Being involved in a car accident in Massachusetts can be traumatic and stressful, especially when it was someone else's fault. You may be hurt and in pain, out of work and without a vehicle and not sure what to do. A lot of what you do right away can impact your personal injury case. A question we are asked frequently is: "What should I do right after a car accident?" While there are many things that should be done, we will focus on what we consider to be three of the most important.
Call 911/Get Help
The first thing you should do is call 911. Calling 911 serves two important purposes; it notifies the local police that a car accident just occurred and also gets you and any other injured parties medical help. Almost certainly an ambulance will accompany the police to the scene of the car accident to evaluate and treat any people hurt in the accident. If it is recommended that you be transported to the emergency room by ambulance, do it. The injuries you suffered will be documented by the emergency medical services (EMS) technicians and used later on in your case.
The police will document the scene and prepare a Motor Vehicle Crash Report. The benefit of this is that, in the event you are seriously hurt in the car accident and are off in an ambulance, the police will get the names of the individual or individuals in the other motor vehicle. Also, the police will get the make, model, license plate number and insurance information for the other vehicle involved in the crash. This way you will know who the negligent party was that caused the accident and the insurance company that you will need to file a claim with for bodily injury and property damage.
The police will also get the names and contact information for any potential witnesses and get a statement from them. The great thing about this is that if the other driver or his occupants try to place blame on you for the accident, you will be able to find the witnesses that will contradict or rebut their story.
Call Your Insurance Company - Don't Talk To The Other Guy's Insurance Company
After a car accident you should report the accident to your insurance company. Your insurance company is there to help you. You should cooperate with them because your insurance coverage carries personal injury protection benefits (a/k/a PIP), which will cover up to $8,000.00 in benefits for medical bills (or $2,000.00 in medical bills if you have private health insurance) and lost wages.
You will also be receiving phone calls from the other car's insurance company. You SHOULD NOT talk with them. Regardless of what they say, you are not required or obligated to talk with them. They will want to get information about your medical condition, ask you to sign a medical release so they can get your medical records and most certainly want to take a recorded statement from you. They may even tell you that you must do these things or else they will close or deny your claim. Don't believe them. The adjusters from the other insurance company are trained to protect their company and their insured. They will try to twist your words around in a recorded statement to make it look like you were at fault or partially at fault. This way they can either deny the claim or only accept a percentage of fault to save money for their insurance company. You should also be aware that the recorded statement could be used in the future against you if you have to file a lawsuit to pursue compensation for your injuries.
The other insurance company will want to get your medical records so they can go digging into your private past life to see if you had similar injuries to downplay the extent of the injuries sustained from the car accident. They are hoping to make an argument that your injury was preexisting so they can offer less money to you in the end and save money for their company.
Talk With An Experienced Attorney
While you may not even need an attorney for all small accident cases, you should definitely talk with an experienced personal injury lawyer to get information about the process of a personal injury case. Inform yourself on how claims for injuries from auto accidents are pursued and what steps you should be taking. The bigger your case, however, the more likely you should have a personal injury attorney on your side. An experienced lawyer will know what steps to take, the value of your case and how to pursue reasonable and fair money damages to compensate you for your injuries.
Be careful though, there are thousands of lawyers that claim to handle car accident cases or to be the best car accident lawyer out there. A lot probably have very minimal experience. We've all seen these fancy ads in the yellow pages and commercials on television. Sometimes you call after seeing these ads and your case is just farmed out to some lawyer you didn't select. There are also some lawyers or offices that operate on pure volume and may not have your best interest in mind. They want to get a ton of accident cases and settle them fast to just make a quick fee.
While there are other very important things you should do after being involved in a car accident, these are three of the most important ones. We have seen, too many times, how not calling 911, talking with the other insurance company and hiring the wrong attorney has backfired on some of our clients' cases. Don't make the same mistakes.