police officer speaking to car accident victims

You’re in an Accident – What to Do

The attorneys at Theodoros & Rooth have over 110 years combined experience dealing with accidents of all kinds, from trucking to car to motorcycles.

Often you can be the most responsible driver in the world and a crash comes out of nowhere.  Too many times these accidents are caused by an irresponsible driver.

The reality is that you have a very good chance of being in an accident in your lifetime.   Unfortunately, many of these accidents result in a fatality.

There was some good news in 2014.  Nationally, the records showed one of the lowest fatality rates on record.  From 2013 to 2014, the death rate from vehicular collisions went from 784 to 746 in Indiana.   In Porter County alone, for example, the number dropped from 16 to 13 over the same period of time.

Then, things shifted again in 2015.  While all of the statistics are not yet compiled, preliminary estimates show that that number of traffic deaths nationally rose by 8%, the largest year-to-year percentage increase in a half-century.   The National Safety Council says about 38,300 people were killed on U.S. roads last year, and 4.4 million people were seriously injured. That would make 2015 the deadliest driving year since 2008.

The council says a stronger economy and lower unemployment rates are probably among the key factors – along with lower gas prices. With driving more affordable, more people are on the road, according to the AAA report from CBS News.

Drunk driving remains a leading cause of fatal collisions.  These days, however, thousands of people are being killed because of distracted driving.  More and more people are texting and driving and multi-tasking in other ways.

 *Statistics from the Indiana State Police and the National Safety Council.

What should you do if you’re in a car accident?

When it happens, injuries may be severe and emotions high. However, there are important things to do at the scene of the accident and soon afterward. Below is a list of things to do after an accident, if possible.

Stay at the scene and call 911 immediately if you are able.

Never leave the accident scene until it’s appropriate to do so. If you leave, particularly where someone has sustained injuries or was killed, you can face serious criminal penalties for being a hit-and-run driver.

Check on All Drivers and Passengers

Before assessing property damage, make sure everyone involved in the accident is okay. Get medical attention for anyone who needs it. If a person is unconscious or has neck or back pain, don’t move them until qualified medical help arrives, unless a hazard requires moving the person.

If there’s significant property damage, physical injury, or death, you need to call the police. Ask that a police report be filed in situations where cops do arrive at the scene, and obtain the name and badge numbers of the responding officers.

Exchange Information

Get the names, numbers, addresses, drivers’ license numbers, license plate numbers, and basic insurance information from all drivers involved. If there are passengers, also obtain their names, numbers, and addresses. In talking to other drivers, try to be cordial and cooperative.

However, you shouldn’t apologize for anything at the scene. For example, if you say, “I’m so sorry I ran that red light! Is everyone okay?” you may be admitting legal liability for what happened. Immediately after an accident, it might not be clear who was at fault or more at fault. Moreover, in many states, fault isn’t determinative of which insurer will pay for any loss. Therefore, try not to admit guilt unintentionally or unnecessarily.

Talk to Witnesses

Ask every witness what he or she saw. Get their names, numbers, or addresses, if possible. Ask locals if they’ve ever witnessed other accidents in the same place.

Inform Your Insurance Company

Promptly tell your insurance company you’ve been in an accident. Cooperate with them and tell them the truth about what happened and the extent of your injuries. Explain the facts clearly. If the insurance company finds out that you’ve lied to them about anything, you can get into serious trouble, including possible denial of coverage for the accident. Obtain and review any police report filed, so you can point out who broke what traffic laws or who was at fault.

Keep Track of Your Medical Treatment

Note any doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, or other medical professionals that you receive treatment from, and each medical provider that referred you to other caregivers. Keep a detailed account of the treatments or medications you receive.

Medical expenses are relatively easy to document, but pain and suffering is trickier to prove. Keep a record of how your injuries have impacted your daily life. Include any missed workdays, list any routine activities you can’t undertake, and describe how the injuries have affected your family life.

Take Pictures or Videos

Take photographs of any damage to your vehicle as soon as possible after the accident. Photos helps your insurance adjuster determine how much you should be compensated for the damage to your car and can help in court. Pictures of your car before the accident can offer a great “compare and contrast” to show the true extent of the damage sustained in the accident.

Get a Property Damage Valuation

Obtain your insurance company’s damage valuation. If you aren’t satisfied with how your insurance company has valued your vehicle, don’t give up. Get two independent repair estimates or replacement quotes. Assertively inform the adjuster of your concerns. If you can’t agree on your car’s value, consider mediation or consult an attorney.

Use Caution in Discussing the Incident

Don’t talk to anyone about the accident other than your lawyer, your insurance company, and the police. Don’t talk to a representative of another insurance company, without the knowledge of your attorney or insurer. If called by the other insurance company, be polite, but ask them to call your attorney or insurer to arrange an interview. Also, tell your lawyer or insurer about the call.

Be Wary of Early Settlement Offers

This one is key:   Be careful if you’re offered a settlement from an insurance company.  Some injuries don’t show up or reach their greatest level of discomfort until many days, weeks, or months later. The insurance companies may not advise you of all the legal requirements associated with accepting a settlement offer.  We strongly encourage you to get legal advice before attempting direct settlement negotiations with the insurance companies.  Our attorneys at Theodoros & Rooth can assist you with all settlement negotiations to ensure you get the compensation that you deserve.

Consider Hiring an Attorney

You need an experienced advocate.  If anyone was injured in the car accident, it’s best to call us at Theodoros & Rooth.   One of our attorneys can help you maximize your recovery if you are injured.  We work on a contingency fee basis, which means that we only receive our attorney fees if you’re awarded damages or receive a settlement. Contact us today.