Automobile accidents can be expensive. Knowing what to do before, during, and after an automobile accident can help you save money and can also help you to protect your rights.
How to Protect Yourself before an Auto Accident Happens
Before you are involved in an auto accident, there are many things you can do to protect yourself in the event one occurs. It is important to keep these items on hand in your vehicle:
- A copy of your insurance information
- A pen and paper for taking notes
- A copy of your vehicle registration
- A camera (most phones have this capability)
- A flashlight
- A list of local law enforcement agencies and their phone numbers
What Kind of Insurance Should I Have?
When it comes to automobile insurance, it’s a good idea to evaluate the different types of insurance and find the one that best suits your needs. Available car insurance options includes:
- Liability Insurance: Liability insurance covers you in the event you are in a covered car accident and it is determined that you are at fault. Liability insurance will cover the cost of repairing any property damage as well as medical bills resulting from the accident. Most states set a limit for liability insurance. However, if you are in an accident where costs exceed that of your liability insurance, you will have to pay the difference out of your own pocket.
- Property Damage Liability: Property damage liability pays for damage done to another car if you are at fault for the accident.
- Bodily Injury Liability: This policy pays for the medical expenses of people injured in a crash for which you are at fault. It’s important to identify the maximum dollar amount the policy will pay for a single person’s injuries and the maximum for all injuries sustained by all occupants of the other car. This number will ensure that you are properly covered and won’t have to pay for any costs out of pocket.
- Collision Coverage: Collision coverage will pay for repairs to your car. If your car is completely totaled, collision coverage will pay for the value of your car at the time of the accident. If you have an older car, it may not be worth it to have collision coverage as the value you would receive for the car, if totaled, would not be worth the premium you pay.
- Comprehensive Coverage: Comprehensive coverage is coverage for damage that does not result from a car accident. Examples of these instances would be weather damage, hitting a deer, or if your car is stolen.
- Personal Injury Protection: Personal injury protection covers costs related to personal injury resulting from a car accident. With this coverage, your medical bills, along with those of your passengers, will be paid through your insurance company regardless of fault.
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Protection: Uninsured/underinsured motorist protection is great coverage for protection against uninsured drivers. Although all state laws mandate that drivers be insured many drivers do not have insurance. If there is an accident and someone is legally responsible for the damages related to the accident, you won’t receive any payment if they do not have coverage or you will receive less than you need to cover the cost of damages. This type of insurance would help with your expenses.
What Should I Do If I Am in an Accident?
There are many things you should do immediately following an accident to protect your rights in the event there is an injury or damage to a vehicle. Foremost, it is important to preserve as much evidence as possible following an accident in case you wish to file a personal injury lawsuit against someone, or someone files a personal injury lawsuit against you. Additional things to remember are the following:
- Drivers: Be sure to identify all the drivers involved in the accident. Even if their vehicle did not cause damage or they were not at fault, they could be a possible witness in the event a personal injury lawsuit is filed. Important information to record are driver’s licenses, names, addresses, telephone numbers and also their insurance carrier and policy number.
- Passengers: If there were any passengers in the vehicle, be sure to get their information as well, as they could be useful as witnesses in subsequent lawsuits.
- Pedestrians and Witnesses: Pedestrians and witnesses are important to identify, as they could prove useful in any trials resulting from personal injury lawsuits.
- Information about the Accident: If you are not injured and are capable of doing so, it is important to try to establish all the facts surrounding the accident and how it occurred. It is useful to write down as much information relating to the accident. Some facts are: when and where the accident took place, the weather conditions, the directions the cars were heading, and how the accident took place.
Proving Fault in an Auto Accident
After an accident has occurred and you have been injured, it’s important to establish who is at fault, so you can recover. Once determined, you can likely recover from that person’s insurance company.
- Police Reports: If police were called, or arrived at the scene of the accident, they will make a written accident report. You can typically contact the police department where the accident occurred to retain a copy of that police report as evidence. Police reports may include police officer opinion as to fault, or may just state the facts of the surrounding accident.
- State Traffic Laws: If you visit the traffic laws for your state, specifically pertaining to the circumstances in which your accident occurred, you may be able to find a violation. If the violation was committed by another person, this could be useful to establish fault in the accident.
- No-Doubt Liability Auto Accidents: There are some accidents where the other driver is found at fault nearly 100% of the time and insurance companies hardly bother to fight. In rear end accidents, the person who hit you from behind is nearly always at fault. Also, a person who is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is usually always at fault for any subsequent accidents that occur.
When Am I Liable for Another Person’s Driving?
There are situations where you can be liable for another person’s driving. In these situations, the law assigns fault to you even though you were not driving the car at the time the accident occurred.
- Employer/Employee: Fault can be established where you are an employer and an employee drives the car. When an employee is performing job duties in the course of his or her employment, the employer is liable for the employee’s wrongful acts, including negligent driving.
- Family members: Negligent entrustment establishes liability for a parent when they lend their car to a minor child knowing the child is incompetent, reckless or inexperienced. The family purpose doctrine provides that where a car is purchased for general family use, the owner of the vehicle is liable for the negligent driving of anyone in the family using the car.
Lending to an Unfit Driver: If you lend your car to someone whom you know is incompetent, unfit, or reckless, you are liable for their negligent driving if they cause a car accident. This is another theory is negligent entrustment. The person that filed suit must establish that you knew or should have known that the driver was incompetent at the time the permission was given.
What Should I Do after an Auto Accident?
If you are injured in an auto accident, and the accident was not your fault, it is important to negotiate with the insurance company of the liable party to be properly compensated for your injuries. The process of negotiation typically begins with a demand letter to the insurance company outlining your name, injuries, medical costs and losses.
Most demand letters typically state a monetary amount, giving the negotiation process a starting point. It is important at this stage to know the value of your injuries and losses.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you navigate the difficult road ahead. Negotiating with insurance companies can be complicated, but an experienced personal injury attorney can help you obtain the settlement you deserve.
Most insurance companies will attempt to settle out of court, rather than go to trial. It is important that, if you decide to settle, you do so for an amount the reasonably covers your medical costs and other losses. If the insurance company fails to offer a favorable settlement, you will likely sue the insurance company in court to recover.
Should I Contact an Attorney?
You should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney if you have been involved in a car accident. It’s important to begin the process of preserving your rights and acquiring a fair settlement for your injuries.