Knowing what to do in an accident gives you control over your reactions and behavior. In most cases, it will help you deal with legal and financial aspects in the weeks or months after the accident.
Panic after an accident is common. But the ability to remain calm and clear-headed is priceless. You can record the events on the scene while they are still fresh to protect your finances in the coming weeks.
The Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm has worked with thousands of clients seeking compensation after a car accident. Clients who took certain simple steps, such as having a medical examination, were more likely to get a higher settlement.
Here are steps you can take after an accident:
Stay at the Scene of the Accident
Fleeing the scene of the accident is never an option in any of the fifty states in America. Where possible, you should always remain at the scene of an accident to avoid criminal charges for hit and run (a hit and run conviction could lead to a 20-year sentence).
The law requires that you remain at the scene of the accident if someone is injured or killed. However, to be on the safe side, always stop even if the accident was minor. Some accidents might seem minor but result in serious property damage and injuries.
You should remain at the scene of the accident until a law enforcement official arrives. In some cases, it might be impossible to stay at the scene of the accident, when doing so would endanger the lives of other road users.
In such cases, move to a nearby site (for example, at the side of the road). If you cannot move, turn on your hazard lights and wait in the car until the police arrive.
The other exception to remaining at the scene of the accident is if you need immediate medical assistance.
While at the scene of the accident, help anyone who might be injured. However, you must be careful to ensure you do not cause more harm. Some help you might offer to people at the scene includes arranging or offering transport to the nearest medical treatment facility.
The best way to help is by calling 911 to the scene. Tell the dispatcher about the location of the accident, its nature, injuries, people who might be trapped in a vehicle, and hazards that might be on the scene of the accident.
Collect the other driver’s information while you are at the scene of the accident. Some information you should collect include:
- The name and contact information of the driver and other parties involved in the accident
- The vehicle identification numbers of all cars involved (if the driver(s) cooperate in providing that information
- The insurance information of other drivers
- The license plate number
You should also provide your information to other drivers at the scene of the accident.
Report the Accident
The best way to report a car accident in Las Vegas is to call 911. You can notify either the police or the Nevada Highway Patrol.
When officers arrive at the scene of the accident, they will secure the accident scene and begin an investigation.
The officers will investigate the possible causes of the accident and any violations of Nevada’s traffic laws. The police are not obligated to listen to your side of the story, but if they ask, cooperate with them.
The accident report by the police can be a great evidentiary tool in your car accident lawsuit. Be sure to ask for a copy of the report.
You might also have to notify the DMV if:
- Another person was injured or killed in the accident.
- The property damage exceeds $750
In some cases, the police or highway patrol might submit the accident report to the DMV, in which case, you do not have to report the accident.
You can still report to the DMV to protect your driving privileges. The DMV will suspend your driver's license for a year if you fail to report the accident.
Make sure to provide truthful information in the crash report to avoid prosecution. Providing false information in a crash report is a gross misdemeanor with a fine of up to $2,000 and a jail sentence of up to 364 days.
The other reporting requirement is for your insurance company. You must inform your insurance company anytime you are involved in an accident. Most people fail to report accidents that:
- Involved stationary objects
- Did not cause injuries to another person
The reporting timelines vary among insurance companies. Contact your insurance agent if you are unsure about the reporting requirements and procedures of your insurance company.
In most cases, report the accident as soon as possible (usually within 24 hours) so that your insurance company can conduct its investigation.
Delays in notifying your insurance company could result in a lesser or denied claim. Insurance companies have to investigate the accident to determine the at-fault party and the compensability of the resulting damages.
Failing to notify your insurance company after the accident places your insurer at a disadvantage in case the other party files a claim. It could also lead to higher premiums, cancellation of your policy, or refusal to renew your insurance policy.
Your insurance company might offer a settlement, shift the blame on you, or present paperwork, which waives your right to sue the insurance company. Therefore, hire a lawyer soon after the accident and let the insurance company deal directly with your lawyer.
You might also have to file a third-party insurance claim against the other driver's insurance if he or she was at-fault for the accident. Some insurance companies might cover your losses then file against the other driver's insurance company (subrogation).
Start Collecting Evidence
Evidence gives strength to your car accident claim. Therefore, you must collect as much of it as possible.
Some ways in which you can collect evidence include:
- Taking detailed photographs of the accident scene. This will involve capturing the scene from different perspectives and including as many individual details as possible. For instance, take a photo of the entire accident scene, and then focus on the individual vehicles and debris resulting from the accident.
