If you call your lawyer from the scene of a crash, you will likely be told not to say anything. This is because anything you say after a car crash can be used against you if you seek compensation for injuries or property damage. You may think it’s okay to apologize to the other driver or speak to their insurance adjuster but accident injury lawyers will tell you it’s a bad idea.
There are good reasons for this. Apologizing to the other driver can be interpreted as you admitting that the accident was your fault. This can impact your ability to receive compensation. You may also incriminate yourself if you talk to the other driver’s insurance company. As noted in this article from Winer, McKenna & Burritt, LLP, car crashes in California lead to billions of dollars in losses annually. Insurance companies don’t want to pay out so much money so they will look for any opportunity to deny your claim. They may also try to get you to accept a very small settlement. In the confusion and stress that can follow an accident, you may agree to take much less than you deserve.
Here’s what you should do instead if you want to seek the maximum compensation either through settlement or in court.
Stay on the scene
If the accident seems minor, you may be tempted to leave the scene. However, California law requires you to stop, render assistance to anyone who is injured and exchange insurance information.
Call the police
You need to get the police on the scene so they can investigate the crash and file a report. You will need this report when filing a personal injury claim so you need to contact the police as soon as possible. Take down the names and badge numbers of the officers who respond. If for some reason the police weren’t called to the scene and you need to report the accident later, you should call the Oakland Police Department or California Highway Patrol.
Get medical attention
Depending on how serious your accident was, an ambulance might have responded along with the police. If you weren’t treated at the scene, seek medical attention as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter if you think your injuries are minor or you seem perfectly fine. Because of the adrenalin rush you get during an accident, sometimes you don’t feel pain. Some injuries also take a few hours to show up. A doctor may be able to see signs of injury that you can’t feel. Their medical report will be key to your accident claim. You need to prove that you were injured and that your injuries were caused by the accident.
Gather information from the scene
If you are able, take photographs of the accident scene, road conditions, vehicle damage, and injuries. Get the contact details of the other driver and any witnesses. If you are able to record video, do so. You can also look around to see if there are any cameras in the area which might have captured the accident.
Contact a car accident attorney
Insurance companies may not give you too much hassle if your claim is straightforward. If you have serious injuries and require long-term care or expensive treatment, it may be more difficult. If there is a belief that you weren’t really injured or that your injuries weren’t caused by the crash, you will need a lawyer to represent you. The initial consultation is usually free so you have nothing to lose by calling an Oakland accident attorney.