Immediate Steps To Take After An Auto Accident
When you’ve been in an auto accident you need to pull your car over to a safe spot, if possible, so another person doesn’t come along and hit you again. My advice would be to not move the car from the scene of the accident unless absolutely necessary and wait until the police arrive. You don’t want to interfere with the officer’s investigation.
If you’re able, take pictures of your car and the damage to the other party’s car and license plate. It would be best if you told the police completely what happened and why the accident occurred so that they can do an adequate investigation and cite the other side.
You also need to get the medical treatment you need. Frequently that means a trip to the emergency room to start and follow-up appointments with the family doctor, physical therapist, chiropractor, orthopedic surgeon, or neurosurgeon if the injuries require it.
Before you give a statement to the insurance company or fill out their paperwork, you should talk to an experienced attorney that has handled many car accident cases. There is no substitute for experience.
The insurance company has thousands of employees who often take incomplete statements or statements taken out-of-context that will more than likely be used against you later. I would recommend getting an attorney involved sooner rather than later, and definitely before you ever give a statement to the insurance company.
It is very important to seek medical attention after an accident. One of the main issues in an auto accident case is the nature and extent of the injuries. It takes expert medical evidence, and opinion evidence, generally obtained from a doctor, to demonstrate this. You must be very clear about what happened when you see a physician, whether in the emergency room, family doctor, physical therapist, chiropractor, or mental health professional. My advice is to be very clear with each and every doctor regarding all of the symptoms you experience every time you’re in the physician’s office to make it easier to prove all the injuries you have suffered because of the accident.
Building A Strong Case
In building a strong case, some of the most critical evidence from the scene of the accident include:
• 911 call recording (we obtain and transcribe)
• Insurance exchange of information
• Police or highway patrol’s report
• Physical evidence
Sometimes the visible damage to the car indicates the amount of damage that the human being(s) inside suffered, but frequently that’s not the case. It’s not uncommon for the property damage to not look all that bad, but the injuries sustained by the occupants will be very significant.
Sometimes, people at the accident scene may not realize they’ve been hurt or the full extent of their injuries. It’s easy to overlook when you have adrenaline flowing or from the shock of the accident. It’s only in the days and weeks, perhaps months to come, that the true nature of your injuries comes to light.
At that stage, we help our clients by documenting everything along the way, in terms of medical damages, physical damages, and non-economic damages. We can hire expert witnesses if needed, such as accident reconstructionists or doctors specializing in impairment ratings and functional capacities assessments; specialists can evaluate and treat the actual injury the client has sustained. Sometimes a family doctor isn’t suited to that type of treatment. We walk them through all aspects of their injury case, beginning to end.
Liability & Fault
Even with accidents that are clearly the other driver’s fault, it is still wise to work with an experienced personal injury attorney with extensive experience in auto accident claims. The insurance company is still often simply not going to treat you fairly. For instance, they will claim you’re not that hurt or had pre-existing injuries. They will want you to execute medical authorizations to turn your medical records over to them, and then they will try to use the medical records against you.
It’s not enough just that liability is certain. You need an attorney on your side who understands how to deal with your injuries. One who has experience in getting the right doctors’ opinions and who has experience working against the “pre-existing conditions” defense and the “you’re not really injured” defense. Most of our cases are where liability is certain, and our clients have benefited from having an attorney to represent them against the insurance companies.
If you are partially at fault for the accident, it will impact your case. South Dakota has “contributory negligence,” meaning there can be negligence assigned on the part of the plaintiff. South Dakota Codified Law (SDCL) § 20-9-2 states that when a plaintiff’s contributory negligence is more than “slight,” in comparison to the defendant’s negligence, it acts as a barrier to any recovery of damages. The term “slight” is defined as small compared with the defendant’s negligence. However, suppose the plaintiff’s contributory negligence is not more than slight. In that case, the plaintiff can still recover damages, but the amount recovered is reduced in proportion to the amount of their contributory negligence. South Dakota law is very complex on the issue of contributory negligence. It can trip up a good claim, which is another reason to get an experienced lawyer working on your case right away.
Iowa has a “comparative fault” statute. Iowa Code Chapter 668. Under Iowa’s comparative fault law, the jury determines the fault between the parties to the lawsuit. Once the relative fault of both parties is determined, the plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by the amount of their attributed portion of their fault or negligence.
For more information on Steps To Take After An Auto Accident, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling 605-332-4000 today.