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PART TWO – STEPS TO TAKE AFTER AN ACCIDENT
I. Pull over and call 911
You should always call the police once you have moved your vehicle to a safe area and put your hazard lights on. If anyone has sustained serious injuries, your first call should be to 911 to seek immediate medical assistance. However, even if no one is injured you should always call 911 for police assistance. If there is damage to your vehicle, your insurance company will soon be engaging with the at-fault driver’s insurers. Having a police officer attend the scene ensures a neutral accident report will be prepared based on the facts and witness statements.
II. Exchange information with the other driver
If you sustain any damage to your vehicle or suffer any injuries, your ability to recover compensation from the at-fault driver is dependent on being able to identify the individual(s) responsible. You should always insist on getting the at-fault driver’s insurance information.
While the exchange of information is required by law, I would advise that you do not make any statement regarding the accident to the other driver, particularly one that could be deemed as accepting any portion of the blame. Often you do not know all of the facts. For example, it may later be revealed that the other driver was speeding, was on the phone or went through a red light. Always be honest with an investigating police officer but be sure not to admit fault when you are not at fault.
III. Make notes, obtain witness details and take photos
Remember an insurance provider will review the relevant documentation supplied by the parties, normally several months (sometimes years) after the accident occurred. If you are able to submit notes made at the time of the accident, contemporaneously made witness statements from neutral parties and photographs from the scene of the accident, which support your version of events, it is far more likely that the insurance company will agree to pay a fair settlement of compensation rather than proceed to trial.
You should record the time of the accident, the direction each vehicle was travelling, the approximate speed of the vehicles and any other details when fresh in your mind. You should also ensure that you and the police take the full name and contact information of anyone who witnessed the accident.
IV. Seek medical assistance
If you have sustained serious injuries you will be taken by ambulance to receive immediate medical attention. If, however, your injuries appear to be moderate to minor, it is strongly recommended that you seek medical assistance at the very earliest opportunity. Obtaining a contemporary record of the extent and severity of your injuries is key to producing evidence to support your claim.
Those victims who do not wish to incur the cost of seeking medical attention or hope to recover from injuries without treatment often find it more difficult to prove the true extent of their injuries as there is no objective record.
Injuries caused by sudden impact can often have long-lasting effects, particularly whiplash injuries. Whiplash is a sudden strain to the muscles, bones and nerves in the neck. It is important that these and similar injuries be properly diagnosed. If the injuries are left untreated they can become very serious and permanently restrict movement. The extent of the injuries should be recorded by a medical professional, who can also advise on the best course of treatment to obtain the most complete recovery possible. Sometimes the full extent of injuries, which may appear minor at the time of the accident, do not emerge until long after the accident. It is important to persist in treatment to be sure that injuries are fully diagnosed and properly treated.
You have a legal obligation to ‘mitigate your losses’, which requires you to take reasonable steps to prevent your injuries or expenses from escalating. This means that if you let your injuries become more severe by failing to seek reasonable medical assistance, the compensation you will be entitled to may be limited.
You should maintain a detailed journal recording the degree of pain, restrictions of movement, limitations of activities, incidental expenses and treatment you receive.
In my next blog I will focus on whether you need legal representation for an accident - 'Auto Accidents - Part III - Do I need an attorney?'
Content prepared by Edmond McGill and Richard Parry.
This message and the information presented here do not create or evidence an attorney-client relationship nor are they intended to convey legal advice or counsel. You should not act upon this information without seeking advice from a qualified lawyer licensed in your own state or country who actually represents you. In this regard, you may contact The McGill Law Office and then representation and advice may be given if, and only if, attorney Edmond McGill agrees to do so in a written contract signed by him.