What to Do After an Accident
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in property damage or injury, you should carefully consider each of the following issues and recommendations:
Take Scene Photos
Whenever possible, parties should secure photographs of the accident scene from various angles to show the condition of the roadway, the position of all vehicles, and the actions of the post-accident response team.
Secure Witness Identification(s)
Independent witnesses can be crucial in the determination of the cause of your car accident. While police reports typically provide accurate information, witnesses who stop to volunteer their time sometimes get away because of slight recording errors. Secure names, all contact numbers, and a permanent address for all witnesses who stop to volunteer their time and testimony. Also, confirm the contact information provided on your police report.
Secure Police Contact Information
Often several officers will assist, leaving just one officer to prepare the official accident report. Law enforcement officers are happy to provide business cards, badge numbers, and contact information. These witnesses can be very helpful during the claims presentation process when you seek to tell your story in full detail.
Secure Vehicle Photographs
If you are unable to take photos at the accident scene, make sure that you secure photographs of the vehicle you were riding in. Photos should be taken from all angles and at several distances. Be sure also to photograph the interior of the vehicle, including the condition of airbags, damage to interior pieces, and vehicle contents. Whenever possible, secure photos of other vehicles involved in the collision. The bottom portion of page 1 of your police report provides information on where all vehicles are towed following a car accident.
Secure Immediate Medical Evaluation
Your health is best served by immediate, thorough medical diagnosis and treatment. Medical records also drive the settlement value of your personal injury case. Please push for a thorough evaluation with a primary-care doctor or specialist and report every problem and every symptom to your medical providers. Secure all medical treatment recommended, and attend all doctors’ appointments. Thorough medical care protects your health. Also, medical records and bills are the insurance companies’ primary focus in determining the value of your claim for pain and suffering.
Secure Early and Ongoing Injury Photographs
Visible cuts, bruising, or other serious injuries should be photographed early, and photographs should continue throughout the healing process. This simple evidence is essential following recovery to prove the true extent of injury. Insurance adjusters always try to suggest that the victim is exaggerating injury. Photos answer these doubts every time.
Review Police Reports Early
North Carolina is one of just five states in the United States that follows the pure contributory negligence law. If a victim is slightly at fault for causing his or her own car accident or injuries, he or she has no claims arising from the accident. Police report errors can be fatal to your case if they are not corrected early.
Identify All Parties Who Owe for Your Accident Claims
A North Carolina accident victim can collect for injury and accident claims from multiple parties. You must look carefully to identify all errors and dangers that contributed to causing your accident. Refer to the last section of this chapter for a list of parties to consider in every case.
Report Claims to Insurance Carriers
For claims against your own policy, the contract demands that claims be reported in a reasonable period. If you were not at fault, it is common to report claims only to other parties’/drivers’ liability policies. However, remember that your own policy may provide overlapping benefits (e.g., medpay coverage pays for medical bills, which are paid again by liability insurance). Thus, it is best practice to report the accident as soon as possible. When reporting claims to other drivers’/parties’ liability insurers, avoid providing recorded testimony, avoid discussions about medical details and past medical history, and focus on property damage, accident facts, and general injury description. Do not admit to speeding or other driving errors. If you intend to hire an attorney, do this quickly and allow your lawyer to handle all claims reporting and insurance communications. See chapter 1 for a list of all potential insurance sources and coverage types so you will know what type of claims you should be reporting.