Five things you should do if you or a loved one is injured in an automobile accident
Do your best to get the names, addresses, phone numbers or possibly even license plate numbers of anyone who witnessed the accident. Don’t depend on the law enforcement officers investigating the accident. The officers at the scene may or may not identify witnesses. Many times people who see an accident will stop to assist or render aid, but leave when they see police officers or medical assistance arrive. Ask these folks to leave their names and addresses or, if you are incapacitated, ask one of them to get the names and addresses of other witnesses for you.
Get a family member or friend to take pictures as soon as possible. Photograph the damage to your vehicle and any other vehicles involved in the accident. Photograph the accident scene as soon as possible. If possible, get photographs of the damaged vehicles at the accident scene. If you or a loved one is injured, photograph the injuries as quickly as possible and photograph them periodically through the period of recovery.
When paying for medical expenses, use your health insurance, if you have it. Do not pledge your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance or your Medical Payments insurance. Your health insurance company has negotiated rates with health care providers, you do not. If your doctor charges $100 for his services, your health carrier might pay only $70. If you use your PIP or Medical Payments insurance, they will pay the full $100 charge. Additionally, your health insurance company provider generally has the right to recover from you funds they pay on your behalf, if you recover from the person or company that caused your injury. This is called the right of subrogation. If you are represented by an attorney, the amount paid in subrogation generally can be substantially reduced. Therefore, by using your health insurance, you may only have to repay $48 of your recovery to pay the original $100 doctor’s fee, allowing you to keep the entire $100 paid in PIP coverage.
Review your own automobile insurance coverage. Determine if you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, Medical Payments (MedPay) coverage and/or Uninsured or Under Insured Motorist (UIM) coverage. You have to sign a waiver to reject PIP and UIM coverage. If your insurance agent cannot produce a copy of the signed waiver, then, by law you have that coverage, whether you have paid for it or not.
Hire an attorney to help you. Most folks don’t know how to represent themselves or value their injuries. The insurance adjusters you are dealing with are trained professionals. They know what they are doing. No matter how pleasant they may be, do not depend on them to be fair or to protect your interests. They work for an Insurance Company whose profit margins are directly related to the amounts it pays in claims. Your interests and the financial interests of the Insurance Company are in direct opposition. Have a professional help you. Your best chance of a just resolution occurs when both parties to the negotiation are equally represented.
Three things you should never do if you or a loved one is injured in an automobile accident
An insurance adjuster for the person that injured you may attempt to contact you after an accident. Do not give a statement to this individual.
You may receive a written inquiry from the insurance adjuster of the person who caused your injury. Do not sign a medical release giving this person the authority to have unlimited access to your medical records.
If you have suffered a serious injury do not attempt to settle your claim without legal assistance.