Crucial Legal Tips for Car Accident Victims from Louisiana Car Accident Lawyers
It’ not uncommon for car accident victims to make simple, potentially devastating legal mistakes after a crash. Click here to learn how to avoid these errors.
It’d be hard to imagine a worse time to have to think logically, coherently, and calmly than right after you’ve been involved in an automobile accident. Car accident victims are usually not prepared in any way.
First, there’s the surreal aspect of the whole thing, coming at you all at once on what was otherwise a normal day… and yet feeling like it’s all happening in slow motion because it’s so vividly real that you remember every detail.
Then, unfortunately, somebody involved in the accident may also be dealing with serious or life-threatening injuries, not to mention the possible damage to your only mode of transportation.
It’s a horrible time to have to think straight — and yet it’s one of the most vital moments of your life, as far as processing information and making quick judgments.
Louisiana Car Accident Victims Should Know What to Do Ahead of Time
Although car accidents have been an unfortunate feature of the open road since the automobile was invented, technology doesn’t seem to be making much of a dent in safety.
Car accident victims in the US still total 37,000 fatalities a year and over 2.35 million injuries. About a quarter of these fatalities are directly related to an irresponsible driver who is alcohol-impaired;21% of all US car accident victims were the result of one or more drivers using a cell phone.
But… aren’t these things illegal, you might ask?
They certainly are. But, as usual, it doesn’t stop drivers from doing what they want anyway. Not even the specter of prison or death can ensure that the guy behind you, next to you, or in front of you on the road is going to drive safely.
How Can Car Accident Victims Be Prepared? Baton Rouge Car Accident Lawyers Tell All.
When we do find ourselves involved in an auto accident, it’s unfortunately up to us as car accident victims to protect ourselves and our rights.
That involves a lot of logical steps and a lot of organization… but the good news is that you can learn these tips right now, before the worst happens.
As they say, forewarned is forearmed.
Here’s a detailed list of exactly what you need to do, in order, if you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself one of America’s many car accident victims.
This probably shouldn’t need to be said, but before you do anything you need to ensure the physical safety of yourself and anyone in the car with you.
Pull your car to the side of the road, if at all possible, as far away out of traffic as you can.
Check yourself and the other car accident victims to see if there are any injuries, even minor ones. Call 911 right away to get the police and EMT on the scene. even if everyone appears to be okay: this is where the legal process starts.
Get the Info
If you don’t have any serious injuries, you can proceed to take down all the information you need for insurance and police report purposes.
Do not, under any circumstances, chase down a hit-and-run driver! Get their license plate info, the make and model, and color of the car if possible, and give that information to the police.
If the other driver or drivers involved in the accident are still on the scene, don’t start an argument. Just get their license plate number and ask them for their insurance information and contact info. You have every legal right to this.
Again, immediate fault in the accident is not the issue right now.
While you’re waiting for the police to arrive, stay calm and try to figure out exactly what happened. Fix the sequence of events in your mind as you remember them.
Under no circumstances should you tell the other driver(s) that you were at fault, even if you think you are. The authorities will make those decisions.
In the same way, accusations won’t help anything. As long as you have the information, you have a place to start.
Don’t Go Anywhere
Never, ever leave the scene of an accident, even a minor one, whether or not you’re at fault.
Always stay until the police arrive and fill out a police report on the accident. Likewise, even if you’re not at fault, give your information, insurance and contact info to the other drivers involved.
This is a standard process, and it’s evolved this way for a number of very good legal reasons.
Once, car accident victims had to go back home and get a camera to come back and take pictures of evidence at the scene; but of course, that’s no longer necessary with the advent of cell phones.
Put yours to good use and take pictures of your car, focusing on any possible damages you can find. Photograph the whole scene, including your injuries and the other cars involved.
You can’t have enough evidence when it comes to making your claim.
Odds are your crash happened in the middle of a busy intersection — or at the very least, in the middle of heavy traffic.
If there any witnesses on the scene, see if you can get their names and contact info to help with your case. Don’t worry about who they think is at fault; just get their info and ask them if they wouldn’t mind being a witness.
It’s some of the most important legal firepower you can have.
File a Report
When the police arrive, have them file a report on the accident. Again, don’t worry about who seems to be at fault.
If the police issue you a ticket, don’t complain or argue: sign the ticket and keep it as evidence.
Signing a traffic accident ticket is not an admission of guilt or fault. It’s merely to confirm that the ticket was received. Like any other ticket, you can fight it in court.
Now is not the time. Be completely cooperative and helpful, and give as much detail as you can.
Get Medical Help
Assuming you and the other car accident victims haven’t already suffered some sort of major or life-threatening injury, once the police have filed a report and you have all the contact info, photos and witnesses you can get, now’s the time to leave.
