Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What to do if you are involved in an automobile accident

Gross & Romanick, P.C. recommends:

At scene of collision:
  1. Call for medical assistance if anyone is hurt;
  2. Call the police. Obtain the responding officer's business card and any information exchange form;
  3. Exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver;
  4. Obtain all available Witness information including a name and phone number (police do not always put this information in their reports);
  5. Take pictures of cars at the scene of the accident and photograph the surrounding area - if not possible at the scene, do it later so long as it can be done safely. 
Within 24 hours: 
1.     Seek medical attention - your health is irreplaceable;
2.     Document lost wages or, if self-employed, you will need documentation of economic losses;
3.     Contact and notify all insurance carriers - your own auto insurance carrier and the carrier of the responsible parties;
4.     Start the process of repairing your vehicle and/or obtaining a rental car;
5.     Do not give formal statements to anyone without consulting a lawyer first – insurance companies will use your statements against you if it will save them money;
6.     Find an experienced Personal Injury Lawyer if you have injuries.

Within the first week: 
1.     Medical treatment - if you are hurting or think you may be injured do not wait too long or insurance company will claim that you were not injured in the accident or you would have sought care;
2.     Medical records - be very careful what you say to medical providers. It will be written down and may be used against you later by the insurance defense lawyers. Make sure all of your injuries are documented. Make sure records state that you are seeking treatment due to auto accident;
3.     Start a pain diary – a pain diary can be used as proof of the problems and discomfort you experienced and will help you recall and accurately describe the suffering you experienced;
4.     Repair or replace your car - try to get responsible party’s insurance to pay. If the other party’s insurance is not cooperating or is being difficult, make a claim against your own insurance company, it is one of the reasons you bought insurance . Demand new parts and quality work. It is best if you can use a dealer or shop that works with the insurance company.   If the vehicle is very substantially damaged - try to recover the diminished value of the vehicle. If the car is a total loss - you are only entitled to fair market value and unfortunately not entitled to any amount based upon the balance of any loan on the car. Research the value of the car online and in the newspapers;
5.     Do not sign any releases or other document until you have spoken to a lawyer.  If you do not have a lawyer, then only release information regarding vehicular damage and loss of property. Do not release any claims for personal injury. Be sure to read any release very carefully.  

Within 30 days:
1.     Hire a lawyer if you have any personal injury. Don't wait to hire a lawyer or you may harm your legal case and not receive the full compensation you deserve for your injuries;
2.     Obtain the Police Accident Report;
3.     Attend all court proceedings if the other party was charged with a traffic violation;
4.     Locate all insurance available to pay for your medical bills;
5.     Always remember that the insurance companies are more concerned about minimizing their payout than helping you. Virginia has a very complex insurance scheme and the insurance companies will not tell you how to navigate the maze and in some cases may even misrepresent your rights.