Part 2: During thee Accident
A. Not Calling The Police
After the car crash, never, and I mean never, agree to not call the police. Police investigation is critical. After an accident, the at-fault driver will often tell a sob story and appeal to your sense of goodness and kindness. This is a classic mistake. Even in the clearest of accidents-say for example, a rear-ender letting the at-fault party leave the scene will virtually assure that the at-fault driver WILL fix his story after talking to his insurance company and perhaps an attorney. The at-fault party will often minimize the accident in an attempt to lessen his responsibility for it. This will mean more difficulty in getting your car repaired, more time arguing with insurance people, and certainly more headaches in getting the insurance company to take responsibility. Don't do it! Insist on calling the police. If the accident occurs during a weather "accident alert," insist that the at-fault driver write a signed statement for you at the scene ADMITTING to causing the accident. At the scene, the at-fault driver is sorry and will likely do anything you ask. Later, they "lawyer-up" and they start rationalizing their conduct. Within days, they will have firmly convinced themselves that they did nothing wrong. A police report or a signed statement (when the police will not come to the scene) is mission critical, every time. Failing to call the police in an attempt to be a "nice guy/gal" is a mistake.
B. Not Seeking Care Immediately:
There is a well-recognized euphoria that comes over people who have just experienced an automobile accident. It seems to set in after the immediate shock of the accident subsides. Adrenaline is pumping, the victim looks at his destroyed car, the police arrive, witnesses start to gather, and the victim answers the "are you alright" question multiple times. Suddenly, a euphoria sets in as the person realizes "I'm alive. I walked away from this incredible crash. It's a miracle. I am invincible!" Because of this, many people refuse medical attention at the scene.
However, immediate care is really important. It is important not only for your physical well being, but also, to show the legitimacy of your collision to the insurance companies involved. Except in the case of the smallest of fender-benders, you should insist on being evaluated emergently, even if at the moment you don't feel pain. Most people injured in auto accidents do not start feeling symptoms until around 72 hours after the accident. Of course, you must be truthful. Explain to the authorities that you are shaken up, you are not sure whether you are hurt or not, but you would feel better if you were evaluated by medical personnel. If you do refuse an ambulance, at the very least, have someone drive you directly to the hospital. Not seeking immediate medical attention is a mistake.
C. Not Getting Names of Witnesses:
Getting the names and telephone numbers of eye witnesses is critical. You should do this even when the police show up to the scene. Do not assume the police officer will do his job well. Police generally hate the investigation and paperwork involved with auto accidents. Some are very good at it. Some are not. If you become aware of witnesses, get their names and telephone numbers. People assume police correctly document the witnesses information. But in reality, they often do not. Failing to get any witnesses' name and number is a mistake.
D. Not Taking Photos:
Photos of the vehicle and the scene of the accident can often assist in determining how the crash occurred and the severity of the impact. Keep a camera in your car. If you are able, take plenty of pictures after the accident. Assuming that someone else will take pictures could cost you in the long run.
At Anderson, Hemmat & McQuinn, we want to help you avoid the all too common pitfalls that can adversely affect your medical, legal, and financial future. The next blog will focus on mistakes made after an auto accident. As always, if you have questions, feel free to call us for a free appointment.