With the weather the way it is, it seems like car accidents are a common occurrence now in North Central West Virginia. Having represented injured victims of car wrecks for many years, we realized that people are unsure about what to do after having a collision. The Miley Legal Group thought we would help and developed a short checklist for you and your family members to keep in mind if you happen to find yourself in a wreck.….
- Stay Calm – While you may have all kinds of emotions and thoughts running through your mind it is important to gather yourself and stay as calm as you can.
- Check for Injuries – It is important to assess the situation and check yourself and any passengers for injuries. However, do not move anyone seriously injured unless they are in further danger because of the traffic or other circumstances.
- Call the Police – It doesn’t matter whose fault it is, you need to call the police to come and investigate.
- Promptly Seek Medical Attention – If you feel even slightly injured at the scene, allow yourself to be taken to the hospital. If you begin to feel the effects of the accident within 1-3 days later, go to the emergency room at your nearest hospital and get treatment. If you fail to promptly get medical treatment, the other driver’s insurance company will assume you were not hurt.
- Obtain Key Information – I know you will have many things running through your mind but you, or someone on your behalf, needs to obtain certain critical information about the collision, such as license plate numbers, insurance information, addresses of everyone involved including passengers/witnesses, phone numbers, and when the police investigation is completed, a WV Uniform Traffic Crash Report.
- Do Not Give a Recorded Statement – The other driver’s insurance company will contact you by phone as soon as they get notice of the wreck. They will want to take a recorded statement. DO NOT give a recorded statement to an insurance representative. Their only goal will be to: 1) get you say something that allows them to blame you for the wreck, and 2) get you to admit that you were not seriously hurt, even if you haven’t been examined or have not fully recovered from your injuries.
- DO NOT Sign Forms From Insurance Company – Following a car wreck, you may get mail from the other driver’s insurance company wanting you to “sign a few forms.” What the insurance company won’t tell you is that you are being asked to sign medical authorizations that will allow them to get all of your medical records from as far back as birth, as well as personal and confidential information that are completely unrelated to this wreck. It is a bad idea.
- Be Careful About Admitting Fault at the Scene or to the Insurance Company – While I believe that you should always accept responsibility for your actions, I do suggest that you wait until you know all the facts of what caused the wreck before admitting responsibility. Why?? Because any admission of fault will always come back to be used against you. You want your admission to have been made after being fully informed of the facts. It is understandable that your first inclination may be to apologize and admit fault but sometimes that guilty feeling may arise even if it wasn’t your fault. Get all the facts first. Was the other driver using a cell phone or texting? Was the other driver in a better position to avoid the collision? Was the collision partially your fault and partially that of the other driver? Make sure you make an informed decision.
- Document Everything You Can – The easiest way this is done is by taking photographs of the vehicles involved, the scene of the collisions (as quickly as possible after the wreck) and of any injuries (i.e. bruising, scarring, casts, etc.). Photographs are the best way to depict a situation.
- Inform Your Insurance Company – Even if the collision is not your fault, it is important that your insurance company knows about it. You may have coverage to help pay some of your medical bills, you may have rental car coverage and, if you have collision coverage, your insurance company will usually fight the other driver’s company to get the property damage to your car paid. However, do not forget that your insurance company will not take care of your pain and suffering or lost wages injury claim.
After you consider all of these things, you may still have questions. If so, call us. We have handled hundreds of these types of cases and are in the position to offer assistance to you. We have also went a little more in depth in our newsletter that listed the West Virginia Auto Accident Checklist, so feel free to reference that as well.