At the scene of an accident, you should exchange pertinent information with the other driver. Taking photos of the following information can help build your claims:
- Insurance card and driver’s license of the other party
- Vehicles involved, including visible damage and license plate
- Scene of the accident
You should also make a note if there were multiple people in the vehicle, as well as the make and model of the other party’s vehicle.
It’s important to take pictures of the damage to the vehicles and, if possible, the vehicles as they were after the accident, before moving to the side of the road or into a parking lot.
When applicable, try to get contact information for any witnesses; you’ll want the witness to be on the police report. Get the info to the police officer so they may follow up if there’s any question of liability. Also, look around the scene to see if any cameras may have captured the incident. Nowadays, pretty much everyone has a camera.
If you are injured too severely to capture this evidence, you can call a family member or friend to have them go to the scene for you. Ask them to take some pictures and perhaps see if there are any witnesses. They can also help to figure out what to do with your vehicle. A police report should be filed; you will want to speak to that officer when you’re able. A lot of times, they’ll come to the hospital to get your side of the story.
When talking to another party at the scene, or if you talk to the other insurance company immediately, don’t admit liability. There are certain things, once they’ve been said, that can’t be undone. For example, if you’re not thinking clearly because you have just been in an accident, you may admit to something that is not true, like running a red light when you didn’t. You don’t want to admit to anything…that’s something that can’t be undone.
Filing A Claim
After an auto accident, there are two types of claims that can be filed: one for property damage and the other for bodily injury. Property damage deals with the vehicle and any other personal property that may have been damaged in the accident, such as a bicycle and bike rack that was damaged when you were hit from behind. Property damage claims generally deal with getting your car fixed or replaced, if your vehicle is totaled, as well as towing and rental fees.
I generally advise clients, if they have comprehensive and collision on their policy, to file a claim for property damage with their own insurance company. When this is done, your insurance company goes after the other party’s insurance for reimbursement of whatever they end up paying. We sometimes see issues where there is a dispute in liability over who is at fault for the accident. The other insurance company can take weeks, if not months, to accept liability, or only accept a portion of the liability. This means they’ll only pay for the portion that they are at fault for in the accident.
Another aspect of property damage concerns the need for a rental car. If you have another vehicle to drive, I usually recommend avoiding getting a rental. We are often able to get compensation for the loss-of-use for the time you are unable to use your vehicle, either because it is in the shop or for the time lost between the accident and the time the vehicle is deemed a total loss. Getting compensated for loss-of-use means the money that would normally go to a rental car, is going to go to you instead.
The other part of the auto claim, and the main part that we handle at Holland & Holland, is the bodily injury claim. There is generally a predictable process for bodily injury claims:
- We file the claim.
- The client sees a physician. They will go to the doctor, follow the recommended treatment plan suggested to get them healthy and back to feeling 100%, or as close as they’re going to get to being as physically healthy as they were before the accident.
- Treatment is completed. At this time, we gather bills and records to support the demand letter we send to the insurance company.
- Negotiate. We work with them to close the case with a reasonable settlement offer.
With a bodily injury claim, there are generally two components considered in a reasonable offer: liability and the severity of the injury. These components determine the damages you should receive. In other words, what are those injuries worth? How severe are the injuries? Are you going to heal from them completely? Is there a need for future medical treatment? Will this injury linger for months? Years? The rest of your life? These questions need to be weighed in calculating damages.
For more information on Sharing Information at the Scene of a Wreck, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (562) 600-0807 today.