YOU JUST GOT INTO A CAR ACCIDENT… NOW WHAT?

Thanks for tuning into my new blog.  My goal is to provide you with short and helpful weekly articles on common legal issues facing many Americans.  The first few articles are going to be on auto accidents.  Last year in Michigan alone there were 289,061 car accidents.  And these were just the ones reported.  At least 951 people died in these wrecks, and countless others were permanently injured.  Think about these numbers for just one year in Michigan.  It’s startling.

No one wants to get into a car accident.  But we all know someone who has been involved in one (perhaps you yourself).  Many accidents are minor and the only thing you need fixed is your front bumper.  Other wrecks can ruin someone’s life.  You should always hope for the best but prepare for the worst after an auto accident.

I have represented hundreds of persons hurt in auto accidents over the years.  I often get calls from clients asking me “Jon I just got into a car accident what do I do?  Do I have coverage?  I only have PLPD, is there anything I can do? It was my fault, does that matter?”

Every situation is different.  But here are the general rules of what you should do if you get into an accident.

  1. Make sure you are safe-  Above anything else, when you are in an accident get to safety as soon as possible.  Pull over to the side of the road or a parking lot.  Leave your vehicle and get to safety if it is not drivable.  Make sure you are not in a position where you can get hit again.  I have seen many accidents where people have been hurt after the initial accident.
  2. Dial 911- Once you are safe, call 911 immediately and report the accident.  Even if the accident was minor, or you don’t believe anyone is injured, you should call 911.  The police will come and investigate the accident and try to determine who’s at fault.  They will make a report that is very important for dealing with your insurance company later on down the road.  Even if you are at fault for the accident, you need to call police for a report because you may still be entitled to insurance benefits and they need to investigate.
  3. Get Medical Attention- Even if you don’t believe you are injured, you need to get medical attention right away.  Sometimes this will be by ambulance.  Other times this can be you going to the hospital with a friend or family member, or following up with your doctor immediately.  But the important part is to get evaluated right away.  Many times injuries don’t present themselves right away.  I represented a gentlemen who was run over by a pickup truck and didn’t go to the hospital until 24 hours later because he had so much adrenaline in his body he thought he was fine.  When he was evaluated later, it turned out he had fractured the vertebrae in his back.   He is now disabled.  The insurance company will pounce on any delay in treatment to blame you for your injuries or to claim they were caused by something other than the wreck. Be sure to report to your doctors every single little problem or pain so it can be checked.
  4. Document Everything-  Document everything from day 1.  This includes statements made by the other drivers or witnesses at the scene, medical persons, what happened at the scene, what parts of your body hurt, if you lost consciousness or blacked out, and anything else that could be helpful later.  It’s hard to remember all of these details later on, especially with everything going on due to the wreck.  You are going to have so much on your mind.  Do yourself a favor and write everything down.  Save all receipts, medical bills, and any other expenses stemming from the wreck.  Take photos.  The more the better.
  5. Call A Lawyer- Once you are safe and have sought initial medical treatment, it is essential you call an attorney immediately.  Don’t wait.  Even if you think you won’t need an attorney.  Many attorneys (including myself) will give you a 100% free initial consultation.  If you don’t need my help,  I will tell you from day one, and you won’t have to pay a dime.  Auto law in Michigan is confusing and slanted towards the insurance companies.  Without an attorney, you are at the mercy of the insurance companies. A lawyer can advise you if you have a case and what you need to do to make sure your medical bills and other expenses will be taken care of.  A good attorney will also make sure that you are getting all the medical treatment you need. And finally, an attorney will allow you to rest easy knowing that your claims are being handled.
  6. Don’t Make Any Statements To Anyone Other Than the Police and Your Own Doctors.  Do not make any statements to the Insurance Companies-  Whatever you do, don’t make any statements to any insurance companies.  Not your own insurance company, and not the other driver’s insurance company.  All too often the insurance company will use things you say against you later.  Keep in mind that the goal of many auto insurance companies is to minimize risk for insurance company. In other words, to figure out a way to deny your claim or to pay you the least amount of benefits possible.

Next week, I will dispel the mystery and confusion about Michigan’s “No-Fault” insurance scheme.  Most people have heard of no-fault, but have no idea what it means  (I didn’t either until I went to law school). We will talk about just what that insurance coverage you are paying so much money for every year actually means for you.

Thanks for reading.   I hope you all have a wonderful  and safe holiday weekend. Vote below on my next topic after car accidents!