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With today’s snow storm, be sure to drive carefully and leave plenty of space between vehicles.  In the unfortunate event you are involved in an accident, here are some tips to make sure you are fully protected in case of injury or property damage:

1.    Make a police report:  Even if you do not think you are injured at the scene, some soft tissue injuries do not show up until later in the day or the next day.  While not calling the police when vehicle damage seems light may be the fastest way to get back on the road to your destination, that approach may be detrimental in the long run if you need evidence of fault or the identification of the other driver.  Request that the officer prepare a full accident report, if possible, rather than a simple exchange of information.

2.     Obtain Identification Information:  At minimum, get the name, address, telephone number and insurance company of the driver of the other car.  If the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, then to the extent possible, also get this same information as to the owner.  Other information that is very helpful:  the policy number and limits, if this information is available (it may be on the other party’s insurance card, so be sure to ask to see it).

3.     Witnesses:  If anyone else was a witness to the accident, be sure to obtain their contact information, too – even if the witnesses did not talk to the police or make a written statement. 

4.     Take Pictures:  Photographs of the vehicles, both to show the damage and their relative positions in the road are very helpful.  Most cell phones have cameras, so this is something that can be very easy to do while you are waiting for the police to arrive.

5.     Don’t be Brave:  If you feel that you are injured, be sure to tell the responding officer.  Even if you refuse treatment, the officer can write down that you are injured in the accident report.  This keeps an insurance company from claiming you were not injured because the “Injury – No” box was checked.  Don’t suffer in silence just to appear strong at the scene.

6.     Report Immediately:  The sooner you report the claim, the sooner the insurance company can begin processing the claim.  If you wait for the other party to report the accident, it will take longer to start fixing your car or getting a rental car.  But, if fault is at issue, you may want to jump ahead and …

7.     Talk to an Attorney:  An adjustor may want to take your recorded statement.  As in a criminal case, what you say here can, and likely will, be used against you.  If the officer could not make a finding about which driver was at fault or the other party is denying liability, you should probably talk to an attorney before making the call to the insurance company.  The benefit of a consultation could likely outweigh the slight delay in starting your claim, if the alternative is the claim being denied or reduced.

As always, every case is individual and unique.  These tips are offered for general guidance only, and any questions about your specific case should be discussed with an attorney to get specific advice tailored to your specific set of facts. 

Stay safe!

Copyright ©2011 Daniel W. Gehr, Attorney at Law.  The foregoing content may not be reproduced without express written consent of Daniel W. Gehr, Attorney at Law.  All rights reserved.


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