Tires Screeching-Crash-Glass Breaking-Sirens: Now What Do I Do?
by Lisa Godfrey
We all pass accidents every day or watch the evening news and look with wonder and horror at the crushed cars, ambulances loading the injured, and the wreckers hauling cars away. The news media shows the details on the evening news and in the print media.
But-suppose it is you or your loved ones. Your car is destroyed but your car payment goes on. You are in the hospital with broken bones and collapsed lungs. Your family has no means to get around, no income coming in, and you can’t find out the insurance for the vehicle that hit you. This could easily be you.
The most important thing you can do if you find yourself in this position is to protect yourself. Forewarned is forearmed!
If you are able, get the names, addresses and insurance information for all other parties.
Get the names and addresses of any witnesses at the scene. This can become extremely crucial if there is conflicting testimony on how the accident happened.
Take pictures of your vehicle and the other vehicle as quickly as possible before the insurance company whisks them away.
You do not have to give a statement to the other party’s insurance company. Your only duty is to speak to the police officer and to cooperate with your own insurance company.
You should immediately call your insurance company whether you are at fault or not to ensure coverage within the terms of your contract of insurance.
If the other insurance company calls, you only need to talk with them about the property damages. You may be pressed to give information on your injuries, but you do not have to do so until you know more about your condition. Answer as few questions as possible about how the accident happened except to your own company.
When you seek medical treatment, always use your health insurance as your first choice. You pay for that coverage through your employer and are entitled to use it for your protection. Give that insurance card as the first means of payment.
Keep a list of where you are taken for treatment and the names of the providers who take you. That is, keep up with the ambulance or first responders and the name of the hospital emergency room.
Keep a diary. You are the best person to describe what you are experiencing on a daily basis. This information will be invaluable to your attorney later on in trying to negotiate your settlement.
Find your personal declarations page from your insurance coverage on your vehicle. You may have medical payments benefits available to you that cannot impact your insurance rates by law in North Carolina. You may have also underinsured if the insurance available for the at-fault party is not sufficient to cover your injuries and damages.
If you were a passenger in another vehicle, you may also obtain medical payment benefits under that policy. That policy would be primary, but your personal car insurance may be secondary. You pay those premiums, so you are entitled under North Carolina law to take advantage of those payments. You will need this money to pay your medical payments on a temporary basis or to cover your co-payments with treating physicians.
Continue to take pictures of any bruises or broken bones. You may be in a walker or need specialized medical assistance. Pictures are indeed worth a thousand words. Don’t underestimate how important they can be. If you are hospitalized, get detailed pictures of the medical equipment needed for you.
Remember still, you do not have to give a statement to the opposing insurance company. If you have an attorney, let them speak for you. By law in North Carolina, the adjuster is not supposed to continue to talk with you once they are notified of your representation. North Carolina is a contributory negligence state – one of the few left in the United States. This means that if you are only one percent at fault, you cannot recover under our laws. Be very careful what you say to adjusters – REMEMBER their job is to make sure you don’t recover and that their insured walks without accepting responsibility. Tractor-trailer companies train their drivers to carry what is termed an “accident reconstruction kit.” They are told to make no statements, but to take pictures at the scene to protect the company. Make sure you are as equipped as your opposition.
Most cases can be resolved with reasonable negotiations. If that is not possible, then litigation may be necessary. Make sure you do not wait too late in the process to seek adequate representation. There are many very competent personal injury lawyers in North Carolina. Arm yourself as good as the other side!
Our law firm specializes in handling personal injury cases. If you wish additional information, please feel free to call us. We work totally on a contingent basis and you do not pay unless you win. Call for a free consultation. Eddie Knox and I can be reached at 704-315-2363 or 866-704-9059 (Toll-free). Our website is www.knoxlawcenter.com and my email address is [email protected].
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