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What to Do If You Are in an Accident

When you are in an accident, you have immediate and important decisions to make.

Immediately After the Accident
If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, the first  thing you need to do is stop your car or truck; pull over to the side of the road if you can. In California leaving the scene of an accident is a crime.
Check to see whether you or your passengers have been injured. See if the occupants of the other vehicle(s) are okay. If anyone is injured, call an ambulance.  

You then need to attempt to gather all of the information you can, including:
Who was driving and who were the passengers of the other car?
Make sure you get their names, addresses, driver's license number, and phone numbers.
Get the name, address, and phone number of any pedestrians who may have witnessed the accident.
Determine the exact location of the accident? What direction were the vehicles traveling and what lanes were the vehicles in at the time of the accident?
What were the weather conditions at the time of the accident?
What time of day did the accident occur?

Do not admit fault. The determination of fault, if any, will be made later. Do not sign any waivers offered by the other driver or the insurance company.

When the Police Arrive
Cooperate with any police officers who are at the scene of the accident. Provide them the information they request, but avoid comments or admitting responsibility for what happened, just provide the facts. Make sure to get the business cards of the police officers who investigate the accident. Ask for the incident number, too, so that you can get a copy of the accident report.  

Soon After the Accident
Even if you are in minor pain, it is best to be examined by a physician. Injuries may not truly show themselves until later, and early treatment can prevent significant pain or other damage. In addition, an insurance company could argue that your failure to seek medical treatment aggravated your injury, or even that your injury did not arise from the accident at all.

Contact an Attorney

When you consult with an attorney, bring all of your automobile insurance information with you. Do not sign any documents or checks from an insurance company before you speak with the attorney. Document all of the costs related to the accident, such as renting a car, lost wages, medical bills and other costs. An experienced attorney from O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley, can help you sort out all the losses related to your accident.

Insurance Claim Dos and Don'ts

The Dos
DO consult an attorney for legal advice.
DO review your insurance policies to find out what is covered and what is excluded.
DO notify your insurance company right away after you are in a car accident.
DO take pictures of your vehicle, the accident site and your injuries.
DO take notes when you speak with your insurance company. Record of the names, job titles and phone numbers of the representatives with whom you communicate.
DO tell your insurance company the truth.
DO investigate whether you have additional insurance coverage. Depending on the circumstances, supplemental coverage may come from another auto insurance policy, a homeowner’s policy or umbrella coverage.
DO keep the receipts for money you’ve spent on car rental, medical bills and purchases made in connection with the motor vehicle accident.

The Don'ts
DON’T accept the insurance company’s estimate of your losses and damages until you have a chance to fully explore the matter yourself.
DON’T give the insurance company a recorded or written statement until you have determined how you wish to proceed. It is important to be aware of the extent of your insurance coverage and your rights.
DON’T sign a release or waiver until you have gotten reliable legal advice. You may feel pressure to sign from your insurance company, but it is your right to explore your options. Just make sure that you take appropriate action within the time limit stated in your insurance policy.
DON’T accept a check from your insurance company — especially one that says “final payment” — unless you have obtained legal advice and carefully weighed your options.

DO Consult an Attorney

Your insurance company is legally obligated to follow through on the terms of its contract with you. You have the right to make sure that happens. Contact an attorney who will offer you support, guidance and advocacy. Speak with a lawyer from O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley, to discuss your situation.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists

When a driver refuses or is unable to carry proper motor vehicle insurance, that driver puts more than just herself at risk. If the driver injures another person, the insurance will be inadequate to cover the damages. Injured parties, however, may be covered by their own insurance policies; uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage protects accident victims in these cases

Uninsured Motorists
When the driver who injured you or your passenger is not insured or if you been hurt in a hit-and-run accident, making it impossible to identify the driver at all your uninsured motorist coverage will step in to protect your interests if you have uninsured motorist coverage. When you file an uninsured motorist claim, your insurance company’s interests can be adverse to your interests it is important to consult with an attorney before filing a claim.

Underinsured Motorists
When the at-fault driver is underinsured, this means that the driver has purchased an auto insurance policy that does not provide enough coverage for your damages.  If you have underinsured motorist coverage, you may be able to collect, from your own insurance company, the amount of your damages that exceeds the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage.

Collecting Insurance Benefits

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage protects accident victims when they are most vulnerable. Not every policy has such coverage, however, and the victim’s approach to the situation can change the level of compensation he or she receives. Indeed, some rules do not require the victim’s insurance company to pay the victim if the victim settles prematurely with the at-fault motorist’s insurance company.

Motor Vehicle Accidents Resource Links

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
The NHTSA is a government agency dedicated to making American roads safer for travelers.

National Safety Council
The National Safety Council, a nonprofit organization, provides links and articles on topics like seat belt use, safe driving for teenagers and reducing motor vehicle crashes.

US Department of Transportation (DOT)
The Department of Transportation is a federal agency focusing on policy and lawmaking to ensure safer US travel.

MedlinePlus: Motor Vehicle Safety
This Web site, from the National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, offers information on preventing motor vehicle crashes, stating that about every 12 minutes, someone in America dies from a motor vehicle accident.

Teen Driver Safety Series
This article, from a car-evaluation Web site, explores the dangers of teen driving and suggests ways of making it safer.

Auto Insurance Information
The Insurance Information Institute answers questions and disseminates information on auto safety, auto insurance, teenage drivers and more.

How to Save Money on Car Insurance
Provides information on steps you can take to obtain a lower auto insurance rate.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety / Highway Loss Data Institute

These organizations focus on studying and preventing highway motor vehicle accidents.

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