- Take videos of the scene where possible. If your car has a dashboard cam, you can retrieve the recording that shows the accident as it happened.
- Take detailed photographs of your injuries, including minor ones such as cuts and bruises. Physical injuries might heal with time, leaving no evidence that they happened. Therefore, make sure to document them soon after the accident. For videos and photographs, ensure that you have a timestamp to increase the validity of the evidence.
- Talk to witnesses and record their statements about the accident. Eyewitnesses could see things you missed while in your car, which may be crucial to your case. Collect their contact information as well, so that they might help during your lawsuit or consultations with your attorney. Preferably, ask the witness to write, sign, and date his or her testimony.
- You could also represent the scene of the accident in a diagram. Provide details such as the direction of traffic, road conditions, and visibility.
- Relay your account of the accident. Provide a detailed written record of what happened in the accident, what you saw, and the behavior of the other driver. If you were a passenger in the car that got into an accident, provide details of what your driver was doing as well.
Keep your evidence well organized and produce copies of it to share with your insurance company and your attorney.
Evidence collection does not end at the scene of the accident. You have to provide evidence of the changes that the accident has had on your life. Such changes could include disability, job loss, pain, and suffering.
Record these day-to-day or week-to-week to ensure that you capture as many details as possible.
You must also keep track of all expenses related to the accident, including:
- Transportation costs
- Medical costs including treatment and medication
- Costs for property repairs and replacement
Seek Medical Attention
Seeking medical attention should be the first step you take immediately after leaving the scene of the accident. Alternatively, go with the paramedics who respond to the accident.
Do not make the mistake of listening to your body when it says you are not injured. Shock is common right after an accident, and it can mask critical symptoms of severe injuries. These injuries will then manifest later, and might effectively compromise your claim.
Once at the treatment facility, give a thorough description of any symptoms you are experiencing, even if you think they are unrelated to the accident.
The doctor will examine you based on the symptoms you provide. He or she might also order imaging tests if there are suspicions of internal injury.
The question of how to pay for your medical expenses after an accident might come into question. Medical treatment after an accident can be expensive, especially if you suffered severe injuries with a long-term effect.
However, you can settle your medical bills as you pursue your car accident claim in the following ways:
- Medical liens where a medical provider treats you, but the payment shall be from the settlement. You and your attorney must sign an agreement indicating that you should pay from the settlement of the case. You can ask your attorney to refer you to a medical provider who provides liens.
- You could also settle your medical bills through your healthcare insurance. Some insurance companies will provide treatment on lien. Therefore, you will have to settle the costs after your treatment.
- If you have medical payments as part of your auto insurance coverage, you can use the cover to settle your medical bills. The coverage is usually optional and non-refundable to the insurer.
The cost and type of treatment will depend on factors such as the type and extent of your injuries. Treatment could last for a few weeks, months, or years. For instance, spinal injuries might require a lifetime of care, hence higher medical bills.
Document these costs as they arise to ensure you get the full compensation for your medical bills.
Hire a Car Accident Attorney
If recovering your losses is on your mind after the accident, then you must hire a car accident attorney. These are professionals skilled in handling personal injury cases. They can help you value your claim, gather and preserve evidence, and negotiate your claim to get a fair settlement.
Hiring an attorney can give you the freedom and peace as you focus on your recovery or the care of a loved one, especially in cases with significant injuries and property damage.
However, not all attorneys have the specific skill, expertise, or personality you will be comfortable working with, and you must do some work in finding the right fit.
If you are still not convinced that you need an attorney, here are some reasons why you must hire a car accident attorney:
- Car accident attorneys are well-versed with the laws and limitations for filing a claim.
- Such attorneys can help you with dealing with the insurance company. Since they have worked in the field for some time, they understand the tactics used by insurance companies to avoid paying your claim or getting you to settle for a low-ball offer.
- Your attorney is skilled in identifying the party responsible for the accident by identifying the laws the at-fault party might
- Car accident attorneys have the negotiating skills and experience in identifying the best settlement that covers the extent of your damages. Therefore, he or she will know when to settle the claim. Most people are likely to settle at the first offer that seems large enough, only to realize that the settlement hardly covers the damages from the accident.
