Before an accident:
While our job is to help victims who have been in a car accident, we feel it is important to provide information that can help you avoid an accident. Here are a few things you can do before an automobile accident to help:
- Know Your Blind Spots: always adjust your mirrors to provide you with the best possible panoramic scene. But remember, you cannot see every angle around your car with your mirrors. You must physically look directly into the lanes beside you to ensure there is not a vehicle in your blind spot.
- Keep an Alert Lookout: always scan the areas ahead of you. Don’t just focus on the car ahead of you. Look to the car ahead of him and so on. Sweep to the left and the right when approaching intersections, even if you have the green light.
- Keep your Hands at 9 and 3 o’clock: It may seem lame, but this is the safest position for your hands. If you are hit by another vehicle, this is your best chance of maintaining control over your vehicle.
- Follow at a Safe Distance: always maintain a safe distance between you and the car ahead of you. This allows you to make for a safe stop in case the vehicle in front of you slams on brakes.
- Buckle Your Seatbelt: research shows the best way to avoid serious injury is to wear your seatbelt.
- Put Children in the Proper Car Seat: make sure the seat is installed properly and that the child stays in the seat, buckled at all times.
- Transport heavy objects in the trunk of your car: This can help reduce the risk of injury if an accident does occur.
- Get Rid of Distractions: Keep your radio at a level that allows you to hear approaching emergency vehicles. Do not take your eyes off the road to pick up an item, change the radio or answer your cell phone. NEVER text and drive.
- Review your insurance coverage to make sure you are adequately protected: North Carolina requires you to carry liability coverage of at least $30,000 per person/ $60,000 per accident which will cover damages if you are at fault in a car accident. When your agent says you are “fully” covered, it may only mean you have just the minimum limits above. You should always carry enough liability coverage to protect all of your assets should you get sued. North Carolina insurers also offer combined “uninsured/ underinsured” coverage to protect you if the negligent person does not have good coverage.
- Place a disposable camera in your car or use your cell phone to take pictures of the scene and where the cars are located after an accident.
- Be sure you have your updated vehicle registration, insurance card and inspection information readily available in your car.
- Be sure your driver’s license is current and valid.
After an accident:
When you are in a car accident, your mind is racing about many things. Am I okay? Is my car repairable? What do I do now? In the midst of this there are things you can do to hopefully limit your stress and the anxiety of having an accident. If you are ever involved in an accident, you should always:
- Stop.If you get in a car accident, you must stop. If you leave, that’s known as a “hit and run,” and might be a felony. This includes hitting property, animals or pedestrians. Also, stay calm. If someone is injured, call 911.
- Call the police. (See our advice on when you should call the police.) If your vehicles are impeding the safe flow of traffic, move the vehicles to the side of the road if it can be done safely. Put your flashers on immediately. If it is dark outside, do not stand in the roadway near your vehicle.
- Get witness information, including name, address AND phone numbers. If they have a business card get that, too.
- Take photos of the scene, vehicles and injuries if any are visible at this time.
- If you are injured, get medical treatment.
- For your own reference, you may also wish to write down the details of the accident while they are fresh in your mind.
Protect your claim with the insurance company:
- Call your insurance company to report the claim. Your insurance company can help start getting your vehicle repaired and possibly get you a rental car quicker than the at-fault driver’s insurer.
- Don’t give a recorded statement to the at-fault insurance company. You may provide them with details about the accident but do not let them record you. You could still be upset following the accident and you do NOT want this recorded statement to be used as evidence against you later. NOTE: you are required to cooperate with your own insurance carrier, which includes giving them a recorded statement. You should always have your attorney present during your recorded statement.
- If you are hurt, don’t delay in getting treatment. Insurance companies take the position many times that if you were really hurt you would have sought treatment immediately. However, sometimes you don’t start to feel pain until a day or two later. The insurance companies prefer to see the injuries as noted by a medical doctor, not just by your own statements.
- It can be useful to have property damage estimates done but it is not always necessary depending on what the insurance company recommends.
- Get a copy of the police report and review it to be sure it is accurate as to how the accident happened and who was in the vehicles. If it is not accurate, contact the officer to report any needed changes. If it is accurate, getting a copy to the insurance company can usually speed things along. Sometimes you can go online and download the report.
- If your vehicle is a total loss, be sure to stay on the insurance company to get the property damage squared away. The insurance companies will not pay for a rental for very long nor will they pay for the storage that accumulates due to a delay on your part.
- If you are injured, never sign a medical authorization for the at-fault insurance carrier. You should request your own bills and records to review before submitting to the insurance company. Many times the doctors send items not related to the accident containing personal information that is irrelevant to the accident.
- If you are injured, never sign a release or take money on your case until you know what the longer-term impact of your injuries will be. Some insurance companies are at your door within 24 hours of an accident offering you a certain amount of money and they say they will pay your medical bills up to a certain amount. Medical care can be extremely costly. Depending on your injuries, the amount offered may not be enough and your bills could exceed what they indicated they would pay. In addition, the insurance adjuster will ask you to sign a limited release which they say will pay for continued medical treatment up to a certain amount. BEWARE: these releases typically leave it up to the insurance company (not your doctor) as to what is “reasonable and necessary” treatment. In many cases, the insurance company will later deny your treatment.
- If you must miss work, be sure you get a doctor’s note. An insurance company and many juries will not pay you for lost wages without a doctor’s note showing you were unable to work.
- If you have health insurance, your health insurance can and many times will pay your medical bills to take the stress off of you during your recovery time. Your health insurance carrier may have to be repaid when you settle your case. Make sure to keep copies of all your medical bills.
- Remember the insurance companies are not representing you. They are also not in the business of helping you document your claim to recover the money you deserve.