An auto accident can leave a person shaken and confused. At the scene of an accident, most people know to call 911 and exchange identification and insurance information. However, after these well-known steps, many people miss opportunities to obtain important evidence that can help their case if the accident causes injuries. Golden State Lawyers has helped auto accident victims for more than 40 years, and we have developed a “to do” list for the general public to follow after an accident.
Get a medical evaluation after any motor vehicle accidentOne of the first steps you should take after any motor vehicle accident is to seek medical treatment even if your symptoms do not seem severe immediately after the accident. Often, physical symptoms do not show up immediately, and some may take weeks or longer to manifest any signs. This is particularly true of injuries to discs in the spine. If you were in an auto accident, motorcycle accident or bus accident your injuries may be worse than you think. Just because you can walk or drive away from a collision with minimal pain does not mean you have not been injured. It is important to get a medical evaluation close in time to the accident in case your symptoms get worse later. In most cases the other driver’s attorney or insurance company will argue your symptoms are rooted in another condition or were from caused by something unrelated to the accident that happened later. If you have documentation of your injury or symptoms at or near the time of the accident, your chances of obtaining compensation and defeating the opposition’s arguments are much higher.
Document everything and be careful what you signAfter recovering from the immediate shock that sometimes accompanies a motor vehicle accident and attending to your medical needs, make sure you take the appropriate steps to protect yourself in the event of future legal action. First of all, at the scene of the accident, do your best to identify all witnesses and get their contact information. Secondly, use your cell phone or camera if available to take pictures of damage to the vehicles, your physical injuries, or other relevant evidence. Also, never sign a document without an attorney present, especially a document from the other driver's insurance company. Such documents often include an authorization to obtain your medical records so the insurance company can “evaluate your claim,” or a settlement agreement releasing the insurance company and the other driver from responsibility for your case. You should also refuse (if asked) to give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company or provide a written description of the accident. Here are a few other tips we encourage you to follow based on Golden State Lawyers's decades of experience:
- Inform your insurance company -- you may be given instructions regarding where to go to get an estimate of the property damage to your car
- File the appropriate forms with the Department of Motor Vehicles -- an SR-1 is required for all traffic accidents. Your insurance company may also do this
- Document your injuries and damages -- Memories fade easily, so keeping a daily diary of how you are feeling, where you have gone for treatment, and any expenses you have incurred can help you present a stronger claim for damages
- Commence legal action within two years -- California law provides accident victims two years from the date of an accident to file a claim against another individual for a personal injury