You’ve been involved in a traffic accident. What you do or don’t do immediately after the car accident can determine the outcome of any auto insurance claim you make for injuries or damages. With the stress and excitement of the moment, many drivers make critical mistakes that later adversely affect their property damage or pain and suffer injury compensation claims. If you follow these simple instructions you can avoid unnecessary mistakes and insure the best possible outcome for any insurance claims that you may decide to pursue.
If there are injuries immediately call 911. Even if everyone is conscious and able to exit their vehicle, don’t be shy about asking for paramedics or an ambulance to treat injuries at the scene.
In some places law enforcement will only arrive if they are informed that someone is injured. Being injured does not have to mean that you are so seriously hurt that you need to be hospitalized. Slight injuries at the scene of the accident often develop into more serious injuries hours or days after the accident. As long as you make sure that law enforcement is aware of those injuries a patrol car will be dispatched to the scene of your accident.
While you are waiting for the Utah police or Utah Highway Patrol to arrive, exchange driver’s license information with the other driver. Ask to see the driver’s license and insurance card. Write down the driver’s license number, state of issuance and expiration date. Be certain that the other driver shows you his or her insurance card. Always write down the name and phone number of the insurance company, the policy number and the dates the policy was in effect. If the other driver is uncooperative or claims he or she does not have any insurance information at the scene, do not argue with that driver but be sure to photograph or write down the other driver’s vehicle plate number and vehicle VIN number.
After exchanging insurance information talk to any accident witnesses and ask them what they saw. Even if a witness appears to blame you, obtain the names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses of each and every witness at the scene. Remain calm and polite when talking to witnesses, even unfavorable witnesses. Never argue with a witness. The witness may remember your hostile attitude and that can affect the witnesses’ attitude and later recollection, making it more difficult for your attorney to discredit that witness.
When talking to the other driver, witnesses, police, Highway Patrol or anyone else at the scene of the accident, never admit that you were at fault or say that you are sorry. Do not even admit that you may have been partially responsible. If asked how the accident occurred, describe what happened but don’t add any personal opinions. Determination of fault is a legal conclusion that may involve factors you are not aware of. Even if you rear ended the car in front of you or ran a red light, other circumstances could place some blame on the other driver, so stick to stating the facts and keep your opinions to yourself.
After talking to the on scene police or Highway Patrol officer ask if a written accident report will be made and when it will be available; if there will be a report, ask the officer for the report number or for an accident report card. If the officer tells you that there will be no report, ask the officer for his business card or contact information. Remember, accident reports are always made when injuries are reported, while non-injury accidents can be treated as little more than nuisances not worthy of a formal, written accident report. Regardless of how insignificant you think your injuries may be, do not hold back on telling the officer that you or your passengers are injured.
“A picture is worth a thousand words.” Always take pictures of any damage of the other vehicle; using your cell phone camera, take a picture of the other vehicle’s license plate, then take pictures of any accident damage on that vehicle. To avoid later questions about the damage on your vehicle, also take pictures of any damage on your vehicle at the scene. Whenever possible, take multiple pictures of the vehicles in their stopped position after impact before they are moved to the side of the road. Take pictures of any skid marks or vehicle debris in or on the roadway. If there is broken glass, blood stains or deployed airbags in either vehicle, take interior shots of each vehicle.
Don’t forget to take pictures of any visible injuries. Motor vehicle crashes often result in injuries such as bleeding, bruising, cuts, scrapes or worse caused by violent contact with the dashboard, windshield, steering wheel or car interior surfaces. Shattered glass can become imbedded in your skin and deployed airbags can cause burn type injuries to the face and arms. Seatbelts often cause injuries to your chest, hips and thighs. Be certain to photograph all visible injuries right after the accident to show the severity of your accident. Keep in mind that bruising and swelling may actually increase hours or days after the accident, so be certain to photograph any later worsening appearance of your injuries.
One of the most common mistakes drivers make is to report the accident to their insurance carrier while still at the scene of the accident. This is also one of the worst mistakes that can be made. Being involved in an accident is a stressful event that heightens anxiety and is not conducive to reasoned thinking. There is plenty of time later that day or the next to report the accident to your insurance company. The best course of action is to report the accident only after you have had an opportunity to carefully reconstruct the accident events in your mind and called a personal injury lawyer for some free advice.
Accident victims forget that the insurance company that was so helpful and accessible in the past was always on the receiving end of their monthly premium payments. Now that you have a potential claim which could cost the insurance company thousands of dollars, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars, that insurance company suddenly becomes more of an adversary rather than a friend; an adversary looking to do whatever it takes to limit how much it will have to pay you at a later time. Don’t be fooled by your insurance company’s apparent friendly or helpful attitude, it’s all part of a game to discourage you from seeking legal advice before making a report or providing a recorded statement. Remember, like they say on television cop shows, “anything you say can and will be used against you.”
