After an auto accident, thankfully, most people know to stop, check for injuries, pull safely off the roadway, and exchange insurance information. Here are the top 5 overlooked things to do after an auto accident involving non-serious injuries.
1. Call the Cops and Get a Police Report
If you are involved in a small car accident, it may be tempting to simply move on and not call the cops, even if you are slightly injured. But think twice. Not calling the cops is a big mistake if you ever want to collect monetary damages for missed work, doctors bills, and pain and suffering.
A police officer, including the Highway Patrol, will make a police report, called a “Traffic Collision Report” if called to the scene. This police report will contain important contemporaneous observations and notes about the accident, including which driver caused the accident. A favorable police report will generally be given a great amount of credibility by insurance companies and generate a more favorable settlement.
If you fail to call the police and get a report, the only other witness to the accident will be the other driver. When this occurs insurance companies will make every attempt to contest liability and argue that you caused the accident. This is can be avoided by calling the cops after an accident.
2. Take Good Photos
You should always take high-quality photographs at the accident scene. These photos should accurately depict the damage done to both cars, the scene of the accident, and the weather and time of day. You don’t need a fancy camera; good photos taken with your iPhone/smartphone will do just fine.
Importantly, take the time to take a good quality photo that actually depicts the damage done to the cars. Adjust the zoom, hold still, use the flash if necessary. Take the time to capture a good photograph before you leave. It is difficult to capture the size of a dent—even a big dent—on a newer model car.
If you take bad photographs that downplay the level of damage done to your car, insurance companies will use them as evidence to argue the accident was minor and that you could not have possibly been injured.
3. Go to the Doctor Right Away if you are Injured
If you are injured, do not wait a long to go to the doctor. Go to a doctor, preferably your regular treating physician, if you are in pain.
Auto accident victims are often reluctant to go to the doctor even when they are in excruciating pain. This may be from a concern over cost or simply a belief that a doctor cannot fix their pain. However, if you do not go to the doctor after an auto accident, that fact will be used against you by insurance companies to argue that you were never actually injured.
Additionally, a doctor’s timely diagnosis of your pain, and linking that pain to the accident (called “causation”) is critical to obtaining a favorable personal injury settlement.
4. Be a Good Patient
Being a good patient is critical to obtaining a favorable personal injury settlement from any type of car accident or motorcycle accident. This means that you should listen to your doctors and medical providers and implement their instructions.
If you are prescribed physical therapy after a car accident, make sure you do any at-home exercises assigned by the physical therapist. If your treating physician tells you to come back for another appointment in two weeks if you are still in pain, do exactly that.
Also provide your medical providers with accurate information about your symptoms. Don’t report that you have a pain level of 4 on a scale of 1-to-10 if you actually are living in agony and actually experiencing an 8 out of 10.
Juries, judges, and insurance companies are more likely to give more money to good patients.
5. Don’t Wait Too Long to Take Action
As a general rule, personal injury cases, including car and motorcycle cases, have a legal deadline, called a “statute of limitations”, beginning from the date of the accident. (California Code of Civil Procedure 335.1.) This means that you have two years to file a lawsuit to preserve any legal claims against the responsible party.
Too often, self-represented car accident victims wait until the last minute to contact an attorney or to take legal action. Shopping for an attorney itself will take time. Additionally, most attorneys will want to conduct an informal investigation before officially signing up a client, which also takes time.
If you are at all interested in getting an attorney to help you, do so quickly after the accident.
Were you injured in an auto or motorcycle accident? Call the Law Office of Brian Mathias for a consultation.