You are driving home from work one evening and wham!!! ..... someone hits you from behind. What do you do? Are you hurt? Do you know if you are hurt? Do you call the police? Do you get out and exchange information?
These are issues that are involved in any car accident situation you are likely to be involved in. Be aware that the choices you make can have a severe impact on your right to recover money damages if you are injured. If you make the wrong choices....you could lose valuable rights or foreclose your opportunity to be compensated for your injuries by the careless driver.
People make devastating mistakes on these issues daily and are prevented from obtaining an adequate recovery for their injuries. Do not assume that insurance companies are your friends. They are not. They seek to protect their own interests....and....to minimize your damages.
Here are some tips on answering making these important choices if you think you might be hurt or if you are not sure:
1. Call the police to the accident scene.
This makes sure that the accident scene is preserved and the parties to the accident keep their stories consistent. Make sure you leave your vehicle in place at the accident scene. Do not move it. This will allow the police officer to make an accurate diagram of the scene do an accurate police report. The police report is extremely important for proving liability in the event that there must be a lawsuit to get compensation for your injuries.
2. Do not talk to insurance adjusters immediately after the accident.
You must notify your own carrier but do not give them a recorded statement until you have been checked out by a doctor and know the full extent of your injuries. Do not assume that your own insurance company will do you any favors. They will not. If the other driver has no effective insurance then you may be making a claim on your own policy. This means your own insurance will want to minimize your damages as well. Do not give a recorded statement to any insurance company until after you have spoken with a lawyer. You can do serious damage to your case. While there are laws to prevent attorneys from contacting you immediately after an accident there are no laws preventing insurance adjusters from doing so. It is not unusual for an adjuster to call you up the day after the accident and offer you some nominal amount of money to release your claims. Once you have signed a release you are forever barred from bringing another one based on the same accident. Once you have made a recorded statement it is too late to retract it. Don’t let them put words in your mouth. You’re not a doctor so you don’t know. They need to ask your doctor for your medical diagnosis … not you. Protect yourself. Just say no....
3. If you think you are hurt....contact a lawyer.
In today’s tort reform atmosphere you can reasonably expect that your case will end up in litigation before you obtain reasonable compensation for your injuries. Expect it. The probability is high. In order to preserve your rights and maximize the value of your case you will need the advice of competent legal counsel. Make sure you choose one who specializes and handles many personal injury cases. Not all lawyers are litigators. Pick one who is.
4. Seek medical attention promptly.
If you are not sure if you are hurt but think you might be....get checked out immediately. Back and neck injuries from car accidents vary from minor to extremely severe. Many times people are not aware of the severity until after they have had an X-Ray or MRI done at a hospital and discover that they have a herniated disc or a bulging disc as a result of the collision. Symptoms may not manifest for many months …and then suddenly BAM…. you’re hurting real bad. Just because there are no broken bones …. does not mean that you’re not hurt. Get checked out and let a doctor give you an evaluation. Hospitals, physicians and most chiropractors have X-Ray equipment and can refer you to someone for an MRI if necessary. Medical information is the key to getting adequate compensation.
5. Preserve your record of property damage.
Insurance companies as well as juries base their decisions of value on many factors. Property damage is one of those factors. Get an estimate of the damage to your vehicle as soon as possible. Take pictures of your vehicle before getting it fixed. These records can be extremely valuable in settlement or trial.
6. At or near the time of the accident you must do the following:
· Stop your car
· Aid the injured
· Exchange information
· Do not admit responsibility
· Call the police
· Have your car towed if necessary
· Notify your own insurance in a timely manner
· Call a lawyer if you’re not sure
Factors that are considered by insurance companies or juries in evaluating the value of your case are as follows:
1. Who is at fault and how much at fault?
Not every accident situation is crystal clear. A jury or an insurance adjuster may feel that you are partially at fault in an accident and may offer or award you an amount reduced by what they feel is your percentage of liability.
2. Property damage.
Whether impact has any real medical or scientific correlation to injuries is a subject of some debate. However, juries and insurance companies do evaluate claims based on the amount of property damage sustained by each vehicle. In dealing with insurance companies it is typical for them to consider only the damage to your vehicle. This is not a great surprise because in rear end collisions it is usually the at fault vehicle which sustains the most visible damage.
3. Medical information, medical bills and lost wages.
Documentation is critical. Insurance companies will only pay for documented injuries or lost wages. There are many factors that a jury may consider as elements of damages. However, documentation is essential in a jury trial as well.
Also, be aware of the possible sources of compensation for your injuries. There are many drivers on the road who do not have insurance. If you are unlucky enough to be hit by one of them, you may still have some recourse. Michigan law requires that all drivers have liability insurance. However, many drivers have other policies that cover specific situations.
Some of these policies are:
1. Uninsured/Underinsured Coverage.
Some, but not all, drivers have coverage that protects them if the other driver is uninsured or if their injuries are greater than the coverage that the other driver has. This only protects you if your insurance has this policy. You pay more for this type of coverage but not much more. For less than $150 per year you can purchase $500,000 additional coverage to pay you in the event you’re injured by someone whose insurance lapsed.
2. Personal Injury Protection.
This is automatically covered under the Michigan No Fault Act. Payments for medical bills, prescriptions, lost wages, and help at home with chores and personal services such as bathing and dressing.
3. Comprehensive or Collision.
This pays for your property damage only and you pay extra to have this coverage. These extra coverage policies are on your own insurance. They can save you some aggravation if you are hurt in an accident but they do cost more.
Be aware of your rights. Insurance companies will attempt to contact you after an accident and minimize your damages. Protect yourself if you feel that you might be hurt. Do not let them keep you from getting adequate compensation if you are hurt. This exactly why we pay for insurance. Quality of Life comes with a cost. Contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to know your rights.
I hope that this article helps you if you’ve been in car accident or have one in the future.
For more information, please contact us:
Rex C Anderson-Attorney at Law
Rex C. Anderson, PC 9459 Lapeer Rd. Ste 102 Davison, MI 48423 t. 810- 653-3300 f. (810) 222-0101