It is critical that you talk to personal injury attorney before reporting your car accident to any auto insurance company even if you are not quite ready to hire a lawyer for your accident or injury claim. Utah Personal injury accident law is one of the most competitive fields in the legal profession and most Salt Lake City Utah personal injury lawyers are more than willing to offer free advice by phone. If the first lawyer you call insists that you come into the office to talk, call another Utah personal injury lawyer who is more generous with his or her phone time.
If injuries were involved in your motor vehicle accident in St. George or Salt Lake City Utah, it is best to retain Utah personal injury attorney and let the attorney report the accident to both your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company. Your personal injury lawyer will know how to report the accident without volunteering information that could later hurt your claim. Furthermore, even if the attorney should misstate an important fact, that can never be used against you, while anything you say directly to an auto insurance company will be recorded and may be introduced into evidence when your case goes to arbitration or trial. Your attorney can also arrange for the inspection and repair of your vehicle and the use of a rental vehicle, all at no cost to you. If you decide to go it alone after speaking with a personal injury attorney, follow that attorney’s advice and then report the accident to both your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company.
While you are at the scene of the accident, police, highway patrol or paramedics will ask you if you are injured and if you need to go to the hospital. If you are bleeding or experiencing other complaints such as headaches, dizziness, numbness, blurred vision, loss of balance, slurred speech or even shortness of breath, do not resist the offer for an ambulance ride to the local hospital emergency room; if you are only feeling achy or nervous at the scene make it a point to go to an emergency room or walk in clinic later that day or the next day. Always tell your doctors that you were involved in a motor vehicle accident.
After receiving the initial medical treatment, it is essential that injured accident victims follow up with regular treatment consistent with their injuries. Insurance companies often use what is known as a reasonable man (or woman) test in determining the value of your injury claim; that is, a reasonable person who is injured will follow through with regular and consistent medical treatment until fully recovered. Excessive delays in seeking treatment or frequent gaps in treatment raise questions as to whether the injuries are truly real and at the very least will undermine and reduce the value of your injury claim. If you expect to be fairly compensated for injuries caused by a motor vehicle accident, you must document your claim by obtaining medical or chiropractic treatment for those injuries. Receiving prompt and regular medical treatment is the only way that an accident victim can prove the nature and extent of injuries. Self-administered treatment at home and a buck and a half will only buy you a cup of coffee.
Of course, not all accident victims have medical insurance and many accident victims cannot afford the cost of medical treatment. But, wait! There is a solution. Talk to a personal injury lawyer about medical treatment. Personal injury attorneys work with doctors and chiropractors who will wait until your case is settled before requiring payment. That enables injured accident victims to receive all the treatment they need without having to pay for any medical expenses until their case is settled.
Even if your claim is not disputed, it still makes sense to hire a personal injury attorney. Handling your own personal injury claim is a sure fire way of getting less than you deserve for your claim. Even though your attorney will receive a percentage of the settlement at the end of the case, your net recovery will be greater because the attorney has the knowledge and expertise to maximize the value of your claim. Unless you have prior experience in the injury claims field, you will not have the background or resources to properly evaluate your claim. The result will be that you will settle for less than your claim is actually worth. Going it alone is almost always a mistake.
At the St. George Utah personal injury attorney and Salt Lake City Utah Accident Lawyer, Law Offices of David Laurence Altman, we handle all aspects of your personal injury case including recovery of the repair costs for your vehicle, loss of vehicle use and rental reimbursement, as well as recoveries for any and all loss or damage to personal property, loss of earnings, loss of earnings capacity and the cost of all medical or chiropractic treatment. In addition, we will recover compensation for the pain and suffering you experienced as a result of being injured in the accident.
We will refer you to doctors and clinics in your area for treatment on a deferred payment arrangement; you will not have to pay for any medical or chiropractic expenses until your case is resolved and we will also negotiate favorable discounts on your bills which will put more settlement dollars in your pocket. Attorney fees will only be paid when your case is finished and in the extremely unlikely event that you receive no recovery, you will owe our office absolutely nothing regardless of how much time or money we has spent or advanced in representing you.
Whether you’re ready to hire a personal injury lawyer or just looking for free advice about your accident, call our Saint George Utah office at (435) 688-9999 for St. George automobile accidents and (801) 983-3688 for car accidents in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have offices in St. George Utah, Salt Lake City Utah and Los Angeles, California and offer some of the lowest contingency fee rates. With over thirty-five years of experience in personal injury matters, there is no better personal injury attorney to call.
We are always pleased to speak with you and answer your accident related questions. We are available 24/7 and there is never a charge to speak directly with the attorney.