Don’t go home, however, before heading to some sort of medical facility where you can get checked out — even if you don’t think there’s anything wrong with you.
Chronic conditions from accidents don’t always reveal themselves right away. It’s important to get a snapshot of your physical health, done by a professional, immediately after the crash.
Get as much paperwork on this medical visit as you can, including the follow-ups if any, and hang on to it. You’ll need it!
Listen to Your Doctor
No matter how you feel personally if your doctor suggests that you return for a follow-up visit, start medication, or undergo some sort of therapy, listen to them.
Not only is this a good idea in general, but it will help cover all the bases medically when it comes to your insurance claim or possible lawsuit.
You want as many public records of what happened as possible — these will figure heavily into any settlement you may get.
File a Claim
Now that you’ve gone home and recovered, it’s time to file a claim with your insurance company.
Cooperate with them, and be honest about your physical state at the time of the crash as well as afterward. Don’t pad your story, or make it worse than it needs to be.
However, insurance companies — even your own! — like to settle claims as fast as possible, so it’s important that you not give a statement or sign anything before you get some sort of legal representation. This is especially true if you have major vehicle damage or physical injury.
Depending on what state you live in and what kind of insurance you have, some car accident victims can start getting benefits before their claim has even been settled.
Whether it’s money for repairs or for injuries, know what you’re entitled to and read your policy.
Get the Repairs
Whether you received any sort of pre-settlement help or not, go ahead and get your car repaired.
Don’t go to a mechanic or body shop that your insurance company recommends; go to one you trust. Insist on original equipment manufacturer parts; that is, those that actually come from the car maker.
Get a written repair estimate, and once again save every bit of paperwork involved with your car repairs. Account for every penny that you’ve spent!
Determining fault in an auto accident varies widely by state.
In fact, some states have “no-fault” insurance, where all car accident victims are automatically compensated no matter who caused the wreck.
Know the laws in your state, but also know what constitutes negligence on your part or theirs. In Louisiana, we have what’s called a pure comparative fault law.
Was either of you speeding? Were you alert or distracted? Was either party having trouble maintaining control of the car, or using its equipment in general? Who was careful and who was not?
You should also know what compensation you can ask for in a traffic accident lawsuit, including loss of property, loss of a vehicle’s value, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
The other driver involved in your crash may be very friendly, and so may his insurance company — but that doesn’t mean you have to cooperate.
Never give a statement of any kind to the other driver’s insurance company or lawyer, and don’t give them access to any of your paperwork, photographs, or other evidence.
Gather the Paperwork
Instead, gather your own paperwork together, including photographs of the scene and your injuries, any medical bills you might have, prescriptions, car repair bills, and work-related official documents.
In short, anyway in which your life was affected by this car crash should be recorded and printed out as a hard copy.
Do Not Settle
No matter what the other guy’s insurance company or law firm may offer you, don’t settle until you get legal representation of your own.
No matter which of the car accident victims may be at fault — and it may be more than one! — it’s always in your best interest to let the law take care of the situation.
Now that there’s a paper trail and hopefully some witnesses, you can take the other person to court if you want to.
Happily, most of these settlements happen before anyone actually sets foot in a courtroom, but even so, the process will allow you to get a bigger settlement then you would just dealing with an insurance company.
Insurance companies love to tell you that lawyers’ fees will eat up that extra money, but that’s simply not true. Settlements gotten through a law firm are always much larger than anything offered by an insurance company.
No one wants to go to court!
Get a (Good) Baton Rouge Car Accident Lawyer
You’ve taken care of the damage to yourself, other car accident victims, and your vehicle, The police and your doctor have a record of what happened, and you’ve gathered as much physical evidence and witnesses as possible.
Now is the time to call a reputable lawyer who deals in car accidents and file a lawsuit, if you’re sure that you’re entitled to compensation and not at fault.
A good lawyer will let you know exactly where you stand on that score.
And while most of the preparation you have to do for your lawsuit occurs at the accident scene and just afterwards, this step is actually the most important — and should be completed as quickly as possible.
It’s not hard to find a good auto accident and injury lawyer. Many times they will review your case for free and let you know where you stand. You don’t have to pay a dime up front!
Car Accident Victims: Know Your Rights!
If you’ve been in an accident recently, get in touch with a car accident and personal injury attorney now… and let their firm get started being your own personal defense team.
No one else — not the other driver, the other insurance company, the other car accident victims, or even the police — are interested in looking out for your best interests.
Get a lawyer today and get some serious protection after the fact!
If you’ve been injured, Stephen Babcock of Babcock Injury Lawyers is standing by to help you.
Your case — and your future will be our top priority. When we meet with you, we will review your case with you for free and after you hire us you will have Stephen’s 100% Client Satisfaction Guarantee.
Contact us today.
Get Even! Call Stephen!