The following post is for informational purposes only. It is important to contact an attorney to get guidance specific to your personal situation. Click here to access the IndyBar's phone-in or web search lawyer referral services.
By Mick Peek, The Peek Law Firm
Many of the actions you should take if you are in a motor vehicle accident are logical and make sense. This short article is to help you be aware of what you can do to protect yourself.
Always cooperate with an investigating officer if the police are called to the accident scene. If it is a serious accident and you think the other party is at fault make sure the police are called to come to the accident scene. When the police officer arrives, the officer will ask you to tell your version of what happened. Think about what happened before you talk to the officer. Tell the police what happened from your prospective but do not admit it was your fault or say you are sorry. Saying you are sorry may mean, to you, that you are sorry it happened. To others it may be an admission of fault and may be used against you. Police will ask for a copy of your driver’s license, and proof of insurance. Do not give a statement to anyone other than as is required by law before you consult with an attorney.
If you are physically able, obtain or have someone else obtain for you the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of witnesses to your accident. This is crucial when there is a dispute as to the facts of the accident.
Make sure to get the other party’s insurance information. You will want to give that information to your insurance company, and you will learn if the other party has insurance to cover the accident. Remember if the other party has no insurance, you should be able to make a claim from and collect from your own insurance policy under the uninsured motorist coverage. You may also have underinsured coverage from your own policy if the other party’s insurance is not adequate. Talk to an attorney if you have questions.
If you are injured in the accident, be sure to see a doctor right away. Here are two reasons: First, the doctor will be able to begin treating you to get better. Second, if your injury was caused by someone else, it helps you to have your injuries documented and treatment begun. Otherwise the insurance company for the other driver may use your failure to get treatment right away against you. I have heard arguments such as “she was not hurt because she did not see a doctor” or “she waited for a month before going so she must have injured herself from another incident”.
You are not obligated to talk to the other party’s insurance company, and should not talk to the other party’s insurance company or attorney. The other party’s insurance company may try to get you to admit something and use it against you. Contact your insurance company as soon as possible, and cooperate fully with your insurance company. Let your company deal with others. That is why you pay the premium. If you get a call from someone OTHER than your insurance company, tell them to contact your insurance company. Give them your insurance company’s name and phone number. Let your company work for you.
Finally, if you are injured, or the accident is serious, be sure to contact an attorney as soon as possible after the accident. Find out your rights. Most attorneys will do an initial consultation free of charge. Most attorneys take personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis. There is no cost to you unless there is a monetary recovery. If you or a loved one is injured in the accident, contacting an attorney quickly helps you. Once an attorney is hired the attorney can start the investigation, take scene photographs, contact witnesses, and preserve evidence. You can bet the insurance company for the other side will be taking action quickly. The attorney can also advise you regarding medical bills, health insurance, and other issues that will be important for you at the very beginning. Remember under Indiana law you have 2 years to file suit to recover for your injuries. Do not try to settle on your own and then contact an attorney at the last minute. You may have lost the opportunity to contact witnesses and have your accident investigated.