What to do after a car accident
A guide to ensuring you make the right decisions
By Attorney Jorge P. Gutierrez
Special to THELAW.TV
If you drive enough, you will end up in a motor vehicle accident at some point in your life. Not because you did anything wrong. But more likely because someone else was not paying attention, was talking or texting on the cell phone, or just being negligent in their driving. Below you will find some helpful tips on how to make the process after the accident as painless as possible.
THINGS TO DO
You should contact your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident. Make sure you write down the claim number they provide, as this will save you lots of time the next time you need to speak to anyone regarding the accident.
Take some time and read your insurance policy and understand it. Bring the policy — or at least the insurance card — with you to any subsequent doctor's appointment, as well as to any visit to any attorney.
Immediately after the accident, take extensive notes as to how the accident occurred, who was in the vehicles, the directions of travel, as well as anything that may have caused the accident (i.e., someone ran the light). Also take pictures at the scene of the intersection or the location of the vehicles, as well as any property damage. Additionally, note the name and address of any people who stop and say they witnessed the accident. These people may leave before the police arrive, but you can always get their testimony later to help with resolving your claim.
Make sure to get the insurance information from any other individuals or vehicles involved. Get the policy number and the insurance carrier at the very least.
Keep a log with a detailed list of everyone you talk to, their contact information, as well as the substance of what was discussed.
Keep track of all expenses as a result of the accident. This includes out-of-pocket expenses for medications, co-pays, rental car expenses, etc. Make sure to keep receipts and bills for any repair work on the damaged vehicle and any medical costs incurred in the treatment of any injuries that resulted from the accident.
Contact an experienced attorney to discuss your rights after an accident. Most attorneys will speak to you for free and provide valuable advice.
THINGS NOT TO DO
You should never admit fault at the scene of the accident. There may be other causes for the accident and it's much more difficult to change things after such an admission.
You should never sign any release or document presented by an insurance adjuster without consulting an attorney. You could be signing away all rights to recover — not only personal injuries, but also property damages and outstanding medical bills, even though you may be told something else. Once it's signed, its very difficult to undo a release.
Never try to leave the scene of an accident without calling the police, so a report can be filled out. Just exchanging information because you are in a hurry or not wanting to make a big deal about it is the absolute worst thing that you can do. Doing so will create issues in having your medical bills, paid as well as property damage claims. Don't do it.
Always remember that time is not on your side after an accident. Your right to recover medical expenses may be time barred if you wait too long to seek treatment. If you have any medical problems, those should be documented immediately by a physician or hospital.
If you receive a check in the mail, do not deposit it until you consult with an attorney or are absolutely sure that all your losses — both current and in the future — will be taken care of.
The author, Jorge P. Gutierrez Jr., is a South Florida Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney who specializes in the areas of serious personal injury, wrongful death, and medical malpractice. He is a partner at Freedland Harwin, PL in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
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