AUTO ACCIDENT – WHAT DO I DO?

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If you are hurt in an auto accident as a result of someone else’s negligence, what should you do?

 

Immediately after the impact, stop.  Do not drive away.  Leaving the scene of an accident by a driver can be considered a criminal act.  Contact the local police department and explain what happened.  An officer will come to the scene and make a report.  After the police arrive, cooperate with them.  Explain what happened and why it was the other person’s fault.  Ask how you can obtain a copy of the report.  Later, obtain a copy of the report.

If anyone is injured, call for emergency medical assistance.  Although it is important to remain at the scene until the police arrive, if the injuries are so serious that immediate medical attention must be obtained, you may need to leave the accident area before the police arrive.  Before you leave, give your name and address to the other driver; report what has happened to the police as soon as possible.

If you are hurt, seek medical attention as soon as possible.  If necessary, go to an emergency room or to a doctor’s office.  It is always best to seek medical attention as soon as possible after the accident.  If directed to obtain follow-up medical treatment, do so in a timely fashion.  To prosecute a personal injury claim, a consistent and timely trail of treatment from the time of the accident until the claimant makes maximum medical improvement is the best evidence to support your claim.  Treatment history with long delays or large gaps is often treated with suspicion by insurance companies.

While at the scene, obtain the name, address and telephone number of the operators of all vehicles involved in the accident, as well as any eyewitness.  If you cannot identify the responsible party, you cannot make a claim against that party or that party’s insurance company.  A witness who cannot be identified cannot be called as a witness at the trial of your case.

Although it is acceptable to discuss how the accident occurred with the investigating police officer, you should not discuss how the accident occurred with the other drivers or any eyewitnesses.  If you are contacted by the other driver’s insurance company, you should not discuss how the accident occurred with the adjuster.

As soon as possible, you should report the accident to your insurance agent.  Depending on the type of coverage you have, you may have claims against your own automobile insurance policy, including the following:

1. Medical payment coverage:  If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident and you have medical pay coverage, your motor vehicle insurance company will pay for any expenses for medical treatment as a result of injuries from the accident normally within one (1) year of the event or occurrence. Your insurance company will only pay up to policy limits.  An insurance company will pay regardless of whether or not the responsible party pays or your medical insurance pays.  No one besides yourself has benefit of the premiums you paid for this coverage.  Insist that medical payments be made directly to you and not to any care provider.  This allows you to determine how the money shall be spent and also prevent duplicate payment. 

2. Uninsured motorist coverage:  If the motor vehicle and the driver who was operating the motor vehicle responsible for causing your injuries did not have insurance, then you will be able to make a claim under your uninsured motorist coverage of your motor vehicle insurance policy.  Your insurance company will pay up to policy limits, those damages which the responsible party otherwise would be responsible to pay. 

3. Underinsured motorist coverage:  Even if the responsible party does have insurance, if his insurance policy limits are too low to cover all of your damages for personal injury, you may be able to make a claim against your own insurance company under the Underinsured Motorist Coverage.  This coverage pays for damages in excess of what the responsible party’s insurance company pays you so long as it paid policy limits. 

4. Collision coverage:  If you have collision coverage, your insurance company must pay for the cost of repairs of your vehicle or its retail value immediately prior to the impact, whichever is less.  However, most collision coverage has a deductible, which simply means you must pay the first portion of the damages, while your insurance company pays the rest.  Normally, you would first attempt to settle your property damage claim with the responsible party’s insurance company.  If the responsible party’s insurance company fails to make a timely settlement, you should then process your property damage claim through the collision coverage of your own insurance company.  Your insurance company may recover the deductible from the responsible party’s insurance company.  When you make a property damage claim, obtain at least two estimates of either cost of repairs or retail value of your vehicle prior to impact; then negotiate with the insurance company. 

Medical Insurance

You should always process all expenses for medical treatment through your medical insurance carrier first.  You paid for this insurance, either directly yourself or indirectly by working for the benefit through your employer.  No one beside yourself is entitled to that benefit.  Certainly, the third party who injured you is not entitled to the benefit.  Your automobile insurance carrier, that you paid money for coverage, is not entitled to the benefit of the same.  Sometimes medical care providers will refuse to bill your medical insurance carrier, claiming that the responsible party should pay these bills.  Who pays the medical bills is no one’s business except yours.  The medical care provider’s only concern should be whether or not the bill is paid.  You should always insist that they send the bill to your medical insurance carrier.  Do not provide any information about the responsible third party or the medical payment provisions of your automobile insurance policy; by doing so, the medical care provider will have no other choice but to bill your medical insurance carrier.  If necessary, obtain the bill and file a claim with your medical insurance carrier using forms they will provide you.

I cannot afford to hire an attorney; what should I do?

The Law Office of KENNETH A. SEUFERT, P.C. represents clients hurt in accidents on contingency fees.  No fee is paid at the time you hire your attorney.  We advance all expenses of litigation.  You pay legal fees and litigation expenses only if there is a recovery.  Missouri Bar Rule 7.2 requires that attorneys who state legal services are available on a no-recovery no-fee basis must also state that the client may be responsible for costs or expenses.  However, our personal injury contracts provide that you will not be responsible for costs or expenses if no recovery.  We offer free initial consultation and we answer all questions without charge.

NOTICE:  

This webpage was created for educational purposes only. Although every attempt has been made to provide accurate information, you read and rely on this information at your own risk. You must not act, fail to act or rely on this information herein. You should consult with an attorney to discuss what legal problem you may have before taking any action or inaction. If you do not have an attorney, you are invited to contact our law office and make an appointment to discuss your legal problem. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.