According to the California Highway Patrol’s most recent report, more than one-quarter of a million people were injured in traffic collisions in 2015. The state determined long ago that any collision involving motor vehicles is caused by one or more of the involved parties.
However, determining fault in these matters is not an easy task, nor is the fight for to recover the cost of repairing damages to you and your vehicle. The following list of suggestions will go a long way in helping you and your attorney lobby a successful claim against the at-fault party in your auto accident case.
1. Call law enforcement.
Traffic collisions can cause those involved to have rushes of adrenaline and not all vehicle damage is readily visible. Therefore, it is important for the drivers in these cases to contact local law enforcement officials from the scene and file an official report. Not only does this document the date, time, and location of the collision, their documented notes may be useful to an auto accident attorney should a lawsuit become necessary.
2. Exchange information.
Gathering the personal and insurance information from the drivers, passengers, and other witnesses to a traffic collision is legally required by state law and refusing to do so is a prosecutable offense. Just be sure to obtain the information from valid pieces of identification such as a state-issued driver’s license as many people will lie about their names and addresses in order to avoid being sued.
3. Report the collision.
Traffic laws in many states require those involved in traffic collision to report any instance in which there is more than $750.00 worth of damage. The problem with this is that no one really knows how much the damages will cost at the time of the accident. Filing a report with the department of motor vehicles within the required time will save you the hassle of dealing with penalties if the damages in your case total more than the minimum amount.
4. Take a lot of pictures.
There is no better time to take advantage of the fancy camera on an expensive smartphone than when someone is involved in a traffic accident. Experts agree that taking photographs of everything including property damage, other parties, witnesses, and obvious injury should be taken from the time of the accident until a settlement is reached. Auto accident attorneys can use these photos to prove or disprove the amount of damages claimed by those involved.
5. Gather your medical records.
Medical records are a plaintiff’s best friend in auto accident lawsuits. Anything related to the injuries sustained during a traffic collision should be well documented and kept in one place. These documents may include photos, medical bills, X-rays, lab results, diagnosis, and prognosis.
6. Obtain property damage estimates.
In order to avoid any charges of overstating the damages to a vehicle, drivers should have their vehicle assessed as soon as possible. To reduce the chances for fraudulent claims, many insurance companies also require drivers to obtain two separate repair estimates. For easy access, drivers should be sure to keep all paperwork related to property damages in one place.
7. Determine the amount of injury.
To ensure that your initial claim is enough to cover the costs associated with physical injury, an auto accident attorney will use calculations much like those employed by insurance companies. Injuries result in more than just medical bills. Claims for lost wages and pain and suffering are also acceptable in a personal injury suit.
8. Interview witnesses.
While a lawyer is barred from contacting another involved driver directly, there are plenty of other witnesses that may help a plaintiff win a lawsuit. Witnesses may include other passengers in either vehicle, bystanders, first responders, and law enforcement officials. This is where all the previously mentioned personal information will come in handy as it can be used to contact the witnesses to the accident.
9. Hire reconstruction experts.
Oftentimes, a collision happens quickly and that can make determining what actually happened a difficult task. Once an attorney accepts a case, he will usually hire a professional auto accident reconstruction expert to determine speeds, possible infractions, skid marks, and vehicle damages.
10. Assess any comparative negligence.
As mentioned above, it can be difficult to determine who was at fault for a traffic collision. Most of the time, all of the involved drivers will be assessed with at least partial blame. An individual may be assigned blame if they have violated a statute, regulation, or ordinance in such a way as to cause a collision.
If a driver incurs injury or property damage as a result of a traffic accident, he or she is entitled to monetary reimbursement to cover the costs associated with repairs and treatment. Vehicle insurance companies are well-versed in fighting these claims and are quite able to take advantage of victims. In order to protect their own interests, drivers need to seriously consider seeking legal help from an experienced accident attorney.