Steps To Take After a Baltimore Car Accident
No matter whether the other driver admitted fault or not, you need to protect yourself. The other driver is not the one responsible for paying your settlement; his insurance company decides who is at fault and how much you receive.
Even where an insurance company accepts that the collision is the fault of their insured, they will always go to great effort to minimize the value of your case so that you are not fully compensated. Sometimes insurance companies rely on the victim’s lack of knowledge of Maryland laws to avoid paying for medical expenses and lost wages.
To stay protected against tricks and tactics that the insurance company uses to pay you less, follow these five steps after a crash:
1. Call the police
You might not think the accident is bad enough to report. You might not think your injuries need immediate medical care. Still, it is important that you call the police to have a report filed and medical professionals evaluate you and your passengers. You will find out later that the police report plays an important role in your settlement.
2. Personal safety comes first
While it is best to not move the vehicles until the police have arrived, there may be times when you should move your vehicle after a collision. If your vehicle is in the path of other cars on the road and poses a safety threat, it is usually safer to move it out of the way.
Whether you move the vehicle out of the way will depend on the condition of the vehicle and your condition after the accident. Whether you move your vehicle to the side of the road or not, make sure you turn off the engine and engage your hazard lights. When fluids are leaking from the vehicle, such as fuel or oil, or if you cannot move your vehicle, get far away from your vehicle.
3. Gather Evidence
Car accident claims are not open and shut. They require evidence to support your side of the story and show what happened in the crash.
Here are some things you can gather to help support your case:
If you are physically capable, photographs should be taken at the scene. Photographs of the position of the vehicles after the collision and before they are moved will be of immense aid later in the prosecution of your case. Further, photographs of any skidmarks on the roadway, damage to the vehicles and injuries to persons are of critical importance.
NOTE THE CONDITIONS
Pay attention to the weather, road conditions, and traffic conditions. If it is cloudy, make a note of it. Often claimants believe they will remember these things later, however, if you fail to make note of it early on it will frequently be the case that you cannot remember the details later on. Remember, serious motor vehicle collisions can take as long as two (2) years to navigate through the litigation process if handled appropriately. Many of the details from early on may well be difficult to recall towards the end of the case.
LOCATION OF THE ACCIDENT
Write down where the accident happened. The best practice is to note the street intersection, nearest streets, or even a landmark. If you are able to do so, draw a diagram of the accident with the relevant positions of the vehicles involved and their direction and speed of travel.
DATE OF THE ACCIDENT
The date of the accident is of critical importance as it will control the date that the Statute of Limitations expires for your case. If the Statute of Limitations expires you will not be able, under law, to pursue your claim.
MAKES AND MODELS OF ALL VEHICLES INVOLVED
License plate numbers (If possible the license plates should be among the photographs that you take.) Name and insurance info for the other party involved (This is critical. Be certain to obtain the names and insurance information for all parties involved in the collision. Even if there is a party whom you do not believe was responsible for the collision, but who was nevertheless involved in the collision, be certain to obtain their name and insurance information as well.)
Name of police department involved and police report number (if applicable) (This too is critical. Make sure that you have the police report number and appropriate department. There are many roadways and highways that have overlapping patrol coverage. The responding department to your collision could be the County Sherriff’s Department, the County Police Department, the State Police, local or city police or any number of Federal agencies, particularly if your collision happens in the District of Columbia. The accident report number alone will be of little use without knowing which agency responded to the scene and prepared the report.)
Driver – Once you have identified the driver, exchange information with him or her. Make sure that at the end of your exchange you have the driver’s name, address, phone numbers, employer’s info, driver’s license number, name of insurance company, and insurance policy number. Associate the driver with his or her vehicle by keeping track of the vehicle’s year, make, model, color, and license plate. If the driver makes any statements about the accident or his injuries, then promptly write them down.
Lastly, the driver is not always the owner of the vehicle. Make sure you look at the Vehicle Registration Card to see the registered owner of the vehicle and the insurance company. Witnesses – If there were potential witnesses to the accident, get their information as soon as you can. Secure their names, addresses, and phone numbers. Good samaritans may stop to assist you and will usually leave when emergency personnel arrive, so get to them quickly or lose them forever.
LISTEN AND STAY QUIET
Listen carefully to what people at the scene of the collision are saying. This will allow you to locate potential witnesses, as well as obtain information that will help you if you decide to bring a lawsuit. In particular, you want to listen to the other driver to see if he or she admits fault or says things that show he or she did something wrong – like driving too fast or not seeing you.
If you hear any helpful statements then promptly write them down. You should stay quiet at the scene of the accident as to how the accident occurred or relevant details likes the speed of the vehicles. Your comments will not be helpful to you and will likely be used against you when you are trying to resolve the case. Never admit fault for the accident as an investigation may show differently.
4. Establishing Liability
To recover damages from someone as a result of an auto accident, you first need to establish that the accident that caused your injuries was that person’s fault. There are many different things that a driver can do that result in liability for an accident. The most common are:
- Exceeding the posted speed limit
- Failing to adjust speed to the conditions
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Disobeying traffic signs and signals
- Failing to yield the right-of-way
- Failing to keep a safe distance behind another vehicle
- Not paying attention while driving
- Increasingly, texting and driving or otherwise using a cell phone while operating a vehicle has been found to be the basis on which a claim of negligence can be founded
5. See a Doctor
Injuries from car accidents often not readily apparent for a few days. This is because your adrenaline is rushing so fast and furiously that you often cannot feel when you are hurt for a few days, weeks, or months. Some injuries—such as traumatic brain injuries—are especially difficult to detect. Seeing a doctor as soon after your accident as possible is important to uncover those hidden injuries and start getting treatment as soon as possible. In fact, we recommend taking an ambulance from the collision scene to the hospital. Many injuries are not readily apparent and it is always in your best interest to play it safe. Getting proper and prompt medical treatment can well be the difference between having an injury that becomes difficult to manage because of delayed diagnosis and one that can be appropriately handled early on lending itself to a better overall medical outcome.
Be choosy with whom you speak to.
What you say will be held against you after a car accident. Be choosy about whom you talk to after the crash. What might seem like an innocent statement could come back to haunt you. Answer the police officer’s questions to the best of your ability but don’t be afraid to admit if you’re not sure about the answer to a question. It’s better to say you don’t know than to make something up and then realize you were wrong later on in your case. It also important not to make any apologies to anyone. It is often human nature to apologize for the happening of an event out of simple compassion that someone was injured. That compassion will often be used later by the insurance company to suggest that your apology was actually an admission of guilt.
Contact a Lawyer
You may have never imaged being in a situation where you sought the advice of a lawyer. However, after a serious car accident, it’s wise to put a professional on your side. There are many laws that impact your settlement. Without a skilled lawyer working on your behalf, you could leave quite a bit of money on the table. CONTACT AN ACCIDENT LAWYER as soon after your collision as possible. Remember, even decisions made immediately after a collision have the ability to affect the outcome and value of your case. Those made in the days after a collision even more so. Never, under any circumstances, should you give any statements to any insurance company without first speaking with an attorney.