Unfortunately car accidents happen. There are a multitude of reasons for these accidents. However, whether it is someone texting, speeding, talking on a cell phone, distracted by passengers, or plain inattention, the result is often the same – damaged vehicles, possible injuries, and lots of emotions. In the heat of the moment it may be hard to think clearly and know what to do. So its important to know what to do before you are in an accident.
WHAT TO DO NOW:
Get proper insurance coverage. If you do not have insurance you will be breaking the law every time you drive. You also will be putting yourself at risk of financial liability if you cause an accident.
If you already have insurance you also need to make sure that you have proper coverage – if you don’t you may be at a loss if someone else causes an accident.
You should know the different types of insurance coverage and what you have on your policy. There is uninsured motorists’ coverage – which will protect you if someone uninsured causes an accident. There is also underinsured motorists’ coverage – which will protect you if the person causing the accident did not have adequate coverage.
With either of these types of coverage you also need to know what your coverage limits are and make sure those are adequate. If you have low limits (state minimum in Ohio is $12,500.00 per person/$25,000.00 per occurrence) then that could mean you could recover no more than that amount – even in the case of a catastrophic injury. For instance, I had a client who lost his leg in an accident. The person who caused the accident had no insurance. My client had uninsured motorists’ coverage, but he only had state minimum limits. So ultimately the client could only receive $12,500.00 for the accident and losing his leg. As you can imagine, this barely put a dent in anything as the bills themselves were well over $100,000.00. The lesson here – do not trust others to have appropriate insurance coverage. Make sure you have liability AND underinsured/uninsured motorists coverage at the highest limit you can afford.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE IN AN ACCIDENT:
At the time of the accident
- Exchange names, addresses, phone numbers, license plate numbers and insurance company details of everyone involved – including vehicle owner if they were not the driver.
- Document a description of each vehicle involved including damage and where the damage and vehicles are located after the accident. Take photos with a cell phone if possible. Even if you cannot take pictures at the time of the accident, take pictures of the damage to your vehicle before it is repaired.
- Document how the accident happened and where/when it happened.
- Take down the names and addresses of any witnesses
- Contact the police. They may not come to the scene in some circumstances, but if you get the above information you can still make a report at the station.
- Keep a cool head at the scene to allow the police to do their job effectively, and help you to get the above information. Yelling at the other driver will never get you anywhere, and could even make your situation worse
After the accident
- Consult an attorney regarding what your rights are and to protect those rights. Most attorneys who take these sorts of cases do not charge hourly or up front fees but work on contingency – so they only get paid if/when they settle the claim. An attorney will have the expertise that you do not have as they have handled these claims before. Find an attorney you trust and feel comfortable with.
- Do not discuss the details of the accident with the insurance company unless you have consulted an attorney. If you provide a statement it could be used against you later to prove you were at fault or not injured.
- Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible – even if the accident is not your fault your insurance may come into play. It could be days before you hear from the other person’s insurance and can get your vehicle fixed. If you have adequate coverage on your policy, they could begin fixing your car sooner (if needed). Again though, discuss this with your attorney prior to making any statements.
- If you are injured, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Sometimes injuries do not appear for a few days – but seek medical help as soon as you begin to feel injured.
- Continue to receive treatment for your injuries. For most injuries, the only/best way to prove your injuries is to have medical records demonstrating continued complaints and treatment. Also, physical therapy is often more effective than medication alone. Document your treatment and who you receive treatment with.