The unfortunate truth about car accidents is that having one forces you to be at the top of your game at a time when you’re anything but. If there can be any good news in such a situation, it’s that a little common sense can go a long way, both right after the accident and in the days that follow as you’re faced with making an insurance claim.
Your Smartphone Is Your Best Friend
You’re stopped at a red light, tapping your fingers on the steering wheel, impatient to be on your way, then it happens. The light turns green and you proceed through the intersection. All is well and good as long as everyone else does what they’re supposed to do, too. If another driver doesn’t stop for his light now that it’s gone red, you’ve got a mess on your hands.
Assuming no one has suffered critical injuries, get out of your car and take stock of the situation. Take your cell phone with you. Right now, it’s the one of the best things you’ve ever spent your money on, second only to your auto insurance policy.
First, use it to call the police. You’re going to document the scene – and you’re going to do it well with that phone of yours – but when you make a claim, the insurance company is going to want a police report as well. When law enforcement arrives, take note of the officers’ badge numbers and names. The more information you can give the insurance company, the better.
Now take a second to open that notebook app on your phone and tap in all the basics: the date and time, the location, the make and model of the other car and its license plate number. Get names and phone numbers, not just for the other driver and passengers in that car, but for any witnesses as well. Ask for the other driver’s insurance card and take a picture of it for posterity. While you’ve got the camera app going, record images of the scene as well. Make sure you get a shot of each car from as many angles as possible.
Your Facebook Friends Don’t Have to Hear About This
Talking about the accident isn’t in your best interests, either at the scene or in the days that follow. Do not admit fault or any culpability for the accident at the scene. If you’re heavily into social media, resist the urge to go online later and rehash every brutal moment of the incident with your friends. If you were even marginally at fault for the accident – such as because you began inching forward into that intersection before the light actually changed – this can affect your claim. Anything you say on Facebook or Twitter is fair game and can be used against you at crunch time. Don’t post the pictures you took. Don’t even post any images that seem innocent and unrelated, such as one of you rock climbing days after the accident.
When you leave the scene, seek immediate medical attention. You may feel fine now, but you’re probably going to feel like hell in the morning. Have a medical professional determine the extent of your injuries and create a record of them.
Who’s to Blame?
When you’re safely home, armed with all your information, it’s time to call your insurance company and make a claim. Don’t worry that the accident wasn’t your fault – your insurer will deal with that problem. You may have heard of no-fault states, where your company pays for everything regardless of the fact that you were a sitting duck. We’re not like that. Oklahoma is a “tort” state. It assigns fault, and the individual who caused the accident is responsible for damages and injuries.
Your insurer will assign an adjuster to your claim. It’s his job to gather reports from that doctor you visited and from the police. He’ll speak with the witnesses whose names and numbers you’ve collected. He’ll inspect the vehicles involved in the accident and he’ll ultimately tell the insurance company who he believes was at fault. If it wasn’t you, your insurer will pursue a subrogation claim against the other driver’s insurance company. The more information you can hand over to help them get to this point, the better.
Who’s Going to Pay for All This?
You can try to handle all this on your own, but why? A misstep could cost you dearly. Ideally, you’ll call a knowledgeable attorney before you even call your insurance company to make a claim. You might consider that you don’t want to get your insurance company involved and make a third party claim, contacting the other driver’s insurer directly. But that company is on the other guy’s side – it doesn’t want to pay you any more than is absolutely necessary. The number the company offers you is going to be low and you probably won’t like it. You have a lot to gain by talking to a lawyer first to help you decide which way to go.
Another pitfall is that some of the blame for the accident might have been yours. In this case, you’ll need someone to look out for your interests. Under Oklahoma tort law, the other driver is only responsible for the percentage of the damage caused by his contribution to the accident. If you started sliding into the intersection a wee bit early, 10 percent of the fault might be assigned to you. This is comparative negligence, and if it applies, you may be entitled to collect only 90 percent of your damages.
Don’t risk it.
Don’t take early steps on your own that can affect your whole case. Call us today at (405) 703-4567, even before you make a claim. We’ll guide you through the process for the best possible outcome.