An accident can be scary for those involved. The parties may be confused, disoriented, injured, or concerned. Statements made at the scene of an accident can come back to haunt a person in court later. For that reason, it is important to know how to act – and how not to act, if you are involved in an accident.
1. Do Not Admit to Doing Anything Wrong. A statement made by a litigant is one of the exceptions to the hearsay rule. That means that, much like a criminal case, anything you say can and will be used against you in court. You will not be permitted to introduce your own statements to show why you should not be liable, so it is doubly important to watch what you say. Even seemingly innocuous statements such as “I’m so sorry!” can come back to hurt you in court. The best thing to do in an accident is to say nothing.
2. Do Not Leave the Scene. It is a crime to flee the scene of an automobile accident without reporting it to the police, if there is damage or anyone is injured. Familiarize yourself with hit and run laws in your state. Some states require a police report with as little as $500 worth of damage – which, when one party is driving a luxury SUV, can easily look like a minimal amount of damage. The last thing you want is to be charged with a crime for leaving the scene of an accident, on top of everything else.
3. Do Not Forget to Take Photographs. These days, most people have smart phones. Nearly everyone has a phone that has the ability to take pictures. If you do not, buy a disposable camera (or even two), and leave it in your glove compartment in case of an accident. In court, a picture really is worth a thousand words. If the other party changes his mind and decides in court to say that you caused the accident, you will need pictures showing exactly how the scene looked after the incident occurred. In an automobile accident, you will need to show where the vehicles collided, and how they were placed in the intersection. These photographs should be taken, if at all possible, before the vehicles are moved. It is the best way to win your case. In addition, you should take photographs of all injuries to anyone in your vehicle.
4. Do Not Leave Without the Other Party’s Information. Often, people are in a hurry to reach their destinations. An accident can be doubly frustrating because, in addition to the stress and fear associated with the accident itself, and the stress of the resulting conversation with the other party, it can make you late reaching your final destination. However, that is no reason not to protect yourself. Do not just hand over a business card and tell the other party to call you. You run the risk that you will never hear from that person again, and you will be forced to pay for your own damages. That is not a risk you want to take.
5. Do Not Delay Medical Attention. All too often, people in our society are encouraged to be tough, or to just work through the pain. If you have been injured in an automobile accident, that is the worst thing that you can do. It is imperative to seek medical assistance immediately following an accident, to preserve your right to recovery. The medical records set the basis for your settlement. If you end up in court, they tell the judge exactly what was wrong with you, which can determine the amount of a pain and suffering award. If you do not seek medical attention immediately following the accident, it becomes more difficult to establish causation. The other party can claim that you were not really injured in the accident, and that you are trying to get payment for an entirely different condition. The insurance company will use any delay in seeking treatment as a reason to deny your claim. They will delay, and they wll attack your credibility. The best way to circumvent this problem and preserve your right to recovery is to seek medical attention as soon as possible following the collision.
6. Do Not Throw Away Your Receipts. You will need to be able to prove your damages, including the vehicle repairs, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. It also includes any out-of-pocket expenses, such as prescription costs and co-pays. Hold on to all of your documentation to ensure that you get fully compensated for all damages that you experience as a result of the accident.
Keeping just a few simple rules in mind can help you immensely following an accident. You want to protect your rights and do whatever you can to help your case. If you have any questions about a specific case, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your rights or to schedule a consultation.
Cecil & Geiser are dedicated to protecting the state of Ohio. With decades of experience getting clients the results they need, they still treat every client as if they’re the only case in their office. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact them for a free consultation and have the best Ohio law firm in your corner.