Unfortunately, automobile collisions are an everyday occurrence in West Virginia and we can only hope that you are able to avoid those careless drivers that cause them. Having represented injured victims of car wrecks for many years, we realize that most people are confused and unsure about what they should do in the aftermath of a collision. To help in that area, we’ve developed a short checklist for you and your family members to keep in mind if you are ever in a wreck.
- Stay Calm – Many people get hysterical immediately after a collision for any number of reasons (i.e. you wrecked your parents car, you or others in the car may be injured, etc.) Don’t worry, those are normal thoughts, but it is important to gather yourself and stay as calm as you can.
- Check for Injuries – It is important that you check yourself, as well as any passengers in your car, for injuries. However, do not move a seriously injured person unless they are in further danger because of traffic or other circumstances.
- Call the Police – Whether the wreck was your fault or that of another driver, you need to call the police to come and investigate.
- Promptly Seek Medical Attention – If you feel even slightly injured at the scene, allow yourself to be transported to the hospital or have someone take you. You never know how serious an ache or pain might be (i.e. bone fracture, muscle and/or ligament tear, etc.). Even if you don’t feel injured at the scene but begin to feel the effects within 1-3 days later, go to the emergency room at your nearest hospital and get treatment. If you fail to promptly get medical treatment when you begin feeling the effects of the collision, the other driver’s insurance company will assume you were not hurt in the wreck.
- Obtain Key Information – I know you will have many things running through your mind if you are in a wreck but you, or someone on your behalf, needs to obtain certain critical information about the collision, such as license plate numbers, insurance information, addresses of everyone involved including passengers/witnesses, phone numbers, and when the police investigation is completed, a West Virginia Uniform Traffic Crash Report.
- Do Not Give a Recorded Statement - As soon as it gets notice of a car wreck, the other driver’s insurance company will contact you by phone and want to take a recorded statement. DO NOT give a recorded statement over the phone to an insurance company representative. The only goals of an insurance company are to: (1) get you to say something that allows it to blame you for the wreck, and (2) get you to admit that you were not seriously hurt, even if you haven’t yet been examined or you have not fully recovered from your injuries. Nothing positive can come from the insurance company representative being in a hurry to obtain a recorded statement from you over the phone.
- DO NOT Sign Forms From Insurance Company – Following a car wreck, you may get documents in the mail from the other driver’s insurance company wanting you to “sign a few forms.” What the insurance company won’t tell you is that you are being asked to sign medical authorizations that allow it to get all of your medical records from as far back as your birth, as well as allowing the insurance company to get personal, confidential records that are totally unrelated to the injuries you may have received from the wreck. It’s just a bad idea to give the insurance company unlimited access to your medical records.
- Be Careful About Admitting Fault at the Scene or to the Insurance Company – While I believe that you should always accept responsibility for your actions, I do suggest that you wait until you know all the facts of what caused the wreck before admitting responsibility. Why? Because any admission of fault will always come back to be used against you and, when it is, you want your admission to have been made after being fully informed of the facts. Following a wreck your first inclination may be to apologize to the other driver and admit that it was your fault. This arises from a guilty feeling you may have, even if the collision was not your fault. Before you admit fault, get all the facts. Was the other driver distracted by using a cell phone or texting? Was the other driver in a better position than you to have avoided the collision? Is the collision partially your fault and partially that of the other driver? The point is to make an informed decision.
- Document Everything You Can – This is most easily done by taking photographs of the vehicles involved in the collision, the scene of the collision (which should be taken as quickly after the wreck as possible to capture the scene as it existed at the time), and photographs of any injuries (i.e. bruising, scarring, casts, etc.). Nothing can depict a situation quite like a photograph.
- Inform Your Insurance Company – Even if the collision was not your fault, it is important to let your insurance company know about the wreck. You may have insurance coverage that would pay some of your medical bills, you may have rental car coverage, and your insurance company will usually fight with the other driver’s insurance company to get the property damage to your vehicle paid (if you have collision coverage). Keep in mind, however, that your insurance company will not take care of your injury claim for pain and suffering or lost wages.
After you have had an opportunity to consider the above, you may still have questions. If so, call us. We have handled hundreds of these types of cases and are in a position to offer assistance to you.