The moments after a car accident are often upsetting and disorienting, so you may not know what to do or who to call. Below are recommendations from the auto accident attorneys at Christensen Law. To protect your chance of recovering damages, you must report the crash and start documenting the accident scene as soon as possible.
Report the Car Crash to the Proper Authorities
According to Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.618, Michigan law requires motorists to report collisions when someone is injured or killed or when vehicle damage is $1,000 or more.
However, many car accident injuries, such as whiplash or traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), aren’t apparent right away. Cars can also absorb damage in ways that aren’t visible until they’re in the shop. In other words, you can’t know for sure in the immediate moments after a collision that injuries or vehicle damage occurred.
Contacting the local authorities is a small but important step to avoid facing accusations of fleeing the accident scene. What’s more, you can lay groundwork for a future claim or lawsuit if you want to pursue compensation for injuries and car damage.
Reporting an Accident Does More Than Keep You From Getting in Trouble
A police report can also serve as valuable documentation of the accident if you must file an injury claim with your insurance company. Reports include information like:
- Contact information for everyone involved in the accident, including witnesses
- Description of the location and road and weather conditions
- Details about the vehicles and the angle of impact
- Impressions regarding fault and what caused the accident
- Citations against a driver (or drivers) for improper or illegal behavior
While they are typically not the definitive evidence in a case, police reports can provide key information that could help you prove your position if the other party in your insurance claim or lawsuit disputes your version of events.
Document the Car Accident Scene
Collect information from the other driver(s) involved in the wreck if possible. Get their names, insurance information, phone numbers, and license plate numbers. Also, write down the names and contact information of any witnesses to the crash.
As you do this, minimize conversation with the other people involved in the accident. Just exchange pertinent information rather than discuss what happened and why. You may think you’re just being polite or trying to get answers, but the other party could use what you say against you later.
Take pictures (or video) of the vehicle damage, your injuries, and the area around the accident scene. Look for details that might explain how the accident happened, such as roadway debris or a malfunctioning traffic signal.
Additionally, photos and video footage of any skid marks, the road conditions (e.g., wet, snowy, icy, etc.), or damaged surroundings, such as broken utility poles or guardrails, will help document the scene.
All this evidence can help accident reconstruction experts piece together what happened after the site has been cleared. It’s better to have too many photos than not enough.
Seek Medical Treatment After the Crash
If a paramedic recommends transporting you to the hospital after a wreck, don’t refuse. You should always see a doctor after a car accident.
Getting medical treatment promptly serves several key purposes:
- It ensures you get care so you do not worsen your injuries, which could cost you more time, money, and stress.
- An examination can rule out initially undetected injuries, such as concussions or internal organ damage.
- Seeing a physician creates a link between the car accident and your injuries on your medical record.
Like the police report, your health records will form the foundation of your personal injury claim, so establishing that causal link is critical.
Sometimes, concerns about healthcare expenses keep car crash victims from seeking help right away. That concern is understandable, but you could recover compensation for those medical costs. Furthermore, if you delay or avoid seeking care, insurance adjusters may try to use that as an excuse to deny or undervalue your claim. After a wreck, think long-term instead of short-term when it comes to your health and financial well-being.
Check Your Insurer’s Requirements After an Accident
Insurance companies set deadlines for policyholders to notify them of auto accidents. The time limits differ from policy to policy, so it’s a good idea to have a Michigan car accident lawyer review yours as soon as possible. Some deadlines are as short as 30 days.
In general, you have one year to initiate a claim for No-Fault benefits through your auto insurer. This is called a first-party claim. With this coverage, you receive benefits regardless of whether you caused the accident.
There is also a three-year time limit to seek compensation for pain and suffering from the at-fault driver’s insurance company through a third-party claim. A lawyer can review your accident’s circumstances to determine if you have a valid case.
What You Do and Don’t Have to Tell Them
While reporting an accident to your insurer is important, you don’t have to tell them everything. In fact, you don’t have to answer all their questions. Insurance adjusters will ask you more than what’s required to find ways to pay you less. They are, after all, working for a business that protects its profits.
What not to tell an adjuster:
- Apologies: Kneejerk comments that you’re sorry could come back to bite you.
- Guesses or impressions: Don’t share it if it’s not a fact.
- That you feel fine: You might be more injured than you thought.
- You are willing to record a statement: You do not have to provide this.
- You will release your medical records: This is also not a requirement. You do not have to provide your medical records to them.
What you can tell an adjuster:
- Date and time of the accident
- The accident’s location
- Basic facts about the circumstances of the accident
- Your contact information
You don’t even have to tell them that. Your personal injury lawyer can share this information with adjusters.
Refer Them to Your Car Collision Lawyer
Ideally, you contact a car accident attorney right after the crash, and they notify the insurance company for you. That way, you don’t have to talk to an adjuster. Going forward, a lawyer can handle all calls, emails, or other communication from the insurance company.
However, the insurance adjuster may contact you before you’ve even had time to look for a lawyer. They might even offer you a settlement. Even if you don’t have legal representation yet, you can politely tell the adjuster that you will be working with a lawyer and the adjuster can go through your attorney instead.
Learn Your Rights as a Car Accident Victim
Your insurance company could even act in bad faith or fail to prioritize your needs and concerns. Knowing your rights after a car collision can help you recognize signs that an insurer isn’t handling your claim well.
If you were hurt in an accident, you can:
- Call an injury lawyer at any time.
- Investigate the crash.
- Catalog your losses.
- Review paperwork and settlement offers.
- Fight back against unfair claim denials.
You also have the right to pursue a lawsuit under certain circumstances. For instance, if you suffered serious injuries, you can pursue an injury lawsuit, according to Mich. Comp. Laws § 500.3135. Additionally, you can sue insurance companies that fail to honor your policy’s terms.
A lawyer can help you navigate compensation options while protecting your rights in the process.
Settlement Offers Are Negotiable
After a car crash, having an insurance company offer you money can feel like a godsend. Unfortunately, initial offers are usually too low for what you need or deserve. This is especially true if an adjuster offers you a settlement before you’ve even had time to heal or consider your future.
Some insurers will make their settlements seem like limited-time-only offers. They might try to get you to agree to one over the phone without seeing it in writing. These tactics are designed to disguise the fact that an offer is too low or inadequate for your post-accident needs.
Despite what insurers say, you can negotiate a settlement offer’s terms. You also have a right to consider it and have your legal team review it. Our personal injury attorneys may even have you wait until we have more information about your medical condition and losses. Rather than accepting a first offer, check that it considers your past and future. Once you agree to a settlement, you cannot request more compensation from the opposing party.
Christensen Law Will Stand Up for You After an Auto Accident
If you’ve suffered serious injuries in a Michigan car accident, the compensation you receive from your No-Fault insurance may not cover the costs of your injuries and related losses. Let a car accident lawyer from Christensen Law review your claim so you are not under-compensated. Your first consultation is free. Call us or contact us online today.