Car crashes kill or seriously injure millions of people each year. Sometimes, these incidents are accidents. Wind gusts and lightning strikes cause a handful of collisions. Manufacturer errors, like defective tires, cause a few more. But driver error causes over 90 percent of the vehicle collisions in Cobb County. Keeping that one fact in mind puts other events in perspective.
Because serious car crashes cause such extensive personal injuries and property damage, substantial compensation is often available. As is often the case, the ultimate outcome largely depends on initial events. Unless people know what to do after a collision, and they actually do these things, a Marietta personal injury attorney may have a hard time obtaining maximum compensation.
DO Stop at the Scene
Always stop after a collision. Even if you were not at fault, you could face substantial criminal penalties if you leave the scene of an accident. Furthermore, in a civil case, Cobb County jurors may discount your story. Most jurors hate hit-and-run drivers.
Most people flee the scene because they are scared. Perhaps they have no insurance or no drivers’ license. The consequences are always worse if you do not stop.
Failure to stop is especially common in bicycle and pedestrian accidents. These collisions often cause very serious injuries, so the fear factor is magnified. Additionally, many tortfeasors (negligent drivers) may not realize how much harm they caused.
DON’T Say More Than Necessary
State law requires motorists to exchange insurance information after a crash. The law also requires people to show first responders certain documents, like a drivers’ license and proof of insurance, upon request.
But state law does not require drivers to give statements to first responders or to the other driver’s insurance company. Doing either of these things could seriously hamper a future claim for damages.
Assume Rita was seriously injured in a crash. She was barely conscious when she arrived at a hospital, so officers did not take her statement then. After she gets out of surgery, when she is still groggy from the anesthesia, officers will probably try to take her statement again. There’s a very good chance she could unintentionally say something that could damage her case. So, it’s much better to not offer anything, except a polite “no comment.”
It’s also a bad idea to talk to the other driver’s insurance company. Highly trained telephone adjusters often subtly manipulate people, so they say things which could damage their claims. Instead, let your Marietta personal injury attorney handle this call. The insurance company can wait a few days to complete its investigation.
Any statements you make could be used in court later, under the statement against interest exception to the hearsay rule. This exception normally only applies if the declarant (person making the statement) is unavailable at the time of trial. However, it’s usually better to be safe than sorry.
DO Go to the Doctor
Many people do not “feel” injured after a car crash. That’s because adrenaline masks the pain. Additionally, the brain is very good at concealing its own injuries. That’s why concussed football players often want to go back into the game. Because of adrenaline and brain masking, they honestly feel fine.
So, it is always a good idea to go to the doctor, and not just for medical reasons. If the victim does not see a doctor within a few hours, many insurance companies later claim that the victim’s injuries were not very severe.
Money is often an issue with regard to medical care. That’s especially true in these situations. For liability reasons, many health insurance companies refuse to pay for car crash-related treatment.
An attorney can make a big difference in these cases. Lawyers send letters of protection to health care providers. These letters guarantee payment when the case is resolved. So, the doctor charges nothing upfront for medical care.
Attorneys send letters of protection to other professionals as well, such as vehicle rental establishments and auto body shops.
DON’T Say “I’m Sorry”
We covered this general issue above, but this particular point deserves special consideration.
Here in Georgia, an apology often expresses sympathy. Julio may tell his wife “I’m sorry” if she has a bad day at work, even though her bad day was probably not Julio’s fault. Similarly, some people apologize after a car crash, because these words express sympathy.
But the normal social interaction rules do not apply after a vehicle collision. That’s the reason victims should not give statements, and also the reason they should not apologize. An apology could be construed as a legal admission of liability.
Instead of apologizing to express sympathy, say something like “What can I do to help you?” or “I’m sorry this happened to you.” Or better yet, do not say anything.
Do call a personal injury lawyer
If you only pay attention to one item on this list, pay attention to this point. Quickly partnering with an attorney is the best way to get your case off to a good start.
As mentioned, attorneys provide immediate financial relief. So, instead of worrying about bills, victims can concentrate on getting better.
Furthermore, an attorney quickly evaluates your claim. That evaluation includes both the facts of the case and any legal defenses the insurance company might have. As a result, an attorney develops a theory of the case. Further investigation and legal research help a lawyer flesh out your claims.
This process often ends in a relatively fast settlement that’s on relatively generous terms. Many car crash claims take time to settle, and victims must be willing to make some sacrifices to get a deal done. Otherwise, they are not negotiating in good faith. However, by laying the groundwork and doing their homework, attorneys often deliver maximum compensation to victims who sorely need it.
Team Up with an Aggressive Lawyer
In vehicle collision claims, a strong beginning usually leads to a positive ending. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Our main office is conveniently located in downtown Marietta.