pi-accidentBeing hit in a car accident can be traumatizing. Luckily, there are many attorneys available that can help injured victims understand their rights and receive just compensation for being hurt in an accident not their fault.

Call Police.  Take a deep breath, and stay calm. If you have been in an accident, the first thing you should do is call the police, regardless of how serious the accident is.  If you are able to leave the vehicle, obtain the contact information of the other driver, as well as their insurance information.

Pictures. Do you have your cell phone with you? If you can, take a picture of the vehicles before they are moved. Taking pictures of the damage, as well as where the vehicles are located can be very important. If there are scrapes, dings, dents, or other visible evidence of the crash, take both close-up and distance photos of them as well. If you are hurt, do not forget to take pictures of your injuries, both on the day of the injury as well as in the days thereafter.  Bruises can develop over time, and will not be visible right away. Keep a close eye on injuries and make sure your photographs have date/time stamps on them. Photographs such as these will help show the extent and nature of the property damage and personal injury you may have suffered.

Witnesses. Did anyone see the accident? If you are able to leave the vehicle, obtain the names, contact information, and if possible, email addresses of anyone who witnessed the accident. It is important to act quickly, because police arrival and investigation can take time, and witnesses may be commuting to/from work, or in a hurry to reach some other destination. They may not be able to wait around until law enforcement arrives.

Acute Care. Regardless of how hurt you feel in the moments or hours after a car accident, it is important to see an acute care provider (i.e., an emergency room) as soon as possible. Auto accidents can in some cases cause tremendous soft tissue injuries that take weeks or months to manifest. In immediate-care facility can check for fractures, concussions, or other serious injuries that may need immediate treatment. Fractures do not have to be outright breaks to be painful – even minor accidents can cause hairline fractures, or spinal bulges, herniations, or discs that can take months or years to resolve. Rear-enders can especially cause significant back and neck problems that include soreness, stiffness, and in more serious cases, damage to the cervical spine.

Insurance Agent. Once you are home and have obtained immediate care, notify your insurance agent. Simply calling an insurance agent and reporting an accident does not necessarily open a “claim” up resulting in higher premiums for you, if you are not at fault. Be very wary, however, if your insurance company attempts to adjust the loss of your car itself. If you were hit by an at-fault driver, that driver’s insurance company should be adjusting the loss – not yours. If you allow your insurance company to adjust the loss, you will likely incur a deductible, and your insurance company may assert a right to recover a portion of your settlement proceeds (this is called a subrogation lien).  If your insurance company decides to declare your car a total loss – even though it is not – then you will be left without a car, and potentially without enough of a payment to purchase a similar car.  They may try to do this even though the at-fault driver’s insurance company is willing to repair your car. In these circumstances, it may be best to get an attorney involved to help you navigate you through the options and advise you of your rights.

Your Car. If your car is undriveable, try to obtain all of the details about where your car is being towed to. Many tow lots require the payment of daily storage fees or other impound fees. Once you know where your car is located, try to arrange to have it delivered to a body shop for repair, at least to avoid the storage fees. In California, it is unlawful for an insurance company to demand that you have your car repaired at “their” preferred body shop.

Signing Documents. Take great caution when being asked to sign documents, including documents that insurance companies what you to sign. Some documents may be presented as authorizations for checks, when they are in reality releases that release all of your potential claims against the wrongdoer. Some insurers will present documents by which they attempt to “obtain your authorization” when in reality they are asking for full authorization to obtain your entire medical history.  When in doubt, contact a lawyer.

Accepting Liability? Is the insurance company for the at-fault driver accepting liability or not? This makes a big difference. If they are not accepting liability, then it is important to hire an attorney right away, as the insurance company may be trying to play both sides of the field. It is generally unlawful for insurance companies to deny claims without reasonably investigating the facts, or denying claims when their liability is reasonably clear.

Giving a Statement. If you are asked to give a statement, make sure you know whether you are being recorded (ask if you need to), and stick to the facts. Limit your comments to only factual matters, and if you are not sure, say you are not sure.

Should You Hire an Attorney? The decision to hire an attorney to help with a car accident claim should be based on the facts of each unique case. According to the Insurance Research Council, individuals with attorneys overwhelmingly receive higher settlement offers than those without – 40% higher according to one study. Attorneys can help navigate dealing with insurance companies, the property damage to your car, and helping make claims for personal injuries that result from car accidents.

AXIS Legal Counsel represents victims of numerous types of personal injury accidents and injuries, including car accidents, auto/vehicle accidents, bicycle accidentsbus accidents, motorcycle accidentstrucks accidents, boating accidents, brain injuries, head injuries,  burn injuries, school bus accidents,  dog bite injuries, parasailing accidents, premises liability, slip-and-falls, products liability, trip and fall injuries, catastrophic injuries, wrongful death, gym/exercise accidents, and other personal injury accidents.  AXIS handles personal injury accidents that have resulted in head injuries, traumatic concussions, fractures, facial fractures, facial trauma, and traumatic brain injuries.  Axis’ managing attorney, Rabeh M. A. Soofi is recognized as a “Top Women Lawyer of Southern California” by SuperLawyers Rising Stars, and is a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer who represents victims of accident and injuries in numerous kinds of disputes.

For information on retaining AXIS Legal Counsel to represent you or a loved one with any accident or injury, contact info@axislegalca.com or call (213) 403-0130 for a confidential consultation, or visit our Accidents and Injuries Practice or Individual Rights portal. AXIS is a Los Angeles, California personal injury law firm that provides victims of accidents and injuries with aggressive representation to pursue the maximum extent of their rights.

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