In the more serious cases, especially the ones involving children, I certainly talk extensively about the use of diaries. With simpler cases, I really just tell people to keep track of what doctors they have seen, when they saw them, what tests they have had, and things like that. One of the easiest ways to do that is simply to grab a business card from every professional you see and make sure I get a copy of that or the originals. Sometimes you can get a bill from that doctor on your way out, and that also gives me the dates. Eventually, I’m going to be getting the complete medical records from everyone the client has seen, and that would take care of that. Certainly a journal is a great idea, but not everybody follows through on it.
There are a couple of different kinds of pictures that can be taken. In an automobile accident case, these can include pictures of the vehicles, pictures of the scene where the accident occurred, and pictures of yourself showing the injuries that you sustained. It’s very simple to have pictures taken of yourself by a loved one or a friend or at my office, so there is everything to be gained from that, and there’s no downside to it at all. With regard to taking pictures of the automobile, that’s also easy to do after an accident. Many times, the body shop or the insurance companies take pictures themselves.
Now, it gets a little complicated taking pictures at the accident scene itself. One thing you don’t want to do is intentionally irritate the cop. So you have to make a judgment call on whether or not it is appropriate to take photographs at the accident scene. More often than not, it’s not usually appropriate because it’s easy to annoy the police officer who is merely trying to do their job and write up the report. An advantage to that, however, is that you might be able to get pictures of the other car, which aren’t available to you as easily after the accident occurs.
If for any reason you’re not going to call the police because you decided it’s too minor, then absolutely take pictures of both automobiles. Whenever you take pictures of automobiles, get at least one shot that shows the license plate, so we can identify whose vehicle that is. Certainly take pictures of the damages to the automobile. If for some reason there was damage that was there before the accident and the other driver admits to that, then take a picture of that other damage as well and make a note that will remind you that they told you that. Sometimes there are pictures that can be taken of the automobiles only at the body shop that can show you where the frame was damaged or that there is internal damage to the vehicle underneath the bumper cover, for example. That’s something that has to be arranged through the body shop. That’s pretty much it, but it varies from situation to situation.
If it’s a very serious accident, certainly the police will be out there taking photographs, and you will get a copy of those later on. The only types of scene images which tend to fade over time are skid marks, so you might be advised to take pictures of skid marks right then and there, again only if you’re not going to annoy the police officer. Those will fade over time, especially if the weather is bad or if it’s raining, for example.
Now, with regard to making notes, it’s a good idea to go home and write down everything that you remember, like the names of any witnesses. Certainly, if you know of witnesses at the scene, take their names and phone numbers down. Don’t just write, “There were people there”; actually find out who they are. Get their first and last names and a contact number that you can reach them at. We can always contact them later on for a statement.
They fail to call the police. They fail to go to the hospital. They fail to get treatment for an unreasonable period of time. They start talking to people they shouldn’t be talking to before they have hired counsel. They take the position that they can completely handle it themselves – and, believe me, the insurance companies would love to deal with you directly, but they will take advantage of you if they can and they will definitely try. There are many things that you can do to harm your case, so it’s good to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney early because we don’t charge you and we’ll talk to you and we’ll give you our advice even if you don’t hire us. You can gain a lot of insight from such a phone call.
If you have collision coverage from your own policy, you should use it. That’s what you’ve paid for. You’ve paid for that coverage, so use it. When your insurance company — assuming you have collision coverage – pays you, they will go after the other driver’s insurance company. They will get their money back and they will get your deductible back. So if you have collision coverage, then absolutely use it.
If you don’t have collision coverage, talk to an attorney about helping you. Most of us will present that property damage claim without any charge to you. I do that as an accommodation to my clients all the time. Basically, it’s very simple: I tell people to take their vehicle to two different shops, get a thorough written estimate from each, and take photographs of the vehicle. Then we’ll present the claim to the other insurance company and negotiate it for you.
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