What should I do after a car accident?
It is important that you seek immediate medical attention for any injuries. When everyone is out of danger and police help has been summoned, make a note of the following:
- The full name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, and insurance information for all drivers.
- Whether any of the drivers appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- The full names, addresses, and phone numbers for all passengers, pedestrians, witnesses and vehicle owners.
- Any and all statements you hear about the cause or consequences of the accident.
- Location, date and time of the accident.
- A detailed description of the accident, including which direction the vehicles were going, weather conditions, time of day, what happened, any injuries, what was damaged, and what the police did, especially if they issued tickets or gave a sobriety test.
- Any problems with vehicles not caused by the accident, such as broken lights or worn tires.
Whom do I contact after an auto accident?
Police or other law enforcement
If the accident causes a personal injury or property damage exceeding a certain dollar amount, you are required to report the accident to the police.
Your insurance company
Most car insurance companies require their policyholders to promptly report a car accident. Failure to provide information on a timely basis can result in loss of coverage for the accident.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
Rhode Island requires every driver involved in an accident causing personal injury or property damage in excess of $1,000 to file a report with the DMV within 21 days of the accident. Failure to do so can result in the revocation of your driver’s license.
What makes a viable claim for injuries and what kind of compensation is available?
You have a valid personal injury claim if your injury is a direct result of the car accident and the accident was partly the fault of another person. If you can establish that the accident was caused due to another person’s negligence, you can recover compensation for:
- Medical expenses incurred in the treatment of your injuries
- Future medical costs
- Actual lost wages
- Loss of future wages
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering.
What if someone sues me?
If a lawsuit is brought against you for damages arising out of a car accident, it is crucial that you contact your insurance company immediately. Generally, your insurance company will assign an attorney to handle your case.
However, you may need your own attorney if you are sued for more than your policy limits or if your insurance company indicates it may not cover you for everything. Also, insurance company lawyers do not handle traffic citations or criminal cases such as hit-and-run charges.
What do I do if the other driver’s insurance company contacts me?
It is best not to talk to the other driver’s insurance company until you have had the opportunity to speak to a lawyer. If you are contacted, politely decline to talk. Insurance companies’ claims adjusters are professional negotiators with extensive experience.
Their job is to pay you as little as possible. They are trained to ask questions in a manner designed to minimize your claim. You should seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney who can determine the best way to proceed.
What are some of the reasons for car accidents?
The majority of car accidents are caused by drivers behaving in a negligent or reckless way. Many drivers are distracted by talking to passengers, eating, drinking or talking on cell phones. Drivers are also distracted by the numerous technological devices available in the modern car such as CD players, radios, navigation systems, televisions, etc.
Some drivers make improper turns, fail to obey traffic signals, speed, or operate their vehicles while tired, sick or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Accidents can also occur due to defective cars, defective parts, weather, or dangerous road conditions.
Should I go to the doctor?
Even if you feel fine after being involved in a car accident, it is always wise to be checked out by medical professionals. Many people dismiss initial pain as inconsequential or hope that it will go away on its own, only to go to the doctor weeks later and discover more serious injuries.
Delaying treatment is bad both for your health and your chances of obtaining an appropriate legal settlement because there will be no medical record of your injury at the time of the accident. When you are reporting your injury to the police and medical staff, take extra care to identify specific complaints. Anything that is out of the ordinary is a symptom and should be reported to your doctor so he or she can make an informed diagnosis.
I think the accident was my fault. Should I say so?
Even if you think you are to blame for the accident, you should not volunteer that information because you may later learn that the other driver was as much or more at fault. You should first talk to your insurance company and a lawyer because anything you say to the police or the other driver can be used against you later. Do not agree to pay for damages or sign any paper except a traffic ticket until you check with your insurance company or lawyer.
How quickly must I file a lawsuit if I am injured in an auto accident?
Every state has a certain time limit, called a “statute of limitations,” that governs the period during which you must file a personal injury lawsuit with the court. Rhode Island requires a personal injury claim arising from a car accident to be filed within three years of the date that the injury took place. If you miss the deadline for filing the case, you may be barred from bringing the lawsuit in court.
Do I need to contact an attorney after a car accident?
Generally speaking, it depends on what happened, what injuries were suffered and who suffered them. You should definitely contact an attorney if the injuries were serious, likely to be permanent or resulted in death. An attorney should also be consulted if fault is clearly an issue, the police report is incorrect, the limits of your liability insurance are low, you have no insurance or your insurance company engages its own attorney.
You should also seek legal advice on the settlement value of a claim, the terms of your insurance policy, or suspected bad faith actions by your insurance company.
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