If you have been involved in an auto accident, you are probably asking what steps you should take to protect your rights. In cases of serious personal injury or wrongful death, these first steps are critically important to protect your rights to fair and full compensation for your injuries.
Keep in mind that these are just the minimal steps necessary. There are many others which may vary depending on your circumstances. For a individualized and free review of your case, feel free to contact the Albuquerque auto accident attorneys at Collins & Collins, P.C.
Minimal Steps to Protect Your Rights in a Car Accident
To protect your rights after a car accident, there are a number of things you should do even if you have not yet hired an attorney.
At a minimum, you should obtain as much information as you can regarding the accident including collecting police reports, witness statements, witness names and insurance information on all drivers involved in the accident.
Dealing with the Insurance Companies in a Car Accident
Dealing with the insurance companies following a car accident can be very confusing and frustrating. This includes dealing with your own insurance company. However, dealing with the other driver‘s insurance company is more than just frustrating, it can be quite hazardous in the absence of caution.
As a rule, you should not speak directly to the other driver‘s insurance company. Specifically, you should not give statements to any representative of an insurance company, either written or verbal, without first speaking with an attorney. This is particularly true in cases involving serious injury or wrongful death where the insurance company is disputing liability or fault for the accident.
Rest assured that these statements can and will later be used against you if possible.
Document Your Injuries!
If you are injured, then you must document your injuries in order to recover damages for those injuries. It is important to do this from the beginning.
In case of a serious auto accident, injured persons are transported to the hospital by ambulance. This will provide a good record of your injuries.
However, many injuries are not apparent right away or do not justify ambulance transport. If the injuries become apparent later as neck and back injuries often do, then seek medical attention as soon as possible.
If there are visible injuries but you did not get transported by ambulance for whatever reason, take pictures of your injuries immediately. If the injuries worsen, take pictures again. Careful documentation of your injuries will go a long way toward compensation for your injuries.
Establishing Liability (Fault) in a Car Accident
In addition to documenting your injuries, as alluded to above, you must also prove liability. This means that you must show that the other party was at fault, at least partially, for the auto accident in order to recover against his or her insurance.
Without fault, there will be no liability. In other words, if the other party did not cause the accident, he or she will not be held responsible for your injuries.
Police reports are often very helpful in identifying fault for the accident. However, police reports are often hastily written or for a number of reasons may not clearly identify fault. Witness statements are often critical in these cases if and when the insurance company disputes liability.
As such, you or someone on your behalf if you are not able should obtain the names, numbers and addresses of witnesses. If possible, they should give written statements to either you or the police. These statements may go a long way in discouraging an insurance company and/or the other driver from later denying fault.
Do Not Delay: Critical Deadlines Apply to Auto Accident Lawsuits!
Personal injury claims have important deadlines called statutes of limitations. These can vary depending on the nature of the defendant. In some cases, the deadlines can run very quickly.
Specifically, claims against governmental entities have shorter deadlines with very important deadlines running in as little as 90 days from accident. Missing one of these deadlines can bar your claims completely.
An Experienced Car Accident Attorney Can Help!
In cases of serious incapacitating injuries, you may not be able take these necessary steps. If you are unable take these steps yourself to protect your claims for whatever reason, then you or a loved one should contact an experienced auto accident attorney as soon as possible.
An experienced attorney will be able to take care of these important steps including protecting your claims against any important deadlines while you deal with more pressing issues.