Automobile Accident Checklist
Q: I was recently involved in an automobile accident. After the accident, I felt okay, but now my back hurts on and off. Now the insurance company for the other driver is calling me, asking how much I want to settle for, and wants to come an inspect my vehicle. What should I do at this point?
A: The decision to settle a claim rests solely with the claimant, and any person who believes they have suffered more injury than a carrier is willing to settle for should speak with an attorney immediately. There are some things that may be done by the claimant, however, which are invaluable to an attorney later on in investigation of the claim, and should litigation result.
Automobile Accident Check List
Preserve Physical Evidence: Anything physically involved in the collision should be preserved. This includes objects such as the vehicles themselves, any reports made by law enforcement, photographs of the scene or the parties, or recorded statements of witnesses. However, this idea applies to any other evidence which may be useful in the claim, for example, if a car window breaks during the collision, and the driver or a passenger is cut and bleeds on their clothing, the clothing articles should themselves be preserved as well. Assuming there was any mechanical failure of the vehicle whatsoever, it should be diagnosed by a technician familiar with the defect, but not repaired immediately, before an attorney is consulted. The proof of such a defect may require the original evidence (i.e. the part of the car which failed) to be presented to the insurance adjuster or in court.
Take Photographs: Pictures are worth a thousand words, and in litigation, a picture may sometimes make the difference of thousands of dollars. A key photograph of the scene of the collision, the vehicles, the occupants of the vehicles, the weather conditions, street signs or other traffic conditions at the time of the collision speaks volumes to those later on, such as attorneys, judges or jurors, who were not physically present at the scene. To have a visual representation of the scene itself could have dramatic effects on the litigation, and depending on the specific circumstances, affect settlement of the claim as well. Even before vehicles are moved from their resting position after the collision, photographs could well preserve aspects of the incident that reconstruction experts later may use in their analysis of a traffic collision claim.
Obtain Witness Statements and Contact Information: Memories tend to fade, and people tend to move away, so the taking and preservation of eyewitness statements of the collision may later prove invaluable. Such statements may be used later to refresh the recollection of witnesses, so even if their memory initially fades, their statement may clue them in to their account of what happened during the collision. Written statements should be taken whenever possible, so that attorneys and adjusters later may take these accounts into consideration when evaluating the claim. Further, a key eyewitness statement may make or break a decision to settle a claim, especially when the dispute comes between the credibility of the two drivers on a specific issue of importance, for example, who ran a red light, or whether one driver failed to check their blind spot before changing lanes.
See a Physician Immediately: This notion is more a necessity of common sense rather than a legal nature, though many people often overlook this stage of recovery from a collision, tending to place more importance on the vehicular repairs rather than the biological repairs. However, the diagnosis and analysis of a physician may often be crucial to show what initial symptoms have arisen to what later on may present itself to be a greater injury. Also, consulting a physician sooner rather than later shows the claimant is doing their best to mitigate their damages, and later on helps to defeat any defense by the other driver that the injured party could have prevented further injury by seeking medical attention immediately, rather than delaying.
Regardless of what type of collision you have been involved with, or how injured you are, you may have rights and remedies you are unaware of. Consult a personal injury attorney so that you may make a fully informed decision before settling your claim.