How To Protect Yourself And Your Rights After An Automobile Accident
Unfortunately, automobile accidents are rampant and you can be involved in one. This SPECIAL REPORT has been prepared to answer some questions that our clients have been asking and to enable you avoid some pitfalls that have been found to cause unfavorable resolutions of some automobile claims. It is a summary of some actions to take and/or avoid if you find yourself involved in an automobile accident.
Stop Your Automobile Immediately
After an automobile accident, stop your vehicle immediately, do not block traffic and take all reasonable steps to avoid another collision. Generally, a Police Officer will arrive not long after the accident.
Assist The Injured And Call The Police As Soon As You Can
Assist any person who is injured and provide first aid if you are qualified to do so. Before you call an ambulance (if necessary), quickly note your location and nearby street, intersections or landmarks so as to direct and facilitate the arrival of the ambulance. Call the Police as soon as you are able to. A police report of the accident many times helps to substantiate the claim and helps the claimant and his or her lawyer carry out further necessary investigations. Make sure you obtain the name of the Police Officer, his or her badge number and a contact telephone number. Ask the officer how you can obtain a copy of the accident report.
Obtain As Much Information About The Accident As You Can
Many times when no one was seriously injured in the accident, there will be no accident report. However, there will be an exchange of information under the supervision of a police officer. In this case, make sure that the exchanged information is complete and accurate: names, telephone numbers, addresses, insurance information, driver’s license number, license plate number and description of the other vehicle.
Secure Any Witness You Can And Make Your Own Notes Of The Accident
Politely, ask as many people who witnessed the accident as possible to provide you with their names, telephone numbers and addresses. A crucial witness can make or break a case. Also, as soon as you can, make your own notes and if possible a diagram describing the location of the accident, weather condition, street lights, length of skid marks and other similar observations. Take photographs if you can.
Immediately Seek Medical Attention
Whether you think you are hurt or not, it is imperative that you get medical attention immediately even if only to confirm that you are alright. If necessary, go to the emergency room at a hospital. Recent studies have shown that even minor impacts without initial visible signs of injury can result in serious back, neck and waist injury. Some soft tissue injuries may only begin to hurt after a while.
Promptly Inform Your Insurance Agent/Company
Contact your insurance agent and company as soon as you can. Not doing so can seriously compromise your claim. Before calling, have all the necessary information about the accident handy. Ask for a claim number and the name and direct telephone number of who will be handling the claim. These will help your lawyer (if you retain one) to expedite your claim.
Do Not Make Any Admissions Or Take Responsibility For The Accident To The Police, Others Involved Or Insurance Company
It is advisable not to make any admissions just after the accident or even later. Do not assume that the accident was your fault and accept liability. You may be in
Shock, confused or you might not have enough information to determine whether the accident was or was not your fault. The other party’s insurance, agent, or lawyer may contact you. If you have not talked to your lawyer yet, be careful what you say. Give the basic information such as your name, address and telephone number. Let them know that you need to talk to your lawyer before giving more details about the accident.
Do Not Accept Any Compensation Or Settlement Offer Without Proper Advice And Your Complete Recovery
Until you obtain proper advice, do not accept any money or offer to compensate for your injuries or property damage. Do not sign any undertakings without proper advice. You need to be sure of your loss before claiming. A good personal injury lawyer will be able to assist you in this respect.
Handle Any Traffic Ticket Properly
After an accident, you may be issued a citation by a police office for traffic violation. There are two kinds of traffic violations. Minor violations cannot result into any jail sentences and the fine can be paid without you appearing in court. Going through a stop sign is a good example. Major traffic violations are those that may subject you to a jail term and if charged, you must appear in court. You will receive a summons that will include the date, time, and location of the trial. As a matter of law, these will be separate from any personal injury claim (which is a civil matter) by or against you.
However, it may directly or indirectly impact your claim. Furthermore, these may have other legal implications such as immigration consequences for those who are not U.S. citizens (Read our SPECIAL REPORT ON THE IMMIGRATION CONSEQUENCES OF CRIME) Therefore, make sure you inform your lawyer about this as soon as possible. If your personal injury lawyer does not practice immigration law or criminal law, he or she may need to consult with or refer you to a lawyer who practices in these areas.
Cooperate With Law Enforcement
Remember that the police officer is there to enforce the traffic laws as well as to ensure public safety (including yours). As difficult as it may be after an accident, do exercise some self-control. Listen, be polite and ask questions politely. Treat the officer with courtesy and you will most likely be treated in the same way.
Obligatory Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) Report
Under Maryland law, as an operator of a vehicle you must file a motor vehicle report with the MVA if you are involved in an accident resulting in death or personal injury. You do not have to report if the accident has been investigated by the police and a report has been filed with the Maryland State Police or if the accident resulted only in property damage.
Contact A Lawyer Who Handles Automobile Accident Cases
Generally, it is advisable to retain a lawyer who handles automobile accident cases as soon as possible. There are many competent personal injury lawyers. However, there are also many competent lawyers whose areas of practice do not include personal injury. The sooner you secure the assistance of a lawyer the better your lawyer can assist you and protect your rights.
This Special Report is intended to provide basic information about the selected legal topic. The information is provided solely for informational purposes and does not create a business or professional relationship with the Law Offices of Fogam & Associates, LLC, Edwin K. Fogam, or any of our individual attorneys, or affiliates. This is not presented as legal advice. Each person’s legal needs are unique. Laws change frequently, and it is possible that some of the information here may no longer be true at the time of reading, or may not apply to someone in your situation or jurisdiction. You should consult with an attorney familiar with the law in your jurisdiction and your particular situation before making specific legal decisions.