There must be a thousand or more articles written on this topic. I have probably written one or two before myself. What prompted me to write another is an accident in my family. It involved a new car that was totaled. Fortunately, no one was hurt. While I was sitting around reading my insurance documents, I saw a notice from my company advising me what I should do in the event of an accident. It made me smile. Their recommendations were similar to the advice I have given to hundreds of people, either over the phone, in letters, or in person. So, I thought I would take my insurance company’s advice and compare it to the advice I have given before. There will be some slight differences. I will point out those differences as we go through them together. This advice is good for car wrecks or car crashes that leave minor injuries, or car crashes with serious injuries.
First, when you are involved in a car crash you should stop. It is against the law to run off after a car accident. Leaving the scene can lead to imprisonment of 30 days in jail up to a year. If the accident causes mutilation, disfigurement, permanent disability, destruction of the tongue, eye, lip, nose, or another limb, or death, the punishment can go up to 20 years. The law requires every person to file an accident report if someone is injured or the damage is over $250.00. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor and can lead to suspension of your driver’s license. Under most circumstances, people want to call the police for a report. They want the report for their insurance company and to perhaps establish fault. My legal advice is the same as my insurance company.
Second, you should record important facts about the car wreck. This includes the name, addresses, and numbers of the other people in the car accident or any additional information. Nowadays it is hard to find a person without a cell phone. A cell phone is a great tool for recording information about the accident. It can provide you photos along with the GPS and metadata on the photos. Again, my legal advice is the same as my insurance company.
Up until this point, the advice by my insurance company compared equally with the advice given by me. Before we go onto number three, I would like to highlight that your health takes priority over information. If you are seriously injured, you might be unable to record any information. If you feel you are seriously injured, do not get out and exacerbate your injuries. I have repeated this over and over: make your health your primary goal. Serious injuries can occur from what appears to be minor car crashes. The more serious the crash, the more likely a serious injury will occur.
Many times injuries are not immediately apparent after a car crash. And if you go into an emergency room for treatment of serious or life-threatening injuries, the medical professionals out of necessity will often ignore injuries that are not life-threatening. I have been involved in cases where the injuries did not become apparent for several weeks or a month or two. A good example is the ruptured nucleus pulposus or herniated disc. Here is a typical scenario. A person is involved in a car crash. They are shaken up and taken to the hospital by ambulance or go within a few days because of back pain or pain in other parts of their body. The doctor at the hospital does a history, X-rays, and a physical examination. The doctor observes no injury on the X-ray and advises the person to go home and take it easy, perhaps prescribing muscle relaxers or physical therapy. The individual follows the advice for weeks, maybe even a few months. When the condition does not improve they go back for an MRI and discover a herniated disc. Herniated discs can lead to surgery. Each human is different, and not every surgery provides relief.
Seatbelts can also lead to rotator cuff injuries. One of my best friends was hit on the Alabama-Florida State line. He was treated and released. Weeks went by and his shoulder never quit hurting. After going to see several doctors, an orthopedist sent him for an MRI and discovered a badly torn rotator cuff which resulted in surgery. At Coxwell & Associates, PLLC we see more of these delayed injury cases than I can remember. It is important to follow your doctor’s advice after treatment, but remember, you are the patient. You know if you are experiencing pain, and you must communicate all your injuries and symptoms to the medical professionals. Otherwise, the medical professionals will not know the best treatment for you.
When your injuries from a wreck do not get diagnosed for weeks or even months after a crash, it supplies the insurance company and their lawyers with the opportunity to argue that you did not sustain the injuries from the car crash with their insured, but from some other event. I assure you after 40 years of helping people with injuries from car crashes, that a delay in discovering your injury will be the basis of the insurance company’s attack against you. The goal of the insurance company is to pay out as little as possible and they do that by challenging YOU. So, when you go see a doctor, be sure you tell the doctor about all the pain and injuries you have from the car crash. Do not exaggerate. Be truthful, but be complete. When you go to a new doctor, give the new doctor a history of how you sustained your injuries, what your injuries are, and your present physical complaints, pain, and limitations.
Third. The insurance company also recommends you not admit fault. I agree with this advice. You will be required to speak to law enforcement and provide a driver’s license, registration, insurance, and other basic information. You will also have to report the accident to your insurance company. If the car crash is the type where you feel you may have injuries and you were not at fault, it is my advice for you to speak to an attorney quickly. An attorney can give you the advice to guide you through the process. If your accident is serious, you should be extra vigilant and get an attorney’s help immediately. We have serious car crash cases in our office and the insurance adjuster for the person at fault reached out to our clients before they had time to call us.
When we get calls involving serious accidents, we first get the accident report and determine if we need to hire an accident reconstructionist. The accident reconstructions can go to the scene and take measurements of yaw marks, skid marks, debris location, and take photographs. Right now we have several serious injury car crashes involving accident reconstructionists. It might also be necessary to make downloads from the automobile’s black box.
Fourth: Call your agent. I agree. All insurance policies have a requirement that you report crashes or other incidents that cause damages. You also have a duty to cooperate with your insurance company. You Do Not Have a Duty to Cooperate with the Opposing Insurance Agent, Adjuster, or Company. We recommend you speak to an attorney before you have contact with an insurance adjuster for the other party in a car crash.
So, my advice is similar to what the insurance companies provide to people. The biggest difference is at Coxwell & Associates, PLLC, our goal is to make sure you are not taken advantage of in the process and that you recover all the damages you are entitled to under Mississippi law. I have said this many times: You only have one opportunity to prove your damages/injuries after a car crash. The more serious your injuries, the better attorney you need. By that, I mean once you sign a release, you no longer have a right to claim additional damages from the person who hurt you. It is important to get an absolutely “clean bill of health” before you settle your case, and don’t settle your case until your attorney has proven all of your damages that arose from the car crash.