In the aftermath of a motor vehicle collision, the legal ramifications of the incident may not be an immediate priority. Your attention is likely to be focused on injury assessment and resolution, notifying the relevant parties and insurance providers, and cooperating with the requests of law enforcement authorities.
Still, it is important to recognize the value of thoughtful, well-planned action after an accident. Eventually, you may want to assert a personal injury claim against the responsible defendant(s). The steps you take after an accident can have a significant effect on the success of your personal injury claim.
1. Gather Information on the Identity of the Defendant-Driver
Though your attorney will help you gather additional information on the defendant-driver and other potentially liable parties, it is certainly helpful to gather preliminary information at the accident scene, if possible. Acquire personal data such as driver’s license, vehicle description and plate numbers, insurance, address, contact, and ownership information.
Additionally, make efforts to identify and gather information on potential witnesses at the scene. They may be able to corroborate your story and thus help you succeed in your personal injury claim.
If possible, make a note of the factual circumstances of the scene around you. Jot down notes on the traffic condition, the weather, time of day, and other relevant conditions that may have influenced the accident. It will help ensure that you do not later misremember the circumstances of the accident.
2. Remain Tight-Lipped
Cooperate with law enforcement officials, but be aware that certain voluntary or involuntary statements you make at the scene of the accident can be used against you as evidence. If attempts are made to more deeply investigate your role in the accident, you may want to consult with your attorney first.
Do not make any statements to the defendant about blameworthiness. Your initial assumptions about the accident may turn out to be incorrect. Though a generic apology may be construed as a simple statement of surprise rather than guilt, additional statements to justify or otherwise explain the accident (i.e. “I lost control of my car,” “My sight lines were blocked,” etc.) may be used against you. In general, avoid editorializing in the aftermath of the accident.
3. Follow Through on Medical Treatment
As soon as possible after an accident, you should go to a hospital or clinic to assess your injuries. When reasonable treatment options are given, pursue them with consistency. Do not miss too many appointments or treatments. If a defendant’s insurance carrier finds that you did not act swiftly and consistently in resolving your injuries, they will call into question the authenticity and seriousness of your personal injury claims.
4. Be Aware of the Statute of Limitations
In California, car accident victims generally must file their personal injury lawsuit within two years of the date of injury. If the injury was caused by a government entity, the statute of limitations for a claim may be as little as six months.
If you do not file your lawsuit before the limitations deadline expires, then you will have waived your right to litigate your claims. As this can have dire consequences for your ability to recover damages, it is critical that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible after an accident so that your claims can be assessed and a lawsuit can be filed.
5. Consult a Personal Injury Attorney
The earlier you consult with a personal injury attorney, the better. After an accident, a skilled attorney will help you move forward with the early stages of your claim and information gathering, and you will be able to use your attorney to more effectively communicate with insurance providers and to better negotiate the value of your claim. Further, important legal communications and deadlines will be tracked by your attorney to ensure that your claim is not affected by procedural difficulties.
If you have been injured in a car accident, seek the consultation of a skilled personal injury attorney to assess your claims and move forward with the process of litigation. Call West Coast Trial Lawyers at (888) 539-9582 for a free consultation with an experienced Glendale car accident lawyer.