LEGAL TIPS: Steps to take if you are in a car accident

This is the first in a series of Legal Tips by Atty. Stephen L. Mangan

  1. Regardless of fault, if you feel you were hurt, you should not automatically refuse medical treatment at the scene. Research indicates that even minor accidents can leave a person injured. Refusing treatment is noted in a report, but days later real pain sets in a person should definitely go to their doctor.
  2. Tell the investigating officer what you can recall, but try not to include “assumptions” or guesses. For instance, when asked the speed of the other car, or your car, make it clear you are estimating.
  3. Try not to move your car until the police arrive, and if possible take photos of you car, the other car, and most importantly, a scene showing the entire view of the accident and where the cars ended up.
  4. Go home, and when your mind is clear, write a diary of the accident and include where you were, where you were going, and what you actually recall.
  5. Report the accident to your insurance carrier ASAP.
  6. If you feel there is liability on the part of the other driver, see/call a lawyer for an opinion.
  7. Keep a careful record of who you talk to about the accident, don’t sign a statement unless your lawyer approves it, and cooperate with your insurance carriers (auto and health).
  8. If going for treatment, carefully explain what happened and where you hurt to the nurse or doctor. Those initial notes can sometimes be the most important.
  9. Your general practice doctor could be a good start, or if you have a spine or bone issue go directly to an orthopedic specialist. Chiropractic doctors are also a good resource, and they can work in concert with an ortho.
  10. Don’t over treat the injury. One of the biggest problems in pursuing a claim on behalf of an injured party is the high medical bills associated with excessive and unnecessary treatment at the hands of medical providers.
  11. Remember, a claim for injuries must be brought within 2 years of the date of an accident. (Statutes of Limitations differ from state to state.)
  12. When seeking and renewing your automobile insurance, speak to your agent and advise them of any changes in your life such as an additional driver, MV tickets, changes in your health insurance, health changes, and ask if you are fully covered in the event of uninsured motorist protections, basic reparations, rental, and liability insurance. Everyone has different insurance needs, and sometimes your own insurance policy is the one that you will turn to in the event of an accident that may not even be your fault.