Winter weather often means slick roads, poor visibility, and other additional road hazards. Human error causes over 90 percent of car crashes, and adverse conditions like these increase the risk even further. Many drivers do quite well on dry roads in clear weather, but struggle at other times.Photo by Maria Morri
If you are in an accident, it’s important to know where to get help with personal injury. However, it’s even more important to know what to do in the immediate wake of a car crash. The events that take place in those first few hours often have a very significant effect on the amount of compensation that the victim receives.
Generally, this compensation includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Don’t Say “I’m Sorry”
If you are in an accident and you believe that you are clearly at fault, it’s very natural to want to apologize. However, that’s usually the wrong thing to do.
There is a difference between accident fault and legal liability. For example, if Driver A rear-ends Driver B, Driver A might feel responsible. But if Driver B made an illegal turn and induced the collision, Driver A is not at fault and no apology is necessary.
Furthermore, an admission like “I’m sorry” could come back to haunt you. Such a statement could be used against you in court even though it is hearsay, due to the admission against interest rule. This tip blends in with the next one discussed below.
Instead of admitting liability, try to say something like “I’m sorry this happened to you” or “How can I help you?”
Call a Lawyer First
The insurance company instructs its telephone adjusters to back callers into verbal corners. For example, the adjuster might ask where you were coming from or where you were going. The adjuster might also get you to say the s-word (“sorry”).
Instead of an insurance adjuster, call an attorney first. Unlike the insurance company, a car accident lawyer really is “on your side.” The other driver’s insurance company does not need your statement and has no legal right to demand it. You and your lawyer can make this communication later, when you are not caught up in the emotion of the moment.
An emergency responder most likely will arrive at the scene. However, this person is there to secure the area and tend to injured victims, not to collect evidence on behalf of a motorist. So, if possible, take some time to:
- Take Pictures: Visual evidence carries a great deal of weight with a future factfinder, and cell phone cameras make such evidence easy to obtain.
- Interface with Witnesses: There’s no need to go into detail at this point. Focus on contact information so a lawyer or investigator can follow-up later. Ensure these people that they are not being dragged into anything and that the matter will probably settle out of court.
- Take Note of Cameras: Store surveillance cameras, intersection red-light cameras, and other such video evidence often sheds light on details that witnesses may have missed.
Evidence is critical for victim/plaintiffs, because they have the burden of proof to establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
If you were hurt in a car accident, reach out to a lawyer today.