If you’re involved in an auto accident, the steps you take thereafter may affect the outcome of any potential claim you may have against the person who hit your vehicle (the at fault party). Below are our recommendations following an accident, as well as a few things not to do:
1. Call the Police – When the accident happens, make sure you call the police. Even if you don’t believe that you’re injured at the time of the accident, call anyway. Demand that a police report is written, because the police traditionally will give an unbiased account of what he or she believes happened.
2. Seek appropriate medical treatment. We always recommend that you seek medical attention almost immediately. Taking care of you first and your injuries should be your primary concern initially. The lawyer you choose to hire thereafter will handle the paperwork and insurance companies. Be wary, however, of a medical professional who is urging you to go to a particular lawyer or firm; nor should you allow your physician to set up an appointment with a lawyer or firm. Regardless what they tell you, it is not common practice. Seek a personal referral or a lawyer you had prior dealings with.
3. Report the accident immediately to your insurance company or agent in writing, without any detailed description of the accident. Counsel’s job will be to fill in the blanks for the insurance company later on. The auto insurance policy in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York contains several short notice periods, e.g., twenty-four hours for a hit and run. Failure to notify the insurance company may bar all future claims.
4. If possible, photograph the automobiles involved in the accident, the scene of the accident, and your injuries. The necessity and urgency of photographing evidence will vary according to each case, but bear in mind that a missing stop sign often gets replaced within a day of an accident (or the low-hung branch hiding it gets cut down the following morning), skid marks disappear, cars are towed and disposed of almost immediately, and black and blue marks fade quickly. Depending on your physical condition and whether damages in the case are theoretically relatively substantial, some of these steps may be referred instead to an investigator.
5. Bring to the initial meeting with your lawyer all household automobile insurance policies, medical bills, newspaper article about the accident, police reports, and any other correspondence or papers concerning the accident.
1. Do not talk to anyone about the accident until the meeting with counsel. We suggest that you get the name and telephone number of any investigators or adjusters who call and to simply refer such individuals to counsel’s office.
2. Do not to talk to other victims or witnesses unless specifically requested to do so by counsel.
3. Do not sign any documents of any kind that are mailed or delivered to you—not even a police accident report.
4. Do not provide a recorded statement to the insurance company. Often times, the insurance company wants to get a recorded statement from you within 48 hours of the accident, why? They want to lock you into a statement. Insurance companies have an interest to resolve matter in the most cost effective way possible, and most often than not, one’s statement, without the assistance of counsel, will be more prejudicial then probative.
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