It is unfortunate, but every day people are seriously injured or killed due to serious automobile accidents. As days become darker and roads more slippery in the coming winter months, we Minnesotans have to navigate our roads very carefully. If any of us are involved in a car accident, however, we must also know how to navigate the post-accident process very carefully as well.
A person involved in a car accident may face large medical bills, car repair bills, lost wages, and having to deal with possibly multiple insurance companies. So, for the purposes of this article, I will attempt to provide some very short tips as an answer to this important question: What should I do if I am injured in a car accident?
• The first thing you should do, I think, is obvious: Make sure that you and others are safe and are out of harm’s way.
• Seek immediate medical assistance, and follow what the doctors tell you. Your well-being is most important. Anyone hurt in an accident should get the necessary medical treatment as soon as possible. Remember, health is wealth. Also, an immediate checkup helps to relate the injury back to its cause — the accident. Remember to document all of your injuries.
• Contact the police immediately. If you can, write down the names and badge numbers of the police officers at the scene.
• Acquire as much information at the scene as possible. This information should include the following:
1. The name, address, telephone number, driver’s license number and insurance company of every driver involved in the accident;
2. The make, model, year and license plate number of any vehicle involved in the accident;
3. The names, addresses, telephone numbers and insurance companies of any vehicle owner, whether present or not present, at the time of the accident;
4. The names, addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses to the accident, specifically including any passengers of the vehicles involved in the accident.
• Create a record of the events that occurred. Did anyone admit to fault? Did anyone state that they were speeding? Did anyone appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Take photographs from several different positions around the crash site. These photos should also include any damage to the vehicles involved.
• Never admit liability. Do not volunteer any information to the police officer at the scene or to any driver or witness regarding guilt. What you say may very easily be misinterpreted later.
• Contact a personal injury attorney. Do not take on the insurance companies by yourself. If you seek compensation from an insurance company, your best interests become in conflict with the insurance company’s, and this applies whether it is your own insurance company or the other party’s. It should be noted that most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee, meaning they only collect a fee once a recovery is made.
The above information is just a general outline of what should be done after an accident; it is not meant to be legal advice. My best advice is to always talk to an attorney if you or a family member is hurt in a car accident. Insurance companies have investigators and lawyers working hard to protect the insurance companies. You should have a skilled, qualified professional protecting you. In any event, I wish all my fellow Minnesotans safe travels.
The information that you read in this column is general in nature and is not meant to be a substitute for specific legal advice from an attorney.
Oliver Nelson is an attorney at Magna Law Firm in Golden Valley. For questions or column subject suggestions, call 763-417-0091 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.