SPECIAL AUTO ACCIDENT INFORMATION
If you are in a car/auto accident involving injuries or property damage, there are certain important actions you should take. These actions will help you avoid future hassles with insurance claims adjusters. And help you obtain full and fair $ compensation for your bodily injuries and car damages / repairs.
- Call 911. Insist on a police investigation and accident report.
In many cases, there are no accident witnesses, only you and the other driver. The two of you may have conflicting versions of how the accident happened. If you do not request a police investigation, you may seriously reduce your chances of obtaining full and fair compensation. Or you may be blamed for an accident that is not your fault. However, police are not required to investigate and do an accident report when there are no injuries and none of the vehicles have more than $750 in damages. Or when a non injury, minor damage (less than $750) collision occurs on private property such as a store parking lot or a private driveway. In such situations, you need to fill out and submit a WA State Police Traffic Collision Report form within 4 days. Those forms are available at all police stations or online at www.wsp.wa.gov.
- If you are injured, immediately obtain needed medical treatment.
If you are injured in an auto accident, immediately dial 911 and obtain all needed medical treatment. Go to the nearest hospital emergency room, urgent care clinic, or to your personal physician. An accident injury, if untreated, may become substantially worse and take longer to heal. And if you fail to promptly seek medical treatment, the at fault driver's insurance claims adjuster may later assert that your delay meant that you weren't really injured. That will then reduce your accident injury claim's settlement $ value.
- Assist the injured.
If someone is seriously injured, call 911 or the police and tell them an ambulance is needed. Make the injured person as comfortable as possible, but do not move him or her unless it’s absolutely necessary to avoid further injury (car fire, close by passing traffic, etc.).
- Do not move your vehicle while waiting for police to arrive.
Unless your vehicle poses an immediate dangerous hazard to other traffic, it is important that you leave it in the same position where it came to rest after the accident. Ask the other driver not to move his or her vehicle until the police arrive. The single most important piece of evidence that the police officer has to determining fault is the position of the vehicles after the accident.
- If you are injured, tell the investigating police officers.
The first record of your injuries will be contained in the investigating officer's report. If you fail to mention to the police officer that you were injured, it may create suspicion in the mind of the at fault driver’s insurance adjuster (who will ultimately evaluate your claim) that you were not really hurt. Ordinarily the investigating officer will ask if you are injured. However, if the officer does not ask if you are injured, or assumes that you are all right, immediately let the officer know immediately of all injuries or pain. Even minor ones. So that information will be included in the accident report.
- Obtain names and telephone numbers of eyewitnesses.
Witnesses are often gone by the time a police officer arrives at the accident scene. Therefore, it is very important for you to identify any witnesses and write down their names, addresses, and telephone numbers.
- File your accident report when required by law.
You are not required to file an accident report when the collision is investigated by a law enforcement officer who files a report. You may, however, file your own accident report if you wish or if you disagree with accident details reported by the officer. Your own report, which is filed with the Washington State Patrol in Olympia, must be sent within four days of the accident. That accident report form is the WA State Police Traffic Collision Repot Form, available at all police stations and online at www.wsp.wa.gov.
- If you have a serious accident injury, do not try to settle your own insurance claim.
If you have suffered a serious accident injury requiring follow-up medical attention, you should hire an attorney to represent you. An experienced personal injury attorney will make sure you receive the full & fair compensation you are due. Usually much more $ than you will initially be offered in settlement by the insurance claims adjuster.
If you choose to accept a $ settlement for injury without any legal representation, you may very likely receive a $ settlement that does not fairly and fully compensate you for all your injuries and all your pain and suffering. Once an accident claim is settled it can never be reopened. So the best rule is to never settle an injury accident claim for at least 90 - 180 days following an accident injury. If you're uncertain about whether to settle, consult with an attorney who handles auto accident injury cases.
Most auto accident attorneys handle injury cases on a contingency (commission) fee basis. There is no charge unless they recover compensation for you. But you are responsible for your case’s out-of-pocket expenses, called “case costs”, paid personally by your attorney for your case. There is usually no charge for an initial review of your claim by a personal injury attorney.
- Promptly report your loss to your own insurance company, and the other driver's insurance company. But do not give a recorded statement to the other driver's insurance claims adjuster until you have first talked to an auto accident lawyer.
The odds are that the insurance claims adjuster for the other driver will be assigned to your claim before you have been able to retain a personal injury attorney. This may happen as soon as a day or two after your accident. The insurance adjuster will immediately request permission to take a recorded or written statement from you.
If you are considering hiring a personal injury attorney, you should NOT give a recorded statement to the insurance claims adjuster for the at fault driver's insurance company. Such recorded statements can seriously prejudice your injury claim later on. Instead, tell the at fault driver's insurance claims adjuster that you have to decided to hire an attorney. Instruct him or her to refer all questions to your attorney. At the proper time, your attorney will assist you in making any necessary recorded statements to the at fault driver's insurance company.
- Your time for filing an auto accident claim is limited by law (Statute of Limitations).
For every injury or death civil claim, there is a specified time period during which you must file your civil lawsuit with the appropriate court or the claim will be permanently barred. This time period limit is called the “Statute of Limitations". And it often varies from state to state.
In Washington State, the period for bringing an injury or death civil accident claim is usually three years from the date of the auto accident. But there are some exceptions. The period for bringing a claim for injury to a child usually does not begin to run until the child's 18th birthday. A claim arising out of the death of a child, however, is usually limited to three years. For accidents which occur in other states, the time period may be as short as one year from the accident date.
Although you may have several years to actually file your injury claim lawsuit with the court, the sooner you consult with a personal injury attorney following an accident, the more that attorney can do to help you on your claim. Too many accident victims wait too long before consulting an attorney. Such delay will seriously weaken their otherwise valid accident claims.
Call Lynnwood car/auto accident injury lawyer Paul Hanson for more information. And for a free first consultation. Call 425-778-7339