Motor Vehicle Accidents

Each year, thousands of people are injured or killed in motor vehicle accidents as a result of negligent drivers. Even in simple fender bender accidents, people suffer injuries to their back and neck that can disrupt their lives for years to come. Many people do not recognize they have been injured until the morning following the accident, and the medical community tells us this is a common occurrence.

If you or someone you love has been involved in a motor vehicle collision, the following information will help you to preserve your rights and get a fair settlement of your injury claim:

PRESERVE THE EVIDENCE - Get the names, addresses, driver's license number, license plate number, insurance information of other drivers involved. Contacting the police will preserve this evidence if the police make a traffic collision report, so it is a good idea to call police to the scene especially in major accidents or in cases of hit and run.

Take pictures of the damage to your vehicle and any other vehicle involved in the accident. Also take pictures of the scene of the accident where this would not put you in danger.

Finally, take pictures of any injuries suffered. As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. The same injury is usually worth more at the time of settlement when there are pictures than when there are not.

GET PROMPT MEDICAL ATTENTION - The most important thing to do following a motor vehicle accident is to get prompt medical care for your injuries, both to make sure you get appropriate care and also to provide medical proof of your injuries. You also want to make sure that there are no life threatening injuries, such as internal bleeding or closed head trauma, which might not be immediately apparent.

If possible, go immediately to the emergency room or an urgent care center if you start to feel pain or discomfort following a motor vehicle collision. If you do not think your injuries require emergency care, then contact your family physician or chiropractor and get in to see them as soon as possible. Delays in seeking medical care can be costly, both for your health and your injury claim.

If you are injured and cannot work, make sure your doctor gives you a document stating that you are injured and cannot work. Without this document from your doctor, it will be difficult if not impossible to get compensated for lost wages.

REPORT THE ACCIDENT - In addition to reporting the accident to the police, you need to report the accident to your insurance carrier, no matter whose fault the accident is.

If the accident was not reported to the police, in California you should report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles on a SR-1 Form.

TALKING TO THE NEGLIGENT DRIVER'S INSURANCE COMPANY - The negligent driver's insurance company is not your friend, no matter how friendly the claims adjuster may seem. Their job is to settle your case for as little as possible, so everything you say will only be used against you at a later time. Therefore, you should limit what you say regarding your claim.

There is no problem in talking about the property damage to your car, or telling the claims adjuster where the car is so that they can inspect it and make an estimate of your property damage. Also, if your car is not driveable you should ask the claims adjuster about providing you with a rental car.

Do not discuss your personal injuries with the negligent driver's insurance company. If pressed for information, simply state that you were injured and that you are receiving medical care. You are not required to give more information, no matter how the claims adjuster might pressure you.

Finally, do not give the negligent driver's insurance company an authorization to get your medical records. They will typically try to get a broad medical authorization, so they can review your medical history back to the day you were born, including psychological treatment, drug or alcohol use, sexually transmitted diseases, etc. They are not entitled to this private medical information if it is not related to your injuries and they can only access the information with your authorization in writing.

HIRE AN EXPERIENCED ATTORNEY - The claims adjuster for the negligent driver's insurance company is probably very experienced at handling claims and wants to pay you less for your claim than it is worth. You, on the other hand, probably have very little understanding of what your claim is worth, or the legal issues involved.

Do not let the claims adjuster talk you into a quick settlement immediately after the accident. You may find that your injuries are more substantial than you thought, and require more medical care than originally anticipated. Once you settle your claim and sign a release, you cannot go back and get more money no matter how much it turns out you are actually injured.

An experienced personal injury attorney will deal with the negligent driver's insurance company on your behalf. Your attorney will make sure your claim is filed properly and within the time required by the appropriate statute of limitations. Based on experience and recorded jury verdicts, your attorney will have a good idea of the value of your claim and has the tools to make sure you get the maximum possible recovery.