If you recently have been in a car accident what should you do? The following ten items represent critical steps that will help you understand and maintain your rights following an accident, and help you avoid potential issues or problems with claims after the accident.
1. Gather Information
Gathering information, in some cases, can be the most critical step to protecting your legal interests. In order to preserve a personal injury claim arising out of the accident, take note of:
• Vehicle license plate numbers
• Names of all parties involved, including witnesses
• Driver’s license numbers
• Insurance policy information for each person involved in the accident
• Contact information for each witness (phone number, address, email address)
• Photos of the vehicles and the accident scene
• The events that led up to the accident, the accident, and what happened after the accident
After the accident, as soon as possible, the attorneys at Henshaw & Henry, PC can obtain a copy of the police report on your behalf.
2. Call the Police
Immediately after an accident, if any individual is injured, or if there is a dispute as to fault related to the accident, call the police immediately. The police will take down each side’s story. This is important although at the accident site someone may have admitted to full fault for the accident, that same person may deny liability later.
3. Report Injuries to Doctor
If you or anyone traveling with you feel any pain, it is important to visit a doctor immediately. Many injuries do not appear right after an accident. Therefore, it is necessary to see a medical professional to obtain a full examination following a crash. Also, if you notice pain days after the accident, go back and discuss it with your doctor.
4. Contact an Attorney
Dealing with car accidents on your own takes time. Many people have the wrong belief that unless their injuries are extremely serious, the insurance companies will only cover damage to a vehicle. Other people are afraid to contact attorneys because they just want to move on and not think of the accident further, and not deal with insurance companies.
At Henshaw & Henry, PC, we are familiar with the processes that accompany car accidents. We take the time to make sure we understand your goals, and the expectations from any representation. Most importantly, we recover what you are rightfully able to receive. We make the process as worry-free as possible. We also are skilled litigators, with the talent and tenacity to aggressively pursue those funds that you deserve.
5. Report to the DMV
California requires that each driver in a car accident is required to make a report to the DMV, within 10 days, whether at fault or not, of an accident if:
(a) There was property damage of over $1,000;
(b) Anyone was injured (no matter how minor the injury); or
(c) Anyone died as a result of the accident.
Here is a link to the “Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California Form (SR1).”
6. Do Not Sign Anything or Give a Taped Statement to Anybody Without First Consulting with your Attorney
After the accident, you will need to contact your own insurance company to provide them with the accident details. When you make this call, make sure you have spoken with your attorney to ensure that you provide all the proper documentation, as well as the full and necessary details of the accident.
If the other side’s insurance company calls you, you should make sure that your attorney is the first contact. Additionally, do not make any recordings or provide any information to the other side. All of this can be done through your counsel. Even though the insurance adjustor make sound nice, their goal is to find information to use against your claim, and reduce any payment due to you.
7. Notify Your Employer
Let you employer know that you have been in an accident, and that you may be required to deal with the aftermath of the incident. In some circumstances, you may need time off for activities such medical visits, procedures, and in some cases, depositions, mediation, and trial. Also, if you have had significant injuries, you may to seek accommodations from your employer to assist you to complete your normal work.
8. Monitor Your Health
Keep track of any lingering issues related to the accident. Some people think that because a symptom existed (pre-existing condition) prior to the accident, they cannot be compensated. However, the law provides that you are to be made whole. If the accident compounds your prior symptom, you may be entitled to recovery. Additionally, as stated above, many injuries appear after the day of the accident. Do not be afraid to see a therapist to discuss any emotional damages that the accident caused.
9. Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
California requires that any claims related to personal injury claims must be filed within two years after the date of the accident. The attorneys at Henshaw & Henry, PC can make sure that you timely resolve your personal injury claim before the statute of limitations run.
10. Do Not Settle Your Personal Injury Claim Too Early
Some attorneys will only look to take cases in order to get a quick settlement because they do not want to put in the work to obtain the maximum available recovery for the accident victims. Do not settle your personal injury claim until you know are receiving the amount you deserve. With a two-year statute of limitations, there is generally no need to rush the settlement of your accident claim. Once you settle your claim, the insurance company, as well as the person causing the accident, is released from all future claims. If you are not even aware of the extent of your claims, because they have not been fully reviewed, you may be walking away from significant damages because of an early settlement, and may be required to cover additional costs on your own.
11. Vehicle Repair
You have the right to have your vehicle repaired at the repair location of your choosing. Do not allow the insurance company to mandate where you have your car repaired. It is your right to have your vehicle repaired to pre-accident condition. If your vehicle cannot be returned to pre-accident condition then you may have the right recover the difference between the pre-accident value of your vehicle and the post-repair value. If your vehicle is totaled, you are entitled to recover the fair market value of your vehicle. This means that you are entitled to the amount it would cost you to buy your exact vehicle in the marketplace. Although vehicle valuation services are helpful, such as Kelley Blue Book and NADA, the best measures of your vehicles worth are dealer prices, classified ads, and auto advertisements for vehicles like yours. You may be entitled to a rental car while your car is being repaired or evaluated for total loss. If the at-fault party does not have this benefit under their policy then check with your own insurance company.
The automobile accident and personal injury attorneys at Henshaw & Henry, PC can discuss each of the steps listed above to protect your rights and maximize your recovery. Our accident injury attorneys represent personal injury clients throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, including San Jose, Santa Clara County, Alameda County, Santa Cruz County, Contra Costa County, San Mateo County, Milpitas, Sunnyvale, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Mountain View, Cupertino, Fremont, Union City, Pleasanton, Menlo Park, Redwood City, Hayward, Castro Valley, Oakland, and San Leandro.
Our personal injury lawyers handle personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingent fee basis. This means that we only get paid once we recover monetary damages on your behalf. Our personal injury attorneys will take over handling your claim and dealing with the insurance companies so you can avoid the time and stress associated with handling your claim. On average, most people find that they recover more, even after paying a personal injury attorney, than they would have received on their own.