We all know what to do immediately following a serious car accident – make sure everyone is safe, call 911 to deal with any injuries, gather insurance and contact information from other drivers involved, and file a police report. However, here are four things you might not have thought of before leaving the scene that may mean the difference between recovering or not recovering damages for injuries to yourself and others. Whether you think you have a claim against the car manufacturer, an auto dealer, a repair shop, or another driver, be sure that you follow the four actions listed below.
1. Do not lose possession of the wrecked vehicle or its parts and contents.
Probably the most important thing you can do is to make sure, as soon as possible, that the wrecked vehicle is safely and securely stored. Remember, there is no case against a car manufacturer or car repair shop without the wrecked vehicle. The vehicle, in its condition at the time of the accident, is the most crucial piece of evidence in a potential court case. Do not remove any parts from the vehicle or allow anyone else to remove any parts.
If you are seriously injured, you will most likely not be able to have physical possession of the wrecked vehicle following a serious car accident. It will likely be towed and then after that, the insurance company may take possession and move it to a storage lot. However, neither of these scenarios ensure that the vehicle is safely stored. Even if a lot is secured, the vehicle may still be vulnerable to damage from outdoor elements, which may limit the ability of an expert to evaluate the condition of the vehicle at the time of the accident.
One way to ensure that the vehicle is safely and securely stored after an accident is to have your attorney write a letter to all concerned parties requesting the preservation of the vehicle. This letter will state that nothing is to be removed from the vehicle, including seatbelts, brakes, tires, airbags, or any other components. It will also request that the vehicle be moved to a weatherproof storage facility. This preservation letter is one reason to retain an attorney as soon as possible after a serious accident.
2. Do not settle your property damage claim with the insurance company.
This tip works in concert with #1, above. If you settle your property damage claim with the insurance company, the insurance company will take the wrecked vehicle to the junkyard. If this happens, you will have lost the crucial piece of evidence needed to recover damages in the case of manufacturer defect or defective car repair. Beware-an insurance claims adjuster may even come to the hospital to get your signature on a settlement. Do not sign anything until you speak to an experienced attorney.
3. Do not give any recorded statements until you have talked to an experienced attorney.
Always remember that insurance adjusters are in the business of paying out as little as possible in any and all claims. Their job, no matter how pleasant they are on the phone or in person, is to preserve the bottom line of the insurance company. You should not give any kind of recorded or even unrecorded oral statement to an insurance adjuster until you have consulted with an experienced attorney. Any statement you give can be used as evidence to reduce or eliminate liability in a potential court case against the other party involved in the accident, a car manufacturer, or a car repair shop.
4. Do not give a victim impact statement if criminal charges have been filed against the other driver.
Remember the Miranda warnings we’ve heard over and over in cop dramas, “Anything you say can, and will, be used against you in a court of law…”? This is equally true when it comes to cases against parties in civil court. You should not give any kind of statement to anyone regarding the accident until you have consulted with an experienced attorney. This includes a victim impact statement, which is just what it sounds like – a statement regarding how a criminal incident has affected you as a victim. Depending on how they are crafted, these can destroy any potential case you may have against the vehicle manufacturer, auto dealer, or car repair shop.
Preserving your vehicle will preserve your case. Also, do not speak about the case with any insurance representatives or attorneys for other parties before consulting with an experienced attorney yourself. If you or someone you know has been involved in a serious car accident and wish to speak with one of our attorneys, contact us for a free initial consultation.