1. STOP AT THE SCENE AND CALL THE POLICE.
Even if you do not believe that you have been seriously injured, many times symptoms do not come on for hours, or even days, after an accident has occurred. Therefore, you should contact the police before leaving the scene so that an accurate report of the accident is made. If you have already left the scene without making a report, call the police immediately and ask about making a delayed report.
2. OBTAIN CONTACT AND INSURANCE INFORMATION FROM THE OTHER PARTIES, AS WELL AS THE NAMES AND ADDRESSES OF ANY WITNESSES.
Even if a formal accident report is being prepared by the police, it may be many days before the report is filed and available. Having the adverse parties’ contact and insurance information, as well as the contact information for any witnesses, will help to avoid any delay in filing your claims with the other parties’ insurance company and in determining liability so that you can obtain payment for any repairs to your vehicle.
3. DO NOT OTHERWISE TALK TO ANYONE AT THE SCENE.
As they say, anything that you say can and probably will be used against you. Thus, other than to call the police, provide the police with your identifying information, as requested, obtaining contact and insurance information from the adverse party or parties, and obtaining the names and addresses of any witnesses, you should avoid speaking to anyone at the scene.
4. TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS.
The damage to your vehicle, the condition of the scene and documentation of any visible injuries which you have suffered may provide important clues to the manner in which the accident occurred and its severity. Take plenty of pictures of the damage to your vehicle before it is repaired or totaled. If there are skid marks, damage to property, or other evidence of the collision at the scene, it may be gone within a few days, so take plenty of pictures of the scene, as well. Similarly, most lacerations, abrasions, burns or bruises will begin healing almost immediately. Thus, you will want to take pictures to document those as well.
5. DO NOT SPEAK TO ANY INSURANCE COMPANIES, INCLUDING YOUR OWN.
The insurance companies may try to deal with you directly before you retain counsel. They may attempt to obtain your statement under oath, or other recorded statement, to use against you later. They may even try to get you to enter into a quick settlement before you realize how badly you have been injured. While you do have a duty to notify your insurance company as soon as is practical after an accident has occurred, it is best to allow your legal representative to do that for you and to limit your own direct contact with the insurance company.
6. DO NO FILL OUT ANY FORMS SENT TO YOU BY ANY INSURANCE COMPANY.
Although you may be required to provide your insurance company with a written report of accident, proof of claim, application for benefits, or other documentation, the contents of those documents may be used to contest your claim later. Remember, once you have a potential claim, your insurance company is your adversary. Do not provide them with any documentation without first seeking legal advice.
7. DO NOT SIGN ANY RELEASES OR ENDORSE ANY CHECKS WITHOUT LEGAL ADVICE.
A release of all claims is just that. Once you sign it, you may be prevented from bringing any further claim arising out of the accident, even if you realize later that you have been seriously injured. Only a lawyer can tell you whether a particular form of release or endorsement on a check will prevent you from bringing future claims. Therefore, seek legal advice before signing any document or endorsing any check given to you by an insurance company, even if it is only meant to reimburse you for the damage to your car.
8. SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION.
An experienced lawyer will help you arrange to obtain competent medical treatment and to manage your care while your claim is pending. However, to be sure that your physical complaints are documented as soon as possible after you have been in an accident, you should seek emergency care as soon as possible. If you were not taken to the hospital from the scene of the accident and believe that you have any symptoms of injury whatsoever, have yourself checked out at the nearest hospital emergency room. This will help make the connection between any injuries which you have suffered and the accident in which you were involved.
9. ACCUMULATE YOUR INSURANCE INFORMATION.
One of the first things your lawyer will need to know in order to help you is what are the available insurance coverages. This may involve not only the insurance on the vehicle that you are in when the accident occurred, but the insurance on other vehicles which you own, insurance on other vehicles in your household, and your health insurance and/or disability insurance. You should have all of these policies available, or at least the name of each insurance company and the policy numbers, when you meet your lawyer for the first time.
10. CONTACT A LAWYER.
A knowledgeable, experienced, aggressive accident lawyer will help you navigate the minefield of dealing with all of the insurance companies involved in your case, assist you in obtaining confident medical treatment, help you document your damage claims, and maximize your recovery of damages. At the law offices of Paul F. Sherman, we have the knowledge and experience which has been gained while fighting for the victims of accidents in Oregon, Washington and California and for over twenty-five years. Our knowledge of the applicable laws and experience in dealing with the insurance companies will allow us to recover all the damages which you deserve for your injuries. If you have just been in an automobile accident, do not hesitate. Call now (503) 223-8441 for a FREE CONSULTATION.