Steps to Take After a Car Accident
What do you do if you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident? This could be while driving a car or truck, while traveling as a passenger in any motor vehicle, riding a motorcycle, or as a pedestrian.
The first thing that you should do is make sure the police come to the scene and that a police report is prepared. Even if the other party wants to simply exchange insurance information, you should insist that there be a police report. The police report makes it definite that the traffic crash did occur, and gives many details regarding the crash. Fleeing the scene of an accident is illegal.
Second, if you are able to do so, it is important to obtain whatever evidence and information you can. If anyone witnessed the crash, obtain their name, address, phone number, and a written statement of what they saw. Take pictures of both vehicles from various angles to document any damage. If any poles, signs, trees or other objects were involved in the collision, take pictures of those too.
You should know that many people do not initially feel pain or discomfort at the scene, but that night or the day after, or even sometime over the next several days, can develop significant pain, often times in the neck or back. This can be the case even when there is minor damage to the vehicles. It is also possible to sustain a concussion in the crash and not have immediate symptoms. The police may insist that you go by ambulance to the emergency department. Many people are able to drive themselves or may have someone drive them to the emergency department. Make note of which hospital you visited. Many times the emergency department doctor will encourage you to follow up with your primary care physician.
Another reason to have a police report is to document who was at fault in the crash and who received a citation. If you were at fault in the crash, you likely would not be able to bring a claim against the other driver. On the other hand, you may well have a claim for your injuries if:
- The other party was at fault.
- There is a question as to who was at fault.
- There is a question whether both parties had some fault.
The police report will also document what the insurance status is of the parties involved in the crash. Under Ohio law, every driver is required to be insured. Unfortunately, there are still drivers who do not have insurance.
If the other driver was at fault and you were injured, but the other driver does not have insurance, are you out of luck?
Many, if not most people carry not only liability insurance, which protects them in the event that they are at fault in the crash, but also uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. This is coverage that you would have through your own insurance policy, which can provide insurance benefits if the other party is uninsured. It is also possible that the other party has insurance but not enough to adequately cover the injuries you sustained if you are hurt in the car crash. Under those circumstances, you may be able to utilize your own underinsured motorist coverage. However, under Ohio law, your underinsured motorist policy limits must be greater than the insurance coverage that the party at fault has. If it is less than or equal to the amount of liability coverage that the other party has, it cannot be used.
If you have been injured in a vehicle crash, it is very important that you obtain the medical care that you need. You do not want to settle your case until you are either back to your pre-accident state of health, or as recovered as you can be. The reason for this is that when you settle your claim with the insurance company, the insurance company will require you to sign a release. That releases the insurance company and the other driver from any further responsibility. So, when the time comes to sign the release, if you wake up the next day with a new symptom that you are convinced was caused by the traffic crash, you will have no further recourse. Therefore, if the insurance company is offering you some money quickly in exchange for a release, it is usually unwise to do so. Another reason it is unwise is because the amount of money that you will be offered is likely less than what you deserve.
Sometimes it can be months before you receive all of your medical bills. One visit to the emergency room where a few x-rays are taken will likely generate at least three bills from three separate agencies: one from the facility, one from the emergency room doctor, and a third from the radiologist. So, if you settle quickly with the insurance company you may not even know the sum of your bills yet.
In Ohio and in every other state there is a law called the Statute of Limitations. This law states how much time you have to file a lawsuit in court if you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident. That time period in Ohio is 2 years. It is a very strict rule, and even if you are one day later than 2 years, the insurance companies will not settle the case with you, and the court will dismiss your case.
There are a number of reasons why you are better off having an attorney involved if you or your passenger are hurt in a car crash. Some people may object and say “I don’t want to sue anyone. I don’t want to go to trial.” However, the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of personal injury cases resulting from all types of motor vehicle accidents result in a settlement, usually without needing to file a lawsuit or take the case to trial.
Secondly, the insurance companies would prefer that you not have an attorney because the statistics show that they pay less money if an attorney is not involved. For example, an insurance company may offer you $4,000 to settle your claim and you might think that is sufficient to cover your medical bills and you wouldn’t need to pay an attorney fee. However, statistics show that you will do better if you involve an attorney who has expertise in car accidents and personal injury litigation. Almost always I have been able to negotiate a higher settlement amount, and many times I have been able to negotiate with health care providers to take less money for a given treatment bill, again, putting more money back into the client’s portion of the settlement.
This can be a complex process and you need a competent attorney to help you through the legal maze. I have been representing people injured in motor vehicle accidents for 31 years. Also, I am the only attorney in my firm, so I will not pass your case off to an associate with very little experience. I will take care of the entire process for you and you will not need to pay anything up front. Your case begins and ends with me.
For more details about Vehicle Accidents and other important topics visit: www.jgutbrod.com