So you just became one of the approximately 16,500 Americans involved in a traffic accident every day. So now what do you do?
First, move to a safe area if possible. This doesn’t mean leave the scene. Move your car to an adjacent parking lot or to the shoulder if you can. You certainly don’t want another accident to happen due to rubberneckers. Plus, other drivers will appreciate that you’re not blocking traffic.
Stop, get out of your car if you can and assess the situation. Check on others involved in the wreck and call 911 to report the accident and any injuries. Avoid any confrontation with the other parties. Nothing good will come of it. There will be plenty of time to sort out fault later. If someone accepts responsibility for the accident, go ahead and make a mental note and write it down later.
Gather as much information as you can at the scene. Oklahoma law mandates that everyone involved in an accident exchange insurance and driver’s license information. Beyond that, grab your smart phone and start taking photos of the vehicles, the area of the accident and any visible injuries you may have. Gather witness information from anyone who saw the accident but wasn’t involved. Law enforcement doesn’t always provide witness information in the collision report and often witnesses leave the scene before the officer even arrives.
File a claim with all insurance companies involved. Yes, even with your insurance. You don’t know what kind of insurance the other driver may have. Plus, you may have been paying for optional coverage that you can now finally use. You can file claims over the phone or, in many instances, over the internet.
Don’t delay in getting the medical treatment that you feel is necessary. Your medical decisions are just that — yours. They are not an insurance company’s decision. If you are hurting, go see a doctor or go to a clinic. Don’t wait until an insurance adjuster gives you the OK.
If the accident wasn’t your fault, it is important to know that the insurance adjuster for the other person is not on your side. Their allegiance falls with the other driver. As such, they may try to persuade you that they will not pay for medical treatment, they will not pay for a rental car, or they will not pay to repair or replace your car. Unfortunately for them, the adjusters are not the final authority on what Oklahoma law allows you to recover in the event you were in an accident caused by another.
If any problems arise, it would be in your best interest to contact an experienced injury lawyer to take care of this mess you didn’t create. Most lawyers who represent injured parties from car accident do not require any payment up front but rather get paid for their legal services from insurance company proceeds at the end of the case.
Anthony Gorospe is an attorney with the Gorospe Law Group.