The last thing we want to think about is the possibility of a car accident, but they do happen, and often we find problems with cases because our clients did not follow the right steps at the time of the accident. If this unfortunate incident does occur, here is a list you can follow to make the best out of a bad situation and protect your legal position.
1. Don’t leave the scene! Even if it’s a minor fender bender incident, leaving the scene of the crime before it is appropriate to do so is technically a hit and run.
2. Don’t admit guilt! This admits legal liability before the case has even started. Even if you did run that red light and cause the accident, let the police figure that out – you don’t need to do their job for them, and, often the cause of the accident isn’t readily apparent – so you may not have caused the accident at all.
3. Take pictures – Document all damage to both cars involved in the accident.
4. Call the police – You could run into problems if you try to skip this step. First, your insurance company may require a police report to have coverage for the accident. Second, accepting an under-the-table offer to settle up after an accident with someone is not smart – if you have injuries you don’t know about yet you’ll be out of luck later on. And, if the other party decides after the fact to press charges, you won’t have a police report to back you up. Third, in many states it is required. Specifically for Florida, where we are, any accident involving injury (no matter how minor), death, a hit-and-run or intoxicated driver, or property damage more than $500 must be reported immediately to law enforcement.
5. Get the information of all drivers involved. That means: make and model of vehicle, license plate, insurance information, identity (ask for their license and write down the name and address) and phone number. If there are any witnesses, ask for their information too.
6. Get medical attention for yourself and others – If you have been hurt, get to a doctor ASAP even for a minor pain. It is imperative to seek medical attention immediately, otherwise you weaken the argument that any injury was a result of the accident. If someone else is hurt (badly), call 911 and don’t try to move them.
7. Report it to your insurance company ASAP – you don’t want the other party to report it first and have your insurance company wondering why you didn’t call in.
8. Consider hiring an attorney if you have property damage or are injured. Often it is difficult for the average driver to negotiate effectively with their insurance company, particularly with a major accident – without expert help often drivers leave money on the table.
That’s it – we hope that you don’t have an accident – but if you do, keep this checklist and the Funes Law Firm in mind.