Auto Accident - Frequently Asked Questions

Posted Monday, August 18, 2008 by Ed Harper

Auto Accident

Injuries which stem from accidents occurring on streets or highways require one to make decisions often when one is suffering from shock or experiencing a rush of adrenaline. Be prepared for long-lasting effects from a collision. The highway is a very dangerous place. According to the Center for Disease Control, in a 1999 study, motor-vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States, accounting for 31% of all such deaths in 1996

Here are answers to several frequently asked questions after an accident:

If I have been in an accident, what should I do?
The first thing after an accident is to see if anyone needs medical attention.
After ascertaining if anyone is hurt, including your passengers and other drivers, call 911. If you are able to exit your vehicle, and it is safety to do so, get out of your vehicle to assess the accident and vehicle damage. If you have a camera, take pictures of the location of the collision, the vehicles involved in the collision, and anything that would be of value to the investigation of the crash.

Should I move my vehicle?
If possible, wait until after the police have arrived and told you it is okay to move your vehicle. With the vehicles in the same location the officers investigating the collision will have an easier time to determine who is at fault for the collision. Sometimes, if you are on a bridge or spot you may need to move your vehicle to a safe location, if it endangers your or others.

What information should I obtain from other people?
Make sure you get their name, address, phone numbers, e-mail address, and insurance information of all the drivers involved in the collision. Also, try and get the name, address, phone numbers, e-mail addresses from all passengers and witnesses. Also write down the make, model, year, and license plate number of each vehicle.

What if the collision does not appear to be a serious accident?
Typically, the 911 operator will first ask if someone is injured. If not, or if the damage is less than $500, they likely will not come. However, encourage the police to come as it is of great benefit to have an officer write up a report. This creates a record of the collision, and the investigation usually goes much easier with this information already recorded. As one who has just been an accident, you probably will not be thinking about the ramifications of your decisions at the scene. However, insurance adjusters, attorneys, and claims representatives diligent review the facts of the collision. Thus, what you do at the scene if of utmost importance.

After leaving the scene of a collision, what should I do next?
First, notify your automobile insurance company of the collision. If you were injured, seek medical attention. If you have personal injury protection (“PIP”) through your auto insurance, you can make a claim for your benefits. This will includes such items as medical costs, wage loss continuation (after 14 days), loss of services, and other items of coverage. Be sure the PIP adjuster advises you of all benefits that you are entitled to receive. Additionally, if the other driver who is at fault, is not insured, you may have to seek recovery from your own insurance company for their uninsured motorist benefits, or underinsured motorist benefits. If you have not seen a physician, and you suspect you may be injured, go to your primary care physician as soon as possible. Creating a record of your injury is mandatory. Any gaps in care, will be commented upon later by the opposing side, and these gaps is care need to be kept to a minimum. Also, your primary care physician will record your symptoms, and will refer you to the correct specialist if necessary. If you feel you need a second opinion, the PIP coverage allows you to obtain treatment from a variety of health care providers, provided it is reasonable, necessary and causally related to the collision.

What should I tell my health care provider after a collision?
You will need to inform your health care provider what happened, and how you are feeling. Telling the provider of each and every symptom which is new and different, and in your mind caused by the collision. This is very important to ensure your provider can accurately diagnose what injuries occurred in the collision and will provide them with the necessary information needed to exam you to provide the objective basis for their diagnosis. Tell your provider what activities are more difficult, and ask them if you need a disability note to miss work.

Should I keep a diary or pain journal?
Absolutely. A journal, will be of utmost value when memories fade and you can’t recall in what order things happened. The journal, can be protected by the attorney-client privilege if you draft it to your attorney, as an attorney client communication. Write down what symptoms you are having, and what activities you are having trouble with. The one thing you need to keep in mind however, is to write down the information on a regular basis. Consistency is important as one who starts off strong, and then fades to almost nothing, can indicate an improvement in ones symptoms, or a loss of interest in the case. Whatever you do, keep it consistent.

Should I give a statement to an insurance company?
You should immediately contact an attorney who practices in personal injury claims before you give a statement, whether in writing or over the phone. This will be a written record of your version of what happened, and you will be asked about your injuries. Often, insurance company representatives will tell you this is mandatory, but it is not. It is only mandatory for you to cooperate with your own insurance company. You certainly can cooperate by answer written questions on your own timing. The other insurance company is an adversary and should be treated as such. Based on the Miranda warnings given to those who are arrested, “What you say, can and will be used against you.” So be careful, and be ready for a nice adjuster who will tell you nice things in order to get your cooperation.

Should I talk to others about the collision?
Merely talk to the people who are your friends and not your foes. Your health care providers, your legal counsel, and your family will need to know as much as possible about the collision and the effects. No one else really needs to know about the collision, unless it is absolutely necessary to discuss these matters. You may hear from friends and how much money they received in their claim, but every case is different, and injuries are different.

What should my focus be on after a collision?
Your focus should be on getting better. Hiring good legal counsel will ease your mind and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact your attorney. The legal process is complicated, and your attorney should be able to explain to you, in laymen’s terms, what is going to happen in the future with your claim. A legal claim for personal injury takes time, and you want to allow your body to heal. While you are going through the process, trust your attorney, and place your focus on your health.

We Are Here to Help

Although our office does not handle all types of cases, we hope you will contact us regarding any legal issues you may encounter. We will answer your questions, or refer you to another quality and trustworthy attorney if we are unable to assist you.

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Harper Law PLLC
826 6th Street South, Suite 101, Kirkland, WA 98033-6740 US
Phone: 425.284.3333
Fax: 425.284.4286