I Was Just in a Car Accident: What Should I Do?
Whether seriously injured or not, almost everyone involved in an automobile collision experiences strong feelings and emotions at the time of the event, such as anxiety, fear, shock, and worry. Therefore, it’s wise to consider in advance a plan of action to follow in the unfortunate event of an automobile accident.
At the Scene of the Accident
First and foremost, the safety of all drivers and passengers is paramount. Assess the health and physical condition of everyone involved in the accident, and call for medical help if needed. If there is any doubt as to whether someone needs medical attention, request an ambulance. If possible, move vehicles out of traffic lanes, but never leave the scene of the accident unless you’ve been released by law enforcement. If someone is seriously injured, do not attempt to move them – wait for experienced emergency medical services personnel to arrive at the scene. Turn on flashers and set out traffic cones or triangles, if you have them.
After you’ve assessed the physical condition of everyone and contacted law enforcement, gather facts related to the accident. Obtain names, telephone numbers, insurance information, license plate numbers, and any other relevant identifying information from the people and vehicles involved. Take photos of the accident scene, damage to automobiles, and any injuries you might have received. If others who witnessed the accident (or were involved in it) are willing to discuss what happened, make notes of their story. It’s best if you share your version of events only with law enforcement personnel. Don’t admit fault if you are unsure about what happened, instead, let law enforcement take in all the factors involving the collision.
A difficult decision for some automobile accident victims is whether or not to obtain medical treatment at the scene of the accident. Some injuries are open and obvious and undoubtedly require medical attention. However, other injuries are less obvious, but potentially just as serious, and can take days, weeks, or even longer to appear. If you have pain, or any doubt about the severity of an injury, it is wise to accept medical treatment and let a trained professional diagnose the seriousness of your condition. Not only does this course of action best protect your health, but it’ll protect you from insurance adjusters who might later claim that your injuries must not have been serious because you didn’t immediately seek medical attention.
Following the Accident
All drivers have a contractual duty to report accidents and cooperate with their own insurance companies. Therefore, regardless of fault, contact your insurance company and inform them of the accident. However, you may also be contacted by the other person’s insurance company. Whether you were a driver or a passenger, it is generally not a good idea to talk with another person’s insurance company until you’ve consulted with an attorney. Claims adjusters are trained to elicit admissions of fault for the accident (if you were driving) and to also elicit admissions from you minimizing the severity of your injuries. Therefore, it’s better to first consult with a lawyer, who can help you communicate with the insurance company in a way that ensures there are no miscommunications regarding fault, injuries, and other facts.
Continue to take care of your health. If you visited the hospital following the accident, follow up with all recommended treatment and diagnostic appointments. Follow the advice of your medical care providers to ensure that you maximize your chance to recover quickly and fully.
Reporting Your Accident to the DMV
If your accident meets certain criteria, you must submit a report to the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles within 72 hours of the accident. For more information about the criteria and applicable reporting please visit the Oregon DMV website.
Should You Consult With an Attorney?
If you’re at fault, your insurance company will help you initially and will provide you with a lawyer to assist you in any legal proceedings down the road. If you aren’t at fault, and have suffered personal injury or property damage as the result of another person’s negligence, the law rightfully holds the wrongdoer responsible and provides that you should be compensated for the harm caused by the negligent driver.
However, the evaluation of a case can be complicated. Our lawyers often find that drivers who caused an accident will not willingly accept responsibility. In such cases, we can perform a careful investigation of all the facts, sometimes including the use of expert witnesses, to help prove another person’s negligence. Additionally, the insurance adjuster for the person at fault will likely be extremely knowledgeable concerning personal injury law, and will be trained to attempt to resolve the case for the lowest possible settlement amount. To even the playing field, you should consult with an attorney as early as possible to learn about and protect your rights.
Personal Injury Lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield
The attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield specialize in assisting personal injury victims by holding wrongdoers responsible for their actions. Our experienced attorneys can work to ensure that important evidence is preserved, and can assist with necessary communications and interviews with insurance adjusters involved in the case. Importantly, our attorneys can help you determine the fair value of your case by assessing numerous factors, such as the liability of the drivers, the damage to vehicles, lost wages, and the seriousness of your medical condition, including the possibility of permanent impairment.
All of these steps increase the likelihood of a fair settlement of the case. If a lawsuit becomes necessary, our attorneys have the litigation experience necessary to present your case to a jury in the best light possible. We’ve evaluated thousands of personal injury cases and are proud to have helped personal injury victims all over Oregon. If you have questions, or would like to consult with an attorney who specializes in automobile accident cases, please contact us for a free consultation.