- You remove the risk of loss through underrepresentation if you represent yourself or hire an under-qualified attorney. You have only one chance at filing a personal injury lawsuit. Therefore, if you get a smaller settlement than your case is worth, you cannot sue the defendant for a higher settlement. However, by working with an attorney, you can value your case from the beginning and know what to expect throughout the procedure.
Hiring an attorney is usually a complicated task, and it is easy to settle for the first firm you meet. But taking your time to evaluate at least five options will allow you to compare experience, results, expertise, compatibility, and the fees of each attorney.
Some of the steps you can take to ensure you hire a lawyer who is your best-fit include:
- Ask for a recommendation from your friends and family who have filed a car accident lawsuit before. You could also ask for such recommendations from attorneys you have worked with previously on other matters.
- Check online directories for lawyers (remember to check their reviews to determine which lawyer might be a good fit. the first contact with a lawyer online should not be the deciding factor in your hiring decision).
Once you have found several lawyers who you think might be the right fit, contact them, preferably in person, for a first consultation. Most attorneys offer a free first consultation. Therefore, take advantage of it before hiring.
Create a checklist with questions and concerns you want the attorney to handle. These questions should provide a guideline to evaluate the attorney that you feel comfortable with, and with whom you feel, you can build a working relationship.
Some of the questions you can have include:
- The value of your case
- The readiness of the attorney to go to trial
- The cost of the services, including any out-of-pocket expenses for which you have to pay. Before you settle on the attorney, ensure you understand what he or she is charging, who will be responsible for certain costs, and the percentage of your settlement that will go to the attorney. Most attorneys in Las Vegas charge between 20 and 40 percent of the settlement based on the complexity of the case.
- The attorney’s experience with the specific injury you have suffered
- The attorney's experience
While at the attorney's office, determine whether you like the personality and customer service of that attorney. You will be working with him or her for several months. Therefore, choose a person with whom you feel comfortable.
File a Car Accident Claim
Once you contact an attorney, he or she can guide you on the process of filing a claim, and the estimated value of your claim.
Nevada's statute of limitations for auto accident cases is two years since the date of the accident. If you are filing a wrongful death lawsuit, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of death.
You must time the filing of the case, such that you recover the fair value of your settlement. For instance, filing too soon could lead to an undervalued settlement. If you file too late, you could miss the chance to recover the claim.
The right timing for the claim depends on several factors such as the type of injuries, the extent of the injuries, and the recovery you have made.
An experienced attorney will guide you on the right timing depending on the circumstances of the case.
Common Mistakes to Avoid After an Accident
Since now you know some of the things you should do after an accident, there are mistakes you should avoid. These mistakes can compromise the value and viability of your claim. The common mistakes include:
- Destroying the evidence you gathered from the scene of the accident. The evidence you collect serves as the physical backup of what you claim. If you destroy it, you lose credibility, and the court is likely to question the truthfulness of your claim.
- Admitting fault: "oh no, I'm sorry I didn't mean for this to happen" "I was distracted," these are statements that can compromise your claim if it turns out the other driver was at fault. Making apologies for the accident also increases the risk that you will be blamed for the accident. Offer help but do not offer apologies. Even when you are at fault, the other driver too might have some part in the accident, an issue that you can sort through Nevada's comparative fault laws.
- Delaying your visit to the doctor
- Failing to document your pain and suffering
- Settling with the insurance company – insurance companies do not have your best interests at heart when you are making a claim. They will, therefore, seek to maintain their bottom line by settling too fast and too low. They will look for the slightest reason to decline your claim or reduce the amount you should receive. They could even get you to admit fault so that they do not pay your damages. Always direct your communication with the insurance company through your attorney. Do not sign anything or say something without the guidance of your lawyer.
One of the best ways to avoid making these mistakes is to hire an attorney as soon as you are in the accident. Not only will he or she tell you some of the important steps you should take, but he or she will also help you through the negotiation to get the value of your claim.
Find a Car Accident Attorney Near Me
Were you injured in a car accident? You can protect your right to compensation by taking a few proactive steps. Some of these steps include reporting the accident to the relevant authorities, gathering and preserving evidence, getting medical attention, and hiring an attorney.
Hiring an attorney is one of the steps you should take following your accident. It involves finding a professional who will represent your interests fully.
The Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm works with people who have been injured in auto accidents. We help you value your case, identify the at-fault party, and pursue your claim in court.
Contact us at 702-996-1224, so we can discuss your case.