You or a loved one has just been involved in a car accident and you do not know what to do next. Your vehicle is damaged, and worse, you are injured. What should you do next?
Stay calm, do the following:
- Call the police so they can investigate the scene of the accident and produce an official crash report. Get a short form crash report from the officer if possible.
- If you are hurt, call emergency medical services (EMS).
- Take pictures of the crash scene if possible. Include all vehicles involved in the crash. If there are any indications of the accident on the roads (e.g., skid marks), signs (e.g., damage to the sign), or surrounding areas, take pictures of those too.
- Collect contact information from the at-fault party. Do not lose your temper. Speak to him or her calmly.
Once you reach home, contact your insurance company and open a claim. If you are injured, it is at this point you should consider seeking legal counsel. This is because insurance companies see accidents in two parts: the bodily injury (“BI”) component and the property damage (“PD”) component. BI deals with injuries to your person.
When you are injured in an accident and require medical treatment as a result, the medical bills associated with that care comprise the BI component. Those damages can often be in the tens of thousands of dollars and sometimes in the hundreds of thousands (and sadly, sometimes even more). It is on that component that insurance companies consistently lowball their insureds and it is on that component that skilled and experienced legal counsel adds tremendous value.
In contrast, when your vehicle is damaged in an accident and requires repair as a result, the costs of those repairs are what comprise the PD component. While these costs can also often be in the tens of thousands of dollars, insurance companies are not as difficult to deal with with these bills. Resolving PD issues can often be fairly straightforward to the extent you take your vehicle to a reputable repair shop. Take your vehicle to a shop that deals with auto accidents, preferably one that understands how to battle with insurance companies on what you are owed for your repairs. Once you receive an estimate for your repairs, contact your insurance company and determine the contact information of the PD adjuster assigned to your claim. (If there is a BI adjuster assigned or the PD adjuster wishes to discuss your injuries, again, do not discuss those with anyone without first considering legal counsel.) Once you have the PD adjuster’s contact information, calmly discuss the costs of repairs and/or if appropriate, advocate for your vehicle being considered a total-loss.