accurate information to your insurance company particularly if you are asserting a claim against your own insurance company. Your own insurance company may be responsible to you for medical benefits, property damage, uninsured motorist benefits and even lost income benefits depending on the coverages provided under your car insurance policy. Failure to promptly report the accident to your insurance company could result in your company denying you coverage with regard to your claims against it or any claims asserted against you as a result of the accident.
7. Don’t delay in seeking needed medical treatment.
Do not delay seeking immediate medical attention after a car accident. Immediate medical treatment may lessen the affects of the injuries you have sustained. You are likely to recover more rapidly and experience less pain with prompt medical care. Many people delay seeking medical help after a vehicle collision because they want to sort out who is paying and how much is to be paid. Inaction works against you. A gap in time between your car accident and medical treatment can cause significant damages to the value of your case. It is much wiser to seek out medical treatment earlier and to sort out who is paying for it later. In New Jersey, the no-fault coverage on your insurance policy usually provides medical coverage regardless of who is ultimately determined to be responsible for the accident.
8. Promptly consult a personal injury lawyer. Mescall Law does not charge a fee for initial consultations with regard to personal injury matters, and we usually will accept your personal injury case on a contingency basis. This means that you do not pay a fee unless you obtain a recovery. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your car accident claim is one of the smartest things you can do. A competent personal injury lawyer knows the legal pitfalls and how to avoid them and will step in between you and the insurance companies and their lawyers. Studies have shown you are likely to realize more for your injury claim if you retain a competent personal injury lawyer to assist you rather than if you handle the matter yourself. You can concentrate on your physical recovery while your lawyer works to maximize the recovery you receive for your injuries and damages.