The minutes and days following a car accident are the most critical for injured motorists. The choices you make and the words you say can make the difference between receiving full and fair compensation for your injuries or losing your case altogether. Ultimately, it is important to have a comprehensive understanding of what to do—and what not to do—after your accident.
Do Report the Accident to the Police
A police officer can document the time, date, and location of the accident and also identify the parties involved in the crash. The police report should contain this information, along with the names of any witnesses. A police report helps enormously by establishing basic facts and providing a launch pad for your own investigation. The officer might also submit the required collision report. If you are too injured to call the police, ask someone else to.
Do NOT Apologize to the Other Driver
Anything you say can be used against you later, during settlement negotiations or at trial. It is very natural for people to say, “I’m sorry” after a bad accident, even when they know they did nothing wrong. However, any admission of fault will be used against you to show that you were the one who caused the accident.
Washington is a comparative negligence state, meaning your financial recovery will be reduced by your proportion of fault. The more responsibility you take for the accident; the less money you will be able to receive. For this reason, do not apologize. Instead, show you are helpful by volunteering to call the police and emergency services.
Do Collect Evidence
You can’t win a personal injury lawsuit without evidence of what happened. If possible, try to collect the following:
- The names and contact information for any witnesses
- Pictures of where the vehicles ended up
- Any skid marks on the road
- Any obstructions that block traffic signs
As soon as you are feeling better, you should also take color photographs of your injuries. Months will pass before you ever get to court, and by then bruises will have faded, cuts will have healed, and swelling will have subsided. Vivid photographs can document the true severity of your injuries in the days after the accident and can really make an impression on the jury.
Do NOT Give a Statement to the Insurance Adjuster
Soon after the accident, the other driver’s insurer will probably reach out to you. They might ask to hear your side of the story, or they might make a quick settlement offer. Unfortunately, insurance agents have their own agenda: to settle your case quickly for far less than it is worth. Instead of talking with the insurance agent, you should hire a lawyer to represent your own interests, who can then work with the insurance agent for you.
Do Hire a Yakima Personal Injury Lawyer
At Kapuza Lighty, PLLC, our focus is you—the injured motorist, and we strive to protect your right to compensation after a car accident. But before we can help, we need to hear from you, so